TOMLIN TALKS UP LEFTWICH
Posted by Mike Florio on November 5, 2008, 8:27 a.m. EST
Though it’s way too early to declare the onset of a quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh, coach Mike Tomlin has spoken glowingly as to Byron Leftwich regarding a certain aspect of the position about which, as to Roethlisberger, Tomlin has been grumbling.
“He probably did do a better job of getting the ball out, and, no, it did not surprise me,” Tomlin said regarding Leftwich, who replaced Roethlisberger at halftime of Monday night’s win against the Redskins. “That is one of the characteristics of Byron Leftwich. He got the ball out pretty good in Jacksonville and the different places he has been. That’s who he is. He is a quick decision-maker. He is an anticipatory thrower.”
Tomlin has said that Roethlisberger gets sacked so much because he holds the ball too long.
The second-year coach also admitted that Roethlisberger’s shoulder still hadn’t healed since he initially injured it during the Week One game against Houston.
“I’m sure his shoulder has affected him,” Tomlin said. “How much has it affected him, I do not know. It really is kind of irrelevant. We don’t look for or seek excuses. We don’t make them, whether we are talking about Ben or someone else or our team in general. Things like bumps and bruises and injuries are part of this game. When we deem people healthy enough to play, then their play speaks for itself. That’s how we approach it.”
The dilemma Tomlin surely faces is that the franchise opted in the offseason to make Big Ben “The Franchise,” giving him a $100 million-plus contract. So could Tomlin seriously be toying with the idea of sitting Ben and playing Leftwich?
Possibly. The fact that Roethlisberger is injured gives Tomlin all the cover he needs to pull a short-term switcheroo.
That said, let’s not get too excited about Leftwich’s performance. Most backup quarterbacks who enter a game due to injury have an advantage, because the opposing defense spent little or no time preparing to face the No. 2 man on the depth chart. If teams like this week’s opponent (the Colts) devote time to getting ready to face the slow-footed missile-launcher with a windup that loads slower than a catapult, the outcome could be far different.
And remember this — the Colts faced Leftwich multiple times from 2003 through 2006, during his tenure with the Jaguars. So Tony Dungy and company know more than a little about Byron. And in his final start against Indy two years ago, Leftwich’s passer rating was 47.8.
Though the stated uncertainty regarding Roethlisberger’s availability could be part of a ruse aimed at forcing the Colts to waste time preparing for both quarterbacks, Tomlin’s praise of Leftwich is at best an effort to get Ben to get rid of the ball faster, and at worst an indication that Tomlin is beginning to think that Ben might not be the long-term answer at the position that everyone presumes him to be.