Pittsburgh Steelers Never Should Have Kept Byron Leftwich In, Deserved to Lose
It was a loss that was well deserved, and wrapped up in the fourth quarter thanks to poor time-management by Leftwich on Pittsburgh's final scoring drive of the evening.
But that's not why Leftwich, who went 18-of-39 for 201 yards and an interceptions, should've been taken out of the game.
The reason was due to the decline in arm strength after Leftwich was hit by James Ihedigbo, injuring his rib. Leftwich wound up seeking medical attention from Pittsburgh's team doctors after the hit, and would return to the game with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
This was a big mistake, as Leftwich often struggled to complete a pass longer than 10-15 yards. He would often wince at the pain during the game, and it was obvious to most observers that something was physically wrong with him.
I give Leftwich all the credit in the world for taking on a difficult situation and fighting through the pain to finish the job. He had to adjust to Pittsburgh's offense, which was specifically tailored around the talents of Ben Roethlisberger.
On the first drive of the game, Leftwich showed some flashes of what made him a star at Marshall by running 31 yards for a touchdown. While Pittsburgh's offense wasn't producing at the level that Steelers fans are accustomed to, the backup signal-caller did a tremendous job of keeping them in the game until the end.
It was also likely Leftwich's decision to come back onto the field, as he's had a long history of playing while injured. Who could forget the infamous broken leg game, where Leftwich led Marshall to a 17-point comeback against Akron back in 2002?
But this was not the time nor place for him to continue his heroics, nor was it the time or place for Pittsburgh to ask him to do so. Third-string quarterback Charlie Batch should've gotten the opportunity to lead the Steelers in the fourth quarter, as the potential rib injury limited not only Leftwich's arm strength, but also his mobility down the stretch.
I can give credit to the guy for continuing to be as tough as nails as he was in college, but at times being stubborn can harm your team. It's a lesson that both Leftwich and the Steelers had to learn the hard way against Baltimore.
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