Every week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players, from that week’s game. Today, he looks at Steelers QB Byron Leftwich’s touchdown scramble against the Ravens.
In the first minute of Baltimore’s 13-10 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich did something that few people in Heinz Field -- probably Leftwich included -- believed he could do.
The Steelers had the football inside Ravens territory after cornerback Cary Williams was flagged for a 42-yard pass interference penalty. On 2nd and 3 from the 31-yard line, Leftwich lined up with an empty backfield and three wide receivers on the field. The last thing on his mind had to be getting in the end zone himself.
But after the snap of the ball, the Ravens, who dropped seven defenders into coverage, blanketed the three wide receivers and two tight ends who leaked down the field, too. Left defensive end Arthur Jones barreled into his blocker, who basically pulled him down to the ground. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who lined up over the right tackle in the hopes of getting a more favorable matchup, ran around Jones to get a free lane to Leftwich.
With nowhere to throw after 2 1/2 seconds in the pocket and with Suggs bearing on him, Leftwich -- who is known for his lead feet as much as his strong arm -- rambled to his right and was still looking to throw.
With nothing there and Suggs still trailing him, Leftwich kept running toward the first-down marker on the right sideline. Because the Ravens were in man coverage and all but one of the Steelers’ routes flooded to left side of the field, there were only two defenders in coverage on the right side and a lot of grass starting at Leftwich. So instead of running out of bounds to avoid contact, the 32-year-old kept chugging along.
“The thing is we said he was a statue," Suggs later said. “We said he wasn't going to move. He proved all of us wrong. He did move. He was doing it pretty good. Fast, too. … I thought we were going to get him down.”
Leftwich somehow snuck his wide frame between cornerback Corey Graham and safety Bernard Pollard, who appeared to let his guard down for a second because he thought Leftwich would run out of bounds and he wanted to avoid a penalty. But the quarterback barreled through the arm tackle and ran another 21 yards into the end zone. Excited and exhausted after a run that spanned 12 seconds, Leftwich tumbled to the ground.
"I take full blame for the touchdown," Pollard said in the Ravens locker room. "We've got to stay on alert. When the quarterback takes off, we got to hit him. It sucks, man. You never want to let a quarterback do that to you.”
Meanwhile, in the somber Steelers locker room, Leftwich’s teammates quipped that his 31-yard touchdown run stunned them, too. But Leftwich said that he is faster than most people give him credit for.
"I joke with my teammates all the time," he told reporters. "I'm not a slow quarterback. I'm just the slowest black quarterback. I can move around just as good as any of these other pocket passers in the league."
The Ravens may disagree with that as they grimace at game tape. On this play, slow motion won’t be needed.