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November 21, 2012

STAIRWAY TO 7: Tomlin should have pulled his injured QB

OPINION — BOTH BYRON Leftwich and Mike Tomlin are to blame for the Steelers’ 13-10 loss to Baltimore Sunday evening.

That’s right, I went there.

Both Tomlin and his quarterback share equal blame for the Steelers’ downfall.

Yes, the head coach and the quarterback unfairly shoulder most of the blame when their team loses, but I don’t think I’m being unfair when I point the finger at them for Sunday’s loss to the Ratbirds.

No one knows his body better than Leftwich and there’s no way he didn’t know he had injured ribs.

Granted, I’ve never even had bruised ribs, but people I know that have have told me it hurts to even breath let alone throw a football – or even hand it off.

Yet, Leftwich tried to both for nearly 60 minutes Sunday night.

I give him all the credit in the world for trying to tough it out and play through incredible pain.

While I couldn’t see his facial expressions while standing on the sidelines Sunday night, I could see it in his throws. All week, we heard about how strong his arm was.

It was clear for most of the night – I think he was hurt when he fell into the endzone on the Steelers’ opening drive – that something was wrong.

There was no strength is his arm and more importantly, there was no accuracy to his throws.

He hit a Raven in the back right between the numbers. He short hopped a throw to a wide open Mike Wallace, couldn’t get the ball to Rashard Mendenhall on a screen and couldn’t make a 45-yard throw to an equally wide open David Gilreath.

All signs, to me, that something wasn’t right with Leftwich.

Why didn’t Tomlin, his assistant coaches or the team’s medical personnel notice any of these telltale signs?

Driving home from the game, Pittsburgh-area sports talk shows were all atwitter with Steelers fans’ talking about a potential Leftwich injury.

Heck, people watching at home have commented to me about Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth continued comments on something not being right with Leftwich.

Yet, the men in charge of the on-field product didn’t do a darn thing.

This is where Tomlin receives blame.

I understand he is in charge of all facets of the game, but how do you not notice something is physically wrong with your quarterback.

Maybe Tomlin did notice something amiss, quizzed Leftwich on how he was feeling and was told everything was OK, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.

Same thing with injured players.

If he acts like he’s injured, then he probably is.

There’s nothing wrong with being safe rather than sorry by forcing Leftwich to seek medical attention.

Which is exactly what the Steelers were feeling in the aftermath of their loss to the hated – and I use that word lightly after watching Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu clown around with Baltimore’s Ed Reed during an injury time out Sunday night.

But that’s a rant for another day – in about two weeks – and back to Leftwich’s injury.

When Ben Roethlisberger suffered a similar injury a week ago against Kansas City, they rushed him off the field and into the lockerroom for X-rays.

Why didn’t they do the same with Leftwich?

OK, I get it. It appears Leftwich’s injury wasn’t as serious – or painful – as Roethlisberger’s, but the team should have forced Leftwich to yield to an x-ray or two during halftime just to be safe.

Had they done so, they likely would’ve seen the cracks in Leftwich’s ribs and made the appropriate changes to the line-up – and perhaps saved him from injuring the ribs further.

I also get it that maybe Leftwich didn’t want to come out of the game and downplayed the injury, but the team needed to enforce treatment for his own good.

We’ve all done that with our own kids on however many occasions through the years using the phrase “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Because the Tomlin and Co. couldn’t follow that time honored ideology, the Steelers will play the Browns Sunday with Charlie Batch at quarterback – many people think he’s better suited to run Todd Haley’s offense than Leftwich.

Let’s hope the Steelers – and their legions of fans across the country – won’t be sorry then as well.

Agree, Disagree or just want to comment contact Corey at gcsportsguy@yahoo.com.

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