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Leftwich ready if needed

Posted Nov 13, 2012

An injury to Ben Roethlisberger may alter the Steelers’ rotation at quarterback, but it does not change their goals.

“We have big things on our mind,” backup Byron Leftwich maintained after relieving Roethlisberger in the second half of Monday night’s 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City. “We go about it week in and week out, but we’re here preparing to try and win the Super Bowl, and we practice that every day. We know we can’t win it in one play or one game, but we look at the big picture around here.

“We take it one game at a time, and that’s what we’ll do this week.”

Having played an overtime game on a Monday night, the Steelers are about to begin preparing on a short week for Sunday night’s invasion of Heinz Field by the AFC North Division-leading Baltimore Ravens.

Pittsburgh (6-3) and Baltimore (7-2) will meet twice over the next three weeks, including a Dec. 2 rematch at M&T Bank Stadium, and there is the possibility Leftwich will be starting at quarterback for the Steelers come Sunday at Heinz Field.

After a lengthy inactivity in terms of playing in regular season games, Leftwich came on in the third quarter against Kansas City after Roethlisberger departed with a shoulder injury sustained on a play in which he was sacked by Justin Houston..

The veteran backup completed 7-of-14 for 73 yards in his first action with the Steelers since hitting on 5-of-7 in relief during the 2010 regular-season finale in Cleveland, a game that was played on Jan. 2, 2011. That translates into about a season-and-a-half of inactivity, but Leftwich has a career record of 24-25 as a starter but hasn’t started an NFL game since the first three games of the 2009 season when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I haven’t done it in a while but I’m quite sure if I do it, it would be OK,” Leftwich said. “It’s like riding a bike. I’m 10 years in. I’ll prepare myself to be ready to play Sunday night.”

That has been the approach for Leftwich, to do what he can to maintain that state of readiness, ever since he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2006 season. As a former No. 1 pick of the Jaguars, Leftwich started 46 games through his first five seasons, but since being released that first time he has started three since then.

But he long has accepted and embraced the NFL absolute that as a backup quarterback he’s only an injury away, as was the case against Kansas City.

“The way this league is going there’s not a quarterback out here who’s really playing 16 games,” Leftwich said. “I try to tell myself all the time during the week when it’s hard, ‘Stay on it, stay on it, stay on it, stay on it,’ because you never know.

“You just try to stay on it, keep your mind in it and be ready to play.”

Having played against Kansas City for as long as he did should make Leftwich that much more prepared the next time he’s needed.

“That will help,” he said. “I haven’t been in that huddle with those guys since, when did we leave Latrobe? That was a long time ago, since training camp. It was good to get some work in.

“I’m not saying I’ve never thrown to these guys before. It’s just having the opportunity to go out there and be in the huddle, they get to hear your voice every play, that was good. And we found a way to get the win.

“After about four or five plays it’s kind of like riding a bike. I took a few hits; I hadn’t hit the ground in a while. There were a whole lot of things I hadn’t done in a while that I got out of the way so it was good.”

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