Steelers 2009 Free Agent Focus: Byron Leftwich

Byron Leftwich got the script backward. Players are supposed to leave the Steelers and then return in a rival’s uniform. Leftwich started his career in 2003 as the 7th overall pick of the once-rival Jacksonville Jaguars, leading his team to victories over the Steelers in both 2005 and 2006.

Injuries and the emergence of David Garrard led to Leftwich’s exodus from Jacksonville, from there he landed in Atlanta where he played well, but was still oft-injured, and was released again.

As preseason began, Leftwich appeared destined to watch the 2008 season from his couch. Then Charlie Batch broke his collarbone and within 48 hours Leftwich was on a plane to Pittsburgh.

Assessing Byron Leftwich

When asked why the Steelers were so quick to sign Leftwich after Charlie Batch went down, Mike Tomlin explained he wanted a backup quarterback who capable of taking Pittsburgh to the Super Bowl should something happen to Ben.

In many ways, Leftwich fits the Charlie Batch mold. Drafted as a starter, he fell out of favor with his coaches and found himself on the NFL unemployment line. Other teams, who had less depth at quarterback than Pittsburgh, showed no interest. But what the rest spurned, the Steelers embraced.

Leftwich saw limited action as a Steeler, but Leftwich’s play against the Redskins and Browns in relief of Ben Roethlisberger vindicates Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s rush to bring him into camp. Leftwich is a starting caliber quarterback, but he’s enjoyed playing in Pittsburgh, and he’s been a welcome addition to the Steelers.

What the Steelers Should do With Byron Leftwich

Byron Leftwich was happy here in 2008 as a back up, but sees himself as a starting quarterback looking toward 2009…. The same was true for Charlie Batch in 2002 and 2003.

If Leftwich wants to start somewhere, obviously he should follow his dream. But the Steelers must at least take a shot at keeping him as a back up.

The Most Likely Scenario for Byron Leftwich and the Steelers

Leftwich is young enough and played well enough in 2008 that at least some NFL personnel directors have to see that he’s worthy of another shot. It’s important to remember that although Batch is happy in Pittsburgh, he’s never generated a lot of interest when he’s been a free agent.

One would figure that Leftwich would generate interest from other teams. If he gets an offer he’ll go, if not the Steelers will have an interesting decision to make….

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