Leftwich back in the spotlight

Leftwich back in the spotlight
November 15, 2012, 4:30 am
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With Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, ribs) being declared out for Sunday's game against the Ravens, Byron Leftwich is suddenly vaulted back into the NFL spotlight.

It's been awhile.

Leftwich, 32, will be appearing in just his third game in the past three years and will be making his first start since 2009 when he leads the Steelers against the Ravens at Heinz Field.

But the Ravens don't expect any deer-in-the-headlights look from Leftwich, who will be making his 50th NFL start on Sunday night.

Leftwich was taken by Jacksonville with the No. 7 overall pick in 2003 and started 13 games as a rookie for the Jags. His best season came in 2005, when he threw 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions and led the Jaguars to an 8-3 record before sustaining an ankle injury that sidelined him the rest of the regular season.

His 2006 season also ended prematurely with an ankle injury, and by 2007, the Jaguars had moved on, cutting Leftwich after a four-year record of 24-20.

Leftwich bounced around from Atlanta (2007) to Pittsburgh (2008) and Tampa Bay (2009) over the next three years before returning in 2010 to Pittsburgh. He spent all last season on injured reserve.

He saw his first action of 2012 on Monday night after Roethlisberger got hurt, going 7-for-14 for 73 yards.

" At one time, with Jacksonville, he was one of the premier quarterbacks in football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday. "He’s still got those skills. He obviously has a lot of wear left."

Leftwich's strong arm and long, slow delivery are considered better suited for deep throws than the 'dink and dunk' style favored by Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but Leftwich downplayed that difference.

"If it’s 'dink and dunk,' whatever we want to call it, my job is to hit the guy with the ball that’s open," Leftwich told the Steelers official Web site. "I don’t care if it’s five yards down the field or 25 yards down the field."

Leftwich also acknowledged that he isn't Roethlisberger, but said he doesn't need to be for the Steelers, and him, to succeed.

"Let’s just be honest," he said, "I’m not going to run around and make two or three guys miss, then roll all the way to the left and find Mike Wallace in the back of the end zone. I’m not capable of doing that. But what I can do is get the ball in the right guy’s hands and just be myself. They’re not asking me to do anything but be myself and that’s what I’ll do."