By Teresa Varley
All season long Mike Tomlin has preached the importance of guys stepping up when injuries occur and the level of expectation not changing.
So on Monday night, when Byron Leftwich came in at the start of the second half for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, he expected nothing less than the stellar performance Leftwich turned in.
"Byron Leftwich came home to D.C. and put together a winning performance for us and he is a popular guy right now in that locker room," said Tomlin.
That was an understatement.
"That's the hardest position, the back up quarterback," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "To come into the game, really not taking a lot of reps in practice, but he came in and did a phenomenal job.
"Byron had been giving us fits down in Jacksonville for a long time so it's great that he could come off the bench with the guys really trying to rally around him to make plays. We did that. We made some plays, I made the third down catch and Santonio (Holmes) went in for the score."
Leftwich completed seven of 10 passes for 129 yards, but it was his ability to lead the team on two second half touchdown drives and convert several huge third downs without much work all week that made everyone count their blessings that he is on the team.
"Bryon is an experienced player," said running back Willie Parker. "He is not new to this. Nobody was surprised by how well Bryon came out and played. Ben [Roethlisberger] went down and Byron seamlessly came in and did what he had to do. Bryon came in and we came out victorious which speaks good of the team we have as well as how deep of a bench we have."
Leftwich was able to put the game out of reach on a drive that started in the third quarter with an eight yard sack, but resulted in three third down conversions with him hitting Holmes for 16 yards, Mewelde Moore for 13 yards and Ward for 13 yards. Leftwich capped the drive with a five-yard completion to Holmes to give the Steelers a 23-6 fourth quarter lead that they would not relinquish
"First and foremost, I've got a good football team around me," said Leftwich. "I just wanted to get the ball in my guys' hands. We played a good football team, and I was just trying my best to get the ball in my playmakers' hands and let them make plays."