Even with a radical personnel change at the Steelers’ quarterback position, the Ravens maintain that their gameplan will largely remain the same.
The Steelers announced Wednesday morning that Byron Leftwich will start in place of two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger when the Ravens come to town Sunday.
The Ravens suggested the quarterback change is of little consequence.
“We don’t really concern ourselves with injuries,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “We haven’t concerned ourselves with our own team’s injuries. Why are we going to concern ourselves with somebody else’s injuries?”
So will Roethlisberger’s absence affect the Ravens’ preparation at all?
“Nope,” Harbaugh said. “The same exact preparation.”’
“You defend the offense. … [He] is fully capable of running that offense very well.”
Leftwich is coming from a different place than Roethlisberger, who was having what some pundits called an MVP-like season.
Leftwich, 32, hasn’t started a game since 2009 when he opened the year starting three games for Tampa Bay. He lost all three starts. He hasn’t won a game in which he started since Oct. 8, 2006.
Since then, he’s bounced between three different teams and started just five games.
The rust showed Monday night in Kansas City.
Leftwich played for about a half after Roethlisberger suffered shoulder and rib injuries early in the third quarter. He completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards, but the Steelers offense largely grinded to a halt. In five drives with Leftwich under center, it only scored one field goal in a series that was aided three Kanas City Chiefs penalties.
Leftwich said it was the first time he threw to the Steelers’ first-teamers since training camp. So he’ll be trying to establish a connection with the starters this week in practice.
“I think he’s a little bit rusty, but I’m sure once he’s back to form and takes more practice reps than what he’s usually doing, he’ll be more accurate,” Ravens cornerback
Leftwich admitted that it’s “hard” without long-established familiarity with his targets, but said he takes confidence in the fact that he’s not going out on the field alone.
“It’s not like I’m going out there with the ‘Bad News Bears,’” Leftwich said. “I have a good football team that they gave me the keys to. I know the playmakers on this team, and that gives me confidence.”
Leftwich is known for his long delivery, but he possesses a strong arm. The Ravens expect him to be able to throw the deep bombs Roethlisberger is known for.
He’s also similarly built to the difficult-to-take-down Roethlisberger – but even bigger. Both quarterbacks are 6-foot-5, and Leftwich weighs nine pounds more at 250 pounds..
Baltimore has a history of respect for Leftwich. General Manager Ozzie Newsome tried to trade up and draft him in 2003, but the clock ran out and the Jacksonville Jaguars snagged him with the seventh-overall pick. The Ravens took outside linebacker
“He is from the draft class of 2003. I instantly think a lot of him,” Suggs joked with the Pittsburgh media. “As a player, it’s been 10 years now, so he’s obviously doing something right.”
“Personally, I’ve always been impressed with his competitiveness,” Harbaugh added. “[He has been] highly successful. At one time, with Jacksonville, he was one of the premier quarterbacks in football. He’s still got those skills.”
Mostly what the Ravens expressed is an appreciation for a veteran that can still operate a dangerous offense considering the weapons around him.
Leftwich may not be Roethlisberger, but he’s still an NFL quarterback.
“He’s a really good guy, he’s shown he can win in this league, he’s still playing in this league and we can’t take him for granted,” safety