Leftwich goes through first practice with Steelers, could play Thursday
LATROBE, Pa. -- Byron Leftwich waited nine months to get back on the practice field. Now that he's done that, his first NFL action is likely only days away.
Signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, the quarterback brought in to replace injured backup Charlie Batch impressed during his first two practices with the team on Monday, so much that coach Mike Tomlin said "it looks like he'll be able to play" Thursday when the team plays the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
"I was impressed simply by the fact he was a quick study," Tomlin said after a rain-soaked afternoon practice at Saint Vincent College. "He was able to step out there and step in the huddle, spew the verbiage out, get people lined up and actually get the ball around."
Leftwich, a former No. 7 overall pick and starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars, worked out Sunday for the team along with former Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper. The team was in need of a veteran backup after Batch broke his collarbone in a 16-10 preseason win Friday against Philadelphia.
"Any time you put on shoulder pads and helmets for the first day, it's always tough," said Leftwich, who was released by the Jaguars after training camp last year and appeared in three games with the Atlanta Falcons. "I haven't had a chance to put this stuff on since November when I got hurt, so it's good to be out here and good to be part of an organization like this."
Leftwich has no illusions about being a starter with Pittsburgh, which has Pro Bowler Ben Roethlisberger at the position. But after Batch, the team had only rookies Dennis Dixon and Mike Potts on the roster and wanted some insurance. Batch had surgery Monday and is expected to miss about six weeks.
Leftwich is reunited with Steelers quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson, who held the same position with Jacksonville.
"He's a very smart quarterback, and he's got a strong arm," Anderson said. "He understands we have an established starter here, and he's just happy to do what we ask him to do."
Others besides Batch not practicing for Pittsburgh on Monday were punter Daniel Sepulveda, safety Ryan Mundy, who will miss at least two weeks with a high ankle sprain, cornerback Deshea Townsend (groin) and rookies defensive lineman Kyle Clement (knee) and linebacker Mike Humpal (neck).
Linebacker James Harrison missed the afternoon session after getting kicked in the shin during the morning workout, and safety Troy Polamalu remains on the physically unable to perform list due to a hamstring injury.
Among those who did practice was nose guard Casey Hampton, who came off the physically unable to perform list Sunday after reporting to camp overweight.
"It's going to be a little work, but when it's time, I'll be ready to go," Hampton said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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