Leftwich makes strong first impression

Byron Leftwich's first day with the Steelers drew positive remarks from those in positions of importance. His next step will be Thursday in Toronto.

LATROBE – Byron Leftwich made one thing clear during his first practice day with the Pittsburgh Steelers: He can whistle a football around the yard.

But does he understand what he's doing? The coach thinks so.

"He's a quick study," said Mike Tomlin. "You saw he was able to step out there, step in the huddle, spew the verbiage out, get people lined up, and deliver the ball around. He's a very sharp guy. That's obvious. Of course, he's got a ways to go in terms of catching up, but I thought it was a very good start today."

The big help, the ace in the hole, the guy who's expected to make the transition smoother, is Steelers quarterbacks coach Kenny Anderson. The former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback was the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterbacks coach in 2003 when Leftwich was drafted. Anderson was moved over to coach receivers in 2004, but coached quarterbacks again in 2005-06.

"That's a blessing in disguise," said Leftwich. "Football is the same, but here I have a guy who coached me all those years and he can translate it for me. We had the same plays on some of these plays, just the communication and interpretation of it is different and he can translate it for me. That way I can get it right now, especially so early, trying to rush and learn everything, because I am behind, to have a guy like that, who you have a relationship with, and have a lot of respect for, it helps me out."

Anderson indeed served as Leftwich's "translator" throughout both practices Monday. They are cramming for Thursday's test against the Buffalo Bills. Leftwich is expected to show off his strong arm in Toronto, but another thing that was obvious at St. Vincent College is his long windup. Anderson was asked how hard he worked to correct Leftwich's delivery in Jacksonville.

"I think your quarterback's throwing motion is his throwing motion and that's not going to change a whole lot," Anderson said. "Everybody knows Byron has a bit of an elongated motion, and he's going to have to make up for it with smarts and anticipation." Leftwich was asked about the motion and whether he "believes in it."

"I don't know how I developed it. I just throw this way," he said. "Everybody in this league throws different. Nobody throws the same. Maybe mine is not as perfect as everybody's, but I like to believe that mine gets the job done also."

Leftwich also addressed another longstanding question mark in his career: injuries. That's what's ingrained in the minds of college football fans from the 2002 season, when Leftwich was carried downfield by his offensive linemen after completing passes. He had an injured ankle, the same ankle that continued to give him trouble in Jacksonville.

"I just never got it fixed," he said. "Nobody ever told me to. It was just, ‘Rest 4-6 weeks and see you back out there.' I eventually got it fixed. It's better now."

The healthy ankle allowed the 6-5 Leftwich to get his weight down to a svelte 245. He said he worked out relentlessly in Miami, and then waited by the phone.

He got the call, but more importantly it came from a winning organization.

"This is such a good football team," he said. "I know because I played against them, and when we played against those guys it was such a physical football game. To be a part of a football team like that, that's what you want. You want to be a part of a team where you have a chance every Sunday to win the football game and you know guys are here for one thing and that's winning. The older you get in this league, the more you realize that's all that really matters. You can see with the guys here, the way they practice, their mindset, what they believe in, that they've got one goal and that's to win the Super Bowl."

*Click here to read the full Q&As with Kenny Anderson and Byron Leftwich.


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