Byron Leftwich Down, Probably Out

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 19: Charlie Batch #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers practices on April 19, 2010 at the Pittsburgh Steelers South Side training facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Great Quarterback Controversy of 2010 has ended!   And the winner is…

Charlie Batch?

I didn’t watch the Pittsburgh Steelers final preseason game last night.  Instead, I was busy following the Pitt Panthers‘ escapades out in Utah.   As an aside, Mormon chicks are hot.  As another aside, you got me again, Wanny.  I actually thought you were going to buck the annual early season implosion when they got within three and drove deep into Utes’ territory, but you run a freaking draw instead of trying to score a touchdown.   Then, naturally, Tino throws a pick on the very first pass of OT.

Classic Wannstache, I tells ya.

While this was unfolding, I figured nothing of importance was happening in the Steelers’ fourth and final exhibition game.  Starters barely play, if they play at all.  Coaches roll out rookies and practice squad fodder because nobody wants to lose a key player when the regular season is on the horizon.   The fourth preseason game is basically a glorified scrimmage featuring guys who’ll be suiting up for the Pittsburgh Power arenaball team come this fall.

So I turn on the late news and first thing I hear is, “Byron Leftwich has been taken the the hospital.”  HUH??  WHAT?!?  HOW?!?!

Evidently, Byron fired an 18 yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders early in the second quarter.  Mewelde Moore picked up the blitzing safety and both men crashed into Leftwich during his extremely long follow-through.  Leftwich struggled to his feet, limped to the huddle, and then waved for the medical personnel to get him off the field.   He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent an MRI.

The diagnosis?  An MCL injury.  You may recall, that was the same injury Hines Ward suffered in the 2008 AFC Championship game against Baltimore.  The Post-Gazette is reporting it as a sprain.  Leftwich’s agency, who happen to be on Twitter, posted a sympathy message over his “torn MCL.”   Mort split the difference by saying he has a “second degree” sprain which will likely require surgery.   Bottom line:  Don’t expect to see Lord Byron on the field this season.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has bungled the Steelers quarterback situation so badly, it’s almost pathetic.  Granted this is an unusual situation but he has shown absolutely no clue from the get-go.   It started during OTAs when he said there would be “open competition” but gave Leftwich all the first team snaps.  Dennis Dixon looked great in actual games, so he decided to give him first team snaps last week.   All the while, he’s giving Ben Roethlisberger playing time when he’s not even going to be here for the first month of the season.

Why was Ben even playing?  Last week he ate up an entire quarter when that time should have been given to your opening day starter.   I understand Ben needs a little work but I assume he knows the offense at this point in his career.  Are fifteen snaps in a preseason game REALLY going to help him get ready for his first regular season start SIX WEEKS from now?

UPDATE:  As expected, Ben’s suspension has officially been cut to four games.  The Ginger Dictator has decreed it so according to ESPN.  *Whew*

So where was I?   Oh, yeah, why was Dixon given first team snaps last week?   I’m a Dixon fan and I wanted him to get a shot but by the third preseason game, you should know who your starter is.  The time for “open competition” has ended by that point.  If Leftwich was given all the first half snaps last week, he wouldn’t have had to play this week.  See how that works?

If Leftwich is your man, you ride him.  Starting Dixon means Tomlin was either worried that Byron wasn’t good enough (in which case, why was he handed the job on a silver platter three months ago?) or can’t make a decision to save his life.  Neither option is particularly inspiring.  I could understand if Ben’s suspension only came to light a week or two before training camp but they’ve had months to prepare.

An then we have Batch.  He didn’t play at all in the first game, played sparingly in the second one, and was stuck with the fourth stringers in the third.  Rumors were he was going to get cut with Randle-El serving as the #3/emergency QB so the Steelers can keep an extra WR on their 53 man roster.  Now he’s your primary back up and may even be your starter.

Is he ready to start?  He’s a veteran so he probably doesn’t need a lot of work.  But he missed all of 2008 and took a grand total of four snaps in 2009.   You’re going to ask a guy who hasn’t ran the first team offense in three years to go out in an actual NFL game and lead the team to victory?  What the hell, Tomlin?!

What an absolute disaster.   It’s going to be a loooooong year…

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  • RS

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment that Coach Tomlin has screwed up the QB situation. I’m sure he played Leftwich last night to try and get some clarity. Dixon played poorly the previous preseason game, but Leftwich played just as poorly – he didn’t complete a pass. I understand that most teams are not playing their starters in game 4 – but neither of these guys, Leftwich or Dixon, are the starter. And, our situation is unique. As for Big Ben, I totally agree with getting him game-time reps. He is our starter after week 4, and will not get to practice with the team for the next month.

    Personally, I hope that Dixon starts, and Batch backs him up. I feel bad for Leftwich, he’s generally played well for us.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Leftwich was signed and Ben’s suspension was announced in May. Four months later and Tomlin is still looking for “clarity?” That seems reasonable to you?

      Good teams and good coaches don’t operate like that. Even a lousy team like the Browns made a decision that, hey, they’ll sign Delhomme and he’s going to start, period. Maybe it’s the right choice, maybe he’ll be benched halfway through the season. But you have to make a choice and stick with it. Bouncing from one guy to the other from week to week is bad coaching.

  • Ricky

    Chris,

    I agree but aldo disagree with you on Tomlin making some mistakes on this whole who is the damn qb for us week 1 it has been pretty fuzzy all preseason long on who we can rely and back for the first 4 games (way better than 6). From some of my family who have friends in the front office I was told and this is just hearsay cuz its just grapevine shit but I was told that Tomlin wanted Byron to start but after him and Dixon playing like shit in week 3 that the Rooney’s stepped in and wanted another look to make sure we had the right guy taking saps week one of the real deal.

    Now my own personal belief is that Dixon is by far the best choice in the matter but I also think that from the different reports from players on the team especially the one last night from Hines saying that he hears that Dixon is our week one guy that maybe just maybe Tomlin and Rooney are trying to make this a cloudy situation to keep our foes in the first 4 weeks confused not knowing who to prepare their d for. I liked the idea of if Byron started having Dixon with a package to come in but I guess it is all out the window now and were off to a long 4 weeks but I am hoping for the best.

    Have a safe holiday weekend all!

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Ricky, the idea that “the Rooneys” stepped in doesn’t sound like them. I’ve never heard of them being meddlesome owners or telling the coach what to do. Then again, Dan has been the owner and now Art II is running the show so maybe he has a different touch than the old man. Still, it doesn’t sound like them at all.

      My problem with the handling is Tomlin seemed to want things both ways. He wanted “open competition” but didn’t give Dixon a fair chance until three weeks into preseason. If he wasn’t sure on Leftwich, two weeks or two month ago was when you hedge your bets. Not in game 4 of the preseason.

  • Joe Kumpf

    I have to say, Mr. Vocabulary is going to have a very, very bad year. You will see the Cower influence wear off.

    Mr. Vocabulary is a poor decision maker and a poor game day coach. 8-8 at best this year.

  • Tom G

    As I said before, I was kinda pulling for Charlie to be in there, and now he is. I think he’s going to do well.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Well, nothing has been officially announced yet but it does seem Batch is the consensus starter. What a slap in Dixon’s face if that’s true considering all the reporters are saying the Steelers were going to CUT Batch and start the season with 2 QBs instead of three. Why is DD still on the roster if he can’t start over a guy who was going to be cut?

      I’m okay with Charlie, though. Let’s just hope he doesn’t break his wrist getting up from a knockdown like he did last year.