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Home » News and Features » After Further Review » The Hits Keep Coming for Pittsburgh: Byron Leftwich Out With Fractured Ribs

The Hits Keep Coming for Pittsburgh: Byron Leftwich Out With Fractured Ribs

By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: November 19, 2012

Anyone watching last night's Ravens-Steelers game knew Pittsburgh's backup quarterback Byron Leftwich, filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, was hurt. The only question was how badly and whether he should still be on the field. As it turns out, Leftwich has fractured two ribs. It hasn't been specifically reported at which point Leftwich suffered the injury, but gauging by the number of times he grabbed at his side throughout all four quarters of football Sunday evening, it very well could have happened on his 31-yard touchdown dash inside the first minute of the game.

The quarterback run turned out to be the sole offensive touchdown in Pittsburgh's 13-10 loss to Baltimore (Baltimore's touchdown was the result of a Jacoby Jones punt return), but if it resulted in an injury that clearly hampered Leftwich's play for the remainder of the game, perhaps it wasn't worth the cost. As time continued to wear down, Leftwich refused to tap out. He stood with starter Roethlisberger (also nursing a rare rib dislocation in addition to a sprained shoulder) and various receivers between offensive possessions, undoubtedly reviewing previous plays and discussing viable next steps. No one from the Steelers medical staff appeared to examine Leftwich until just prior to his final possession, at which point he evidently passed any tests, as he took to the field in one final attempt to tie or win the game. 

Charlie Batch, though far older than the average NFL backup at age 37, has proved a worthy replacement for Roethlisberger at times in recent years (last year's win December 8th at Cleveland comes to mind). He could be seen warming up off and on throughout the game, but was never asked to shed his (really cozy-looking) parka to lead the offense. What was the likelihood that Batch could have done more with the final 1:05 of the game? It wasn't great, by any means, but the whole handling of the injured Leftwich called two issues to mind. Is there a point in time when the NFL 'tough guy' attitude becomes a liability to his team? And at what point does it become reckless for the coaching staff not to intervene with an obviously injured player?

There's no questioning Leftwich's toughness after last night's game; even after the injury he continued to heave the ball down the field with all his might, however innacurate many of the throws may have been. He wanted the Steelers to beat the Ravens last night, but more importantly, it looked like HE wanted to be the guy to do it. At the same time, Pittsburgh's medical and coaching staff had a player (Roethlisberger) whose injury could have potentially caused fatal harm last Monday night, had he continued playing. To be less than one week removed from an experience with such a rib injury, and to essentially ignore an ailing quarterback grasping at his ribs for nearly an entire game, is wildly irresponsible. 

But last night's game, and any decisions made during it, is in the books. It looks as though Batch will begin preparations to face AFC North rival Cleveland this week for the second time in under a year. But with two pairs of injured ribs on as many quarterbacks in Pittsburgh's locker room, I'd expect we'll be hearing a few free agent names bandied about in the next few days. 


Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG    

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