Losing a starting quarterback could send panic waves through an NFL locker room, but that isn’t the case with the Steelers thanks to their depth.
The team will be without Ben Roethlisberger this week after he sprained the sternoclavicular (SC) joint in his right shoulder, but to a man every player has confidence in Byron Leftwich, who will step in and start against the Ravens on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
“He is more than capable of pulling this game out,” said guard Willie Colon. “We believe in him. As a line we have to do our job and make sure he has time to get the ball out. We have to run the ball effectively so he isn’t back there trying to be Superman. We have to have a balanced attack. We just have to do our part. We know Byron, the receivers and the running backs are going to do their part. As a line we have to be hard-nosed and be ready to go.
“We have all of the confidence in the world in Byron. I know he is going to step up and get the job done.”
Coach Mike Tomlin made it official on Wednesday that it would be Leftwich after getting an injury update on Roethlisberger. He said he didn’t have any kind of timetable as to how long Roethlisberger would be out, but he too is comfortable with Leftwich in the starting spot.
“He is a veteran guy,” said Tomlin. “This isn’t his first rodeo. He has good, charismatic leadership. He can make all the throws on the field. We expect winning football from him.”
Knowing early in the week that Leftwich will be the starter works to the Steelers advantage. It allows him to get plenty of reps with the starters, working on timing and getting comfortable with the receivers, and allows the rest of the offense the chance to get reacquainted, in a sense, with his style.
“We have a full week of practice to deal with the situation,” said guard Ramon Foster. “We have played with him before. We have full confidence in what he can do and he is able to get a win. We have to be us, protect him, let our backs run and we will be fine.”
Leftwich has played in seven games in four seasons with the Steelers, but this will be the first time he has started for the black and gold and the players don’t expect much to change in this week’s game plan.
“We will have the same plays,” said tight end Heath Miller. “Byron is capable of executing everything we do. We know where he is going to be, he is going to get the ball out and we know he’s going to get it done. We have a lot of history. Byron has been here a long time. It’s just a matter of getting a couple of days at practice so it’s not a big deal. We have confidence in our locker room the next man up is going to do the job.”
The Steelers have become accustomed to the “next man up” having to step in as they have had injuries at receiver, running back, linebacker, in the secondary and the offensive line this year. In each case someone has risen to the challenge and the same is expected of Leftwich this week.
“There will be a lot of ups and downs during the season, but only the strong survive,” said receiver Emmanuel Sanders. “You have to have a strong mentality and we do on this team. We have complete confidence in every guy in this locker room if the time comes they can step up and make plays for us.”
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