Leftwich confident Steelers won't miss beat down stretch
The total time Ben Roethlisberger will miss with his shoulder and rib injuries has yet to be determined.
But if the injury keeps the Steelers veteran quarterback out of action for an extended period, veteran Byron Leftwich is confident he can guide the six-time Super Bowl champions into the postseason for the fifth time in six years.
“We've all been around a while (and) know that good football teams start hitting their stride right about now,” said Leftwich, who relieved Roethlisberger in a 16-13 overtime win over Kansas City. “I believe we would feel that whether it's me or Ben at quarterback.”
Leftwich may have to deal with defending AFC North champion Baltimore twice in two weeks, including Sunday night's game at Heinz Field. Roethlisberger could miss both rival games that could possibly determine the Steelers' playoff fate.
Roethlisberger only has been ruled out of Sunday's game. He most likely will miss next Sunday's game with Cleveland, but depending on how fast his ribs heal, he could return the following week in Baltimore.
Jeff Hostetler fashioned perhaps the most dramatic story of a backup leading a team to a title. The West Virginia product replaced injured Phil Simms in 1990 and started every playoff game and Super Bowl XXV for the New York Giants.
“I remember being a fan when the whole Jeff Hostetler thing went down, but that was a long time ago,” Leftwich said. “So I don't use those types of stats. Right now, I'm just trying to find a way to score one more point than Baltimore.”
Roethlisberger is 10-4 in the postseason, including two Super Bowl wins. In contrast, Leftwich has one postseason start, and Charlie Batch hasn't taken a snap under center in a playoff game.
“It's big having experience at quarterback,” Batch said. “This organization believes in having three quarterbacks, and it's proven to have worked because all three of us have had to play at some point.''
The Steelers are the top-ranked defense in the NFL and possess a running game that could take the pressure off the Steelers' backup quarterbacks.
The running game could get a bigger jump if Rashard Mendenhall returns as expected.
Leftwich isn't expecting offensive coordinator Todd Haley to significantly tweak a game plan that relies heavily on short passes and quick screens to receivers.
“We're not going to change things,” Leftwich said. “I appreciate the belief they have in me, that I'm capable of helping this team to the playoffs.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.