Hard-luck Leftwich aching to play



Byron Leftwich would prefer to have absolutely no luck than the kind he has had in the past two seasons with the Steelers.

"This game of football is a humbling game. It teaches you a lot," said Leftwich, the team's No. 2 quarterback. "But things happen. Guys get injured in this league all the time. Unfortunately for me, the last few years it's been biting me a little bit. But I got to believe that at some point I'll be healthy, stay healthy and help this team."

He'd love for that point to arrive this year, because it has been a tough time since his return to the Steelers in 2010.

Steelers Report: Todd Haley speaks

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley talks about the new offense during OTAs. (Video by Matt Freed; 6/6/2012)

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Members of the Pittsburgh Steelers teamed up with Urban Impact Foundation on the North Side to provide an evening football clinic for area youth. (Video by Brian Batko; 6/6/2012)

He was supposed to start the first four games of that season while Ben Roethlisberger served his suspension. In the final preseason game, however, he left with a sprained MCL. He did not play until the season finale when he mopped up against Cleveland.

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Then last year, the third preseason game this time, he took off on a scramble and, as he was tackled, he reached out with his left arm to brace himself. It snapped the humerus in two. What memory he has of it still gives Leftwich the chills.

"I don't even remember leaving the field. I don't even know what happened until I came to in the X-ray room and I looked up and saw Ben. That's when I knew I was in trouble. I don't remember anything about that night."

He pulls the sleeve up on his left biceps to show a long, dark scar.

"I was in the hospital for seven days with a broken arm. I have a rod in it. Snapped it in half. It wasn't good, a freak injury. If it was the right [arm], I don't think I could play anymore. I never saw the play; everyone tells me don't see it. I don't want to relive that moment, it was that painful. I consider myself a tough guy, but that right there was something different."

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The Steelers placed him on injured reserve. Both his and Charlie Batch's contracts ran out and both re-signed with the Steelers. Unless a Troy Smith can upset the odds, both will be back on the roster, and the plans again are for Leftwich to be No. 2.

"I feel good. I'm excited to be back out here,'' Leftwich said. "You know I haven't played football since August last year. The sad part is I haven't been able to help this team since '08, since we won the Super Bowl when I had an opportunity to be there for my team."

In the 2008 season, he helped the Steelers win a game in Washington when Roethlisberger was injured just before halftime, one of six games in which he played, including the playoffs. He'd like to get back to that, where he remains healthy and effective if needed.

At the moment, he and the rest of them are wrestling not so much to learn a new offense, but how to put it into words. They know the plays; calling them out is what's new. It's not easy, even for a quarterback who has been with four teams and had two different offensive coordinators before the first regular-season game in Tampa Bay in 2009.

"It's just different terminology. You know the plays. Right now the hard part is just getting it out of your mouth, being able to say it. That's the hard part for everybody right now.

"I don't care what they call. It's our job as quarterbacks to hit our guy with the ball. But there is a big difference in terminology, how we say things. Plays are plays, and the reads are the reads. We're doing a good job of that."

Leftwich said he hasn't been able to determine what different philosophy coordinator Todd Haley might use on offense -- whether he will run it more, run it differently or whether he will emphasize a shorter passing game than previously under Bruce Arians.

"Todd is good at what he does, so we're going to have an opportunity to score, make plays," said Leftwich who, as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2003 draft by Jacksonville is the highest pick on the Steelers roster. "Right now, we're all learning. As quarterbacks, you always want to be ahead of other guys because you're the guy they lean on. We want to know it just like Todd knows it so we can help on the football field because Todd won't be on the football field."

This season, Byron Leftwich hopes he can be on one.

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For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published June 6, 2012 4:00 AM


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