Tomlin wastes no time at QB

PITTSBURGH – Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin didn't waste any time Friday on loyalty to his incumbents, or in making a new guy pay his dues.

No, Tomlin installed Byron Leftwich as his first-team quarterback for the first day of minicamp practices this season, and apparently it's going to stay that way for the immediate future.


"The rotation after this?" Dennis Dixon repeated. "I don't expect it to change. If it does, we're ready for anything that comes our way."

Leftwich took all of the first-team snaps yesterday, followed by Dixon and then Charlie Batch. Tomlin said after the draft that he wanted to find the temporary replacement for Ben Roethlisberger this spring, and it appears he's giving Leftwich the opportunity to lose the job.

Leftwich said that he's in no rush to prove himself, that he just wants to pick up from where he left off as Roethlisberger's backup in 2008.

After turning down an offer from the Steelers last spring, Leftwich left for Tampa Bay in the hope he could become the Buccaneers' starter. But he lost his job during the season to first-round draft pick Josh Freeman and the Bucs traded Leftwich back to the Steelers last week for a seventh-round draft pick. Now, he's in line to become the starter for a contender.

"It's still not even May yet," Leftwich cautioned. "Right now I'm just trying to get in with the guys, throw to the guys I haven't thrown to before, getting to understand how they come out of routes, how they run routes, understanding the things that they put in last year that I didn't know. That's the process I'm in right now, just kind of fine-tuning everything that I knew, and add everything that they put in and learn it all as quick as I can."

What did Leftwich notice first about the Steelers since he last practiced with them?

"Fast guys," he said of his receiving corps. "That's the exciting part for a quarterback. You can't teach speed and we have some pretty fast guys out there. It's my job to figure these guys out."

The rocket-armed Leftwich even underthrew speedster Mike Wallace, who joined the team last year and was repeatedly underthrown by Roethlisberger.

Was Leftwich surprised to see Wallace open so deep so quickly?

"No. I've seen enough film to know how fast he is. I've seen what he's done on Sundays. I was prepared for that."

When the underthrown pass was mentioned, Leftwich smiled and said:

"Once. I underthrew him once. That won't happen again."

He was also asked about the difficulty in picking Bruce Arians' offense back up after a year away.

"It's not a hard system to pick up," Leftwich said. "When you like an offense, you never forget it and I always liked this offense. I always liked B. A.'s offense. Always. So I never forgot this offense. I was trying to add some of this stuff down in Tampa, to be honest with you, so I never really forgot it. But now it's about getting back into calling it, saying it, and doing it. That's the process right now."

NOTES – As he did with Leftwich, Tomlin put a recently re-acquired player, Bryant McFadden, in with the first team at left cornerback. Last year's starter William Gay was the nickel back Friday. ... James Harrison missed the morning practice due to the death of an uncle. He was replaced at ROLB by Andre Frazier, with second-round pick Jason Worilds behind Frazier. Fourth-round pick Thaddeus Gibson played second team LOLB behind LaMarr Woodley. ... Dixon changed numbers to 10, since Limas Sweed had earlier switched to 80. Also, McFadden got his old No. 20 back and Keenan Lewis went to 23, his high school number. ... One rookie, undrafted center A.J. Trump, has been scratched from the roster. No explanation was given.

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