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What the heck were the Steelers thinking with Leftwich?

By Pat McManamon

The Steelers team that will face the Browns on Sunday will be better than the one that lost to Baltimore Sunday night.

And not just because the Steelers kept Byron Leftwich in the game against the Ravens with two broken ribs — according to various reports. Leftwich’s injury means Charlie Batch starts. And that’s not good for Cleveland.

The Steelers seem to be a more comfortable team with Batch at quarterback. He’s 5-2 as a spot starter, and he’s looked fairly good for a backup. In December he went 15-for-22 in a win over the Rams. Laugh that it was over the hapless Rams, but the Browns couldn’t beat that same Rams team at home.

Too, the Browns also have not fared well against backup quarterbacks recently. Bruce Gradkowski beat them in the opener last season. So did John Skelton in Arizona. The immortal Kyle Boller took over for Jason Campbell in Oakland last season and won.

The Browns have a batch of problems. Facing a Steelers defense in a must-win situation doens’t help. Neither does facing Batch. He’s not Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s not Ken Dorsey either.

On a separate note, keeping Leftwich in that game Sunday night is a gigantic head-scratcher.

How that will not be scrutinized by the league is beyond me. Playing a guy in obvious discomfort when he has fractured ribs would seem to be a huge red flag for player safety.  There were a lot of folks in Pittsburgh last season pointing fingers at the Browns when they mistakenly put Colt McCoy back in the game after James Harrison drove his helment into McCoy’s jaw. What about Pittsburgh playing Leftwich when he was obviously hurt early in the game, and playing him the entire game?

Seems completely illogical.

Oh, and here is what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game when asked about the injury: “Obviously, he sustained some hits, but that’s football, particularly when you’re talking about this matchup. He did a nice job of communicating where he was and, more than anything, we just wanted to do a nice job of communicating.”

What the heck does that mean?

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