Byron Leftwich Injury Shuffles Steelers' Already Cloudy QB Picture
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had a plan for how Pittsburgh would replace Ben Roethlisberger, but a Byron Leftwich knee injury has likely scrambled it at the last minute.
With Roethlisberger banished from the team's facilities until his NFL mandated suspension ends in four to six weeks, Tomlin had been grooming Leftwich, a veteran NFL starter, to replace him. That plan was torn apart when Leftwich suffered an injured MCL (according to Pro Football Talk) in the Steelers' win over the Panthers Thursday night.
It's unclear how long Leftwich will be out but usually MCL injuries require two for four weeks to heal. If he's out any period of time, the Steelers will have to turn to some combination of Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. Dixon has shown plenty of flashes of talent -- he is an excellent runner and actually had a better QB rating than Leftwich this preseason. But at the same time when given a chance to play with the first team against the Broncos last week, Dixon threw two very ill-advised passes, one of which was intercepted in the end zone and the other was returned for a touchdown.
Batch, a 13-year veteran, is very reliable and has a coach's knowledge of the Steelers' playbook. But with three other quarterbacks to get ready, he received very few snaps in training camp and threw only six passes this preseason. He has not worked at all with the first-teamers this August. Also, he's had trouble staying healthy in recent years -- last year he was injured in the only game he played in and he's started only four games in the last seven years.
Batch was expected to be released this week so the Steelers wouldn't be on the hook for his entire 2010 salary (vested veterans who are on the opening-game roster are guaranteed their entire salary for the season). Now he's got a legitimate chance to be the starter.
Leftwich wasn't the only injury for the Steelers. Backup right tackle Jonathan Scott left the game with an apparent knee injury of his own, but afterward Tomlin said he didn't believe it was serious.