Leftwich an ace in the hole for Steelers


By Teresa Varley

Ben Roethlisberger missed his second day of practice on Wednesday as the team is taking precautions after he suffered a concussion against the Cleveland Browns.

Roethlisberger is expected to start in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Heinz Field on January 11, but the Steelers do have an ace in the hole just in case with Byron Leftwich.

"He has been a blessing to us. He really has," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "That is one of the things you do think about when you look around and you see that guy who has franchise quarterback experience, playoff starting quarterback experience. He has been the guy; those shoes are comfortable to him. He is one of the guys that when something happens you look around and you are going to throw him into the game, he doesn't have that far away look. He's a been there, done that guy. "

Leftwich came in against the Browns after Roethlisberger's injury and immediately led the team on a scoring drive, taking it into the end zone himself on an eight-yard run.

"He loves that opportunity to deliver for this team," said Tomlin. "I think this team is very comfortable with him when he gets called upon. So it has been a tremendous blessing to have him on our football team and aside from what he does inside the white lines when called upon, he is a very good teammate, very good at practice, and very good in the locker room."

Leftwich signed with the Steelers during training camp after Charlie Batch suffered a broken shoulder in the preseason. He had a short time to learn the offense, but it didn't take him long to earn the respect of his teammates who have confidence in him if he is called upon in the post-season.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "He's well-liked in the locker room. Guys want to go out there and compete, scratch, claw, do whatever they can to try to go out there and make the game easier for him. But it's great to have a guy like Byron on our team. He's been in situations like that. The more and more you get your reps, if his number is called, we have confidence in him getting the job done."

Just like any competitor Leftwich would like more playing time, but that doesn't mean he isn't happy with his role with the Steelers.

"I wouldn't change anything in the world just to be part of this kind of team," said Leftwich. "To be a part of these players and their mindset and focus on winning football games. I'm glad to be a part of that."

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      The Steelers 2009 opponents have been finalized and it includes five teams that made the playoffs this season.

Home: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings.

Away: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions.

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