The Steelers' acquisition of QB Byron Leftwich protects the club in a couple of ways. Most obviously, Leftwich, who played for the Buccaneers in 2009, is capable of starting with Ben Roethlisberger serving a six-game NFL suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. The suspension can be reduced to four games if Roethlisberger meets certain conditions, but the earliest he can return is in Week Six, when the Steelers host Cleveland after their Week Five bye.
Even when Roethlisberger returns, Leftwich, back for his second stint with the Steelers, is an ideal backup. He's experienced, with 49 career starts to his credit, and he is well-versed in Bruce Arians' offense. He's likely to compete with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch for playing time as Roethlisberger serves his suspension.
The 30-year-old Leftwich, acquired for a 2010 seventh-round pick, fit in well with the Steelers in 2008, his lone season with the club. He appeared in five regular-season games and closed out a key win at Washington when Roethlisberger couldn't finish the game because of injury. Considering that Roethlisberger has taken a pounding throughout his career (242 regular-season sacks in six seasons), having another veteran passer on hand is a good idea.
Also, Roethlisberger faces close scrutiny from the NFL and team, and any off-field missteps in the future could make him subject to further discipline. Though Roethlisberger was not charged by Georgia authorities in connection with an alleged sexual assault in March, both the league and team were disappointed with his conduct. Upon suspending Roethlisberger, Goodell ordered him to undergo a "comprehensive behavioral evaluation" before reinstatement is considered.
"Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare," Goodell wrote in a letter to Roethlisberger outlining the NFL's disciplinary decision.
Leftwich, who is signed through the 2011 season, left Pittsburgh for the Buccaneers' starting job, but he lasted just three games in that role in 2009, and he returns to Pittsburgh just as the mobile, strong-armed Dixon could be ready to blossom. Nevertheless, the more options the Steelers have at quarterback, the better, considering this tumultuous offseason.
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