Byron Leftwich, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ hard-throwing reserve quarterback, will start on Sunday in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who is recovering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, according to several reports.
Roethlisberger had his shoulder and ribs hurt on the same play in the Steelers’ 16-13 overtime victory Monday night against Kansas City. ESPN reported that he could miss a few games as the injuries heal. And so, Leftwich, the one-time starter in Jacksonville, will take over, starting Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
At his news conference Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin called Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback “questionable” but otherwise offered little detail. An MRI was inconclusive on the extent of Roethlisberger’s injury, leaving to call it a shoulder sprain. He was pounded into the ground by Chiefs linebackers Tamba Hall and Justin Houston Monday night.
The Steelers’ decision to be cautious with Roethlisberger makes sense. He is the team’s pulse, and its defense and running game are enough to keep them competitive while he recovers. Putting him at risk puts at risk the team’s success for the season.
A Steelers source had told ESPN on Monday that the team’s staff was told: “proceed with (backup quarterback Byron (Leftwich). It doesn’t look like you’re going to have Ben this week. We’re looking at next week as a possibility as of right now.”
Tomlin described Roethlisberger’s shoulder injury as an “SC sprain.” The exact terminolgy of Roesthlisberger’s injury is a sternoclavicular dislocation, according to ESPN medical analyst Dr. Michael Kaplan. In this type of injury, the central end of the clavicle separates from the sternum (chestbone). An uncommon injury, it is extremely painful with strong ligament tearing (sprain). The usual treatment for the injury is conservative (no surgery, with rest, sling and rehab). Typically it takes several weeks until a quarterback is able to return to passing accurately and with sufficient velocity.
Of the 137 games the Steelers have played since Roethlisberger’s first season of 2004, he has missed 14, including his four-game suspension in 2010. In that span, Pittsburgh is 86-37 (.699) with its star QB and 9-5 (.643) without, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
When asked Tuesday how the playbook would change if Leftwich had to start, Tomlin said, “I don’t know that it does.”
“I try to prepare as if I am the starter every week,” Leftwich, who passed for 73 yards on 7-for-14 passes Monday, said. “Nothing will change. I wish Ben the best. I hope he is healthy. Other than that I will be ready to go.”