Leftwich Worst Option For Steelers Against Ravens


Byron Leftwich doing his best A.J. Burnett impersonation. Look at that windup. Credit: Jason Bridge-US PRESSWIRE

Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich winds up to throw the football, and in the time that it takes you to read the entirety of this sentence, he will have finally released the football.  Even for a fast reader, the length of that sentence would guarantee trouble for any quarterback.

A 3 step vs 5 step vs shotgun vs 7 step drop is one thing when it comes to examining the release of a football from the time the ball is snapped.  Those kinds of patterns just determine the overall time receivers have to run their own patterns.  The factor that doesn’t change in any of those is that whenever the quarterback decides that he needs to throw the football, he needs to do it quickly.  This has always been a problem for Byron Leftwich.  In fact, you could say it is the sole reason why he will only ever be a backup quarterback the rest of his career.  He certainly still has the arm strength to throw the ball 50 yards down the field.  But like I Tweeted during the game last night – it just takes him forever to deliver the football.

Mike Tomlin reported on Tuesday that Ben Roethlisberger is listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday night’s game against the Ravens.  Most doctors will tell you that an injury such as this one – sternoclavicular injury (that’s a 80 point word score for those playing at home) – takes about three to six weeks to fully heal.  It’s a very painful injury to start out, and it takes about three weeks just for the pain to subside.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want Ben taking any brutal hits from that Ravens defense this Sunday.  I’m sure Tomlin is listing him as questionable by playing the ‘injury game’ with his opponents.  In reality he is more than likely ‘doubtful.’

So that leaves either Leftwich or Charlie Batch to take the snaps under center.  Batch is clearly the superior in this situation.  Well, he’ll always be the superior option when it comes to Leftwich.  Todd Haley’s offense is a quick throw kind of offense.  There are many screens and crossing routes that are dependent on 3 step (hell even 1 step) drops that need the ball out very quickly.  Again, Leftwich is not conducive for this kind of offensive scheme.  This was very apparent last night, especially when Leftwich was asked to throw a quick screen out to the wide out.  Those types of plays require the quickest of releases because the offense is trying to catch the defensive backs off guard or take advantage of a large cushioned coverage.  That these screens gain even 5 or 6 yards is greatly attributed to the fact that Ben gets rid of the ball quickly.  Watching Leftwich execute these kinds of screens or slants was downright painful – and it sure seemed painful for those receivers getting hit immediately.  The defensive backs and linebackers had an easy time reading Leftwich’s delivery and closed quickly on whomever caught the ball.

The same results are likely if Lefwich is used against the Ravens.  Compounding the problem even more for the Steelers offense is the fast and physical pass rush of the Ravens.  Ray Lewis may be out.  And, in case you couldn’t hear Dan Dierdorf having a minor T-Sizzle’gasm during his first game back a few weeks ago – Suggs will be back in full force to wreak havoc in the Pittsburgh backfield.  Did you see Leftwich’s first pass play on Monday night?  It didn’t go very well for him as KC got penetration and caused a lineman to roll under his legs.  I thought for a few moments that Leftwich would leave the game with some type of neck or head injury, but he stuck it out.  There will be plenty of that when it comes to the Ravens D.  Guys like Ngata and Suggs have a habit of giving the Steelers offensive line problems over the course of an entire game.

Batch may be a little older and slower with the footwork, but he has a quicker release and can still throw the ball down the field when the opportunity arrises.  He’s a proven effective game manager, and will give the Steelers their best chance of having solid offensive production against the Ravens.  That’s all we can ask for at this point.  If Ben sits for the next couple of weeks to heal, maybe he’ll be ready by the second game against the Ravens in three weeks.  I like our chances better then than now.  Batch might just squeak out a win.  Leftwich?  It’s going to be a long day for that offense, and an even longer day for the Steelers D because they are going to be on the field for a long time if he starts.