Leftwich injured in Steelers victory
Byron Leftwich, the presumptive starter at quarterback while Ben Roethlisberger serves a likely four-game suspension, played sparingly in the final Steelers' preseason game.
And that could be a major cause of concern for the Steelers.
Leftwich left the game early in the second quarter with a left knee injury and didn't return to the Steelers' 19-3 win against the Carolina Panthers at Heinz Field.
Coach Mike Tomlin said after the Steelers' preseason finale that he didn't know the severity of the injury. If Leftwich is unable to play Sept. 12 against the Atlanta Falcons, Dennis Dixon will likely open the season as the Steelers' starting quarterback.
"I think the appropriate thing to do for us at this point is to wait to get the information on the extent of (Leftwich's) injury before we talk about the possibilities," Tomlin said.
With the Steelers making final cuts as early as today — they have until 6 p.m. Saturday to finalize their 53-man roster — the last thing the organization needs is more concerns at quarterback.
If Leftwich's early exit heaped more uncertainty on the Steelers' quarterback situation, what happened after that added more intrigue to the most discussed topic in Pittsburgh.
Dixon replaced Leftwich for all of three plays and didn't return after tossing a 23-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Charlie Batch took over for Dixon, and the Steelers ran 13 consecutive running plays, including three on the third down, before attempting a pass.
Tomlin said the Steelers' game plan changed after Leftwich's injury.
"I was just interested in keeping (the quarterbacks) clean from that juncture on," Tomlin said.
The injury to Leftwich — it looked like another player, possibly a teammate, kicked him in his lower leg — and the strange sequence that followed may have been a fitting end to what has been an atypical preseason when it comes to the Steelers' quarterbacks.
"It's unfortunate for Byron what he went through, but this team has to go forward," Dixon said. "If I am the guy I have to first and foremost take control of the offense. I know the defense will take care of their side of the ball."
Tomlin has had the unique if not unprecedented task of getting three quarterbacks to ready to play because of Roethlisberger's suspension.
Roethlisberger will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today in New York and will likely learn how much of the four-to-six games suspension he has to serve.
Seeing his final action until the middle of October, Roethlisberger completed 4 of 6 passes for 39 yards, and he got the opportunity to run the no-huddle offense with the rest of the starters.
Leftwich completed 2 of 4 passes for 43 yards, and Dixon completed his only pass attempt for 23 yards.
The Steelers finished the preseason with a 3-1 record.
Rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer, who is making a late push for a roster spot, led the Steelers in rushing with 86 yards on 20 carries. He also led the Steelers in rushing against the Denver Broncos last Sunday.
"We've got some tough decision but that's part of the process," Tomlin said of paring the roster down to 53 players. "We've got a team meeting (today). We'll meet with our guys in the afternoon. There's a possibility we could start the (roster reduction) process."