Setting sights on top spot
By Teresa Varley – Steelers.com
The Steelers OTAs picked up where they left off at the end of mini-camp, with quarterback Byron Leftwich working with the first team over Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. And Leftwich is seizing every opportunity he gets to show the coaches why he should open the season as the starter while Ben Roethlisberger serves a six-game suspension.
“It’s our job to go out there and execute the plays the way they are supposed to be executed,” said Leftwich. “We all understand that. Ben has been in that huddle a long time now. But with the circumstances that exist somebody has to be in there. I am going to work my tail off and try to be the guy.”
He got a late start on the competition for the job, coming to the Steelers via trade on April 20, but is using the OTAs to catch up.
“We all have to get ready,” said Leftwich. “Bottom line he is going to miss those games and somebody is going to have to play. My mindset is if I am the guy then make sure we don’t miss a beat. That is the only thing I think about every day, make sure I pick up everything they put in when I wasn’t here last year and try to learn as fast as I can. That is going smoothly. Now it’s getting acclimated to the guys. That’s what I am trying to do now.”
Leftwich played with the Steelers in 2008 when the team won Super Bowl XLIII, but signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following offseason. While he is familiar with most of the Steelers offense, he still needs to work on some of the intricacies as well as his timing with the receivers.
“I believe they have confidence in me,” said Leftwich of his teammates. “I am not new to these guys. I have been around these guys. They have seen the work I put in. Now it’s our job to work our butts off to make sure we get our timing down, make sure we understand each other. When you look at all of the teams that are good, especially offensively, they have been together a long time. That is where they establish chemistry. We just have to speed it up and see what happens.”
The Steelers have 11 OTAs left before they get a break prior to training camp, so this is a key time for the quarterbacks to step their game up and show why they should get the majority of the snaps during training camp.
“Coach Tomlin is going to make a decision,” said Leftwich, who has slimmed down but declined to say what he weighs now. “I try to every time I step on the field be the best quarterback out there. I am quite sure that is all Charlie and Dennis do too. We are all competing to try to play. We all want to be the guy.
“When they make the decision, we all have so much respect for Coach Tomlin and this organization we all know it’s the right decision, the best decision for the team. From that standpoint we are just working our tails off and we’ll see what happens.”
Leftwich completed 21 of 36 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns with the Steelers in 2008 as a back-up to Roethlisberger, a role he never took for granted and approached as if the job were his.
“I understand what it takes,” said Leftwich. “Last time I was here we won the Super Bowl. It takes a lot of guys to do that. I wasn’t a starter, but I came in every day and prepared myself as if I was a starter. You never know what is going to happen, especially in this league. You always have to be ready. That is my mindset.”