'Gritty' Wasn't Enough For Steelers

Mike Tomlin labeled Byron Leftwich's performance as "gritty," but Mike Prisuta points out that "gritty" wasn't enough with all of the other mistakes being made.

A significant portion of the crowd at Heinz Field offered up its opinion of quarterback Byron Leftwich as the first half was ending, sending the Steelers to the locker room amid a chorus of "booos."

Coach Mike Tomlin offered a dissenting opinion of Leftwich's performance late Sunday night in the immediate aftermath of Ravens 13, Steelers 10.

"I thought it was gritty," Tomlin stated. "Obviously, we knew this was going to be a Baltimore-Steelers-type football game, it was going to be nip and tuck. I thought it was gritty.

"Obviously, not enough plays by him or any of the rest of us to secure victory."

Tomlin's norm amid such circumstances, and after victories for that matter, is to simply assess an individual player's contribution as "a winning performance" or a "losing effort" and quickly move on.

Leftwich was referenced as "gritty."


That's often an attribute expressed while playing through injury, but Tomlin said he was never close to pulling Leftwich from the game and Leftwich said afterward he was fine, despite some seemingly significant visual evidence to the contrary.

So, for the time being, at least, "gritty" fits.

Leftwich came closer to giving the Steelers what they needed from him in replacing Ben Roethlisberger than the rest of the offense did to giving Leftwich what he needed from them.

Rather than a crisp, mistake-free performance across the board – that's what it was going to take in support of the backup QB – the Steelers got misplays on too many occasions from players they've been counting on this season all along.

Wide receiver Mike Wallace fumbled once and couldn't get two feet down in bounds on what could have been the touchdown that would have put the Steelers ahead in the third quarter. The fumble was inexcusable. As for the catch, it would have been a tough one, but we've seen Wallace make tougher catches than that.

We saw one in almost the very same spot on the field on Nov. 12 against Kansas City.

Some effort on the receiving end of the low ball Leftwich delivered to Wallace on the Steelers' second-to-last possession might also have been nice.

So would punt execution and/or coverage on the Steelers' second punt of the night.

And the offensive line admittedly too often suffered miscues of its own doing.

"We had too many mental errors," guard Willie Colon said. "We weren't on our screws on a lot of things and it cost us on third down. I don't think it's anything they did necessarily. We just didn't get it done tonight."

Offensive tackle Max Starks called such mental mistakes "blacking out.

"An assignment here or there blown causes a bad play to happen," Starks said.

Colon acknowledged one such gaffe – he didn't say it was his, only that a mental error had occurred – on the third-and-11 from the Baltimore 43-yard line that resulted in the sack that ended the Steelers' second-to-last possession.

Baltimore rushed four and still safety James Ihedigbo came clean.

Offensive tackle Mike Adams also struggled mightily in pass protection, beginning with his allowing rush end Terrell Suggs to win cleanly on the inside rush that flushed Leftwich right on what became Leftwich's unlikely, 31-yard touchdown jaunt.

Tight end Heath Miller was soon spending a great deal of time in the backfield. No more than usual, Miller maintained, although one such occasion was the interception Leftwich threw on third-and-8 from the Baltimore 38 on the Steelers' first possession of the third quarter.

At that critical juncture the Steelers were without their leading receiver (Miller was blocking) and their MVP from a season ago (the injured Antonio Brown).

"I saw him," Leftwich said of the pass he tried to fit over cornerback Corey Graham and in front of safety Ed Reed to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. "The guy made a hell of a play on the ball; Troy (Polamalu) and I were talking about that.

"I wish I had done something different in hindsight. I can't allow that to happen."

Leftwich wasn't the only one grappling with that sentiment post-Baltimore.

Nor should he have been.

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