LATROBE, Pa. -- When he was younger, Byron Leftwich would take a quick scan down NFL rosters and start taking mental notes.
Better than that guy. And that one. And that one. That one too.
Call it youthful arrogance. Call it competitiveness. Whatever it was, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback had it in abundance.
"I would look at guys all over the league and I felt that I was truly better than them, guys that had starting jobs," Leftwich said.
Lately, however, Leftwich has given up the practice. Go more than five years without winning a start and spend the last two sidelined by injuries like Leftwich has and you stop worrying about where you rank in the pecking order.
Oh, the 32-year-old still believes he can be effective at the top of the depth chart. He’s just not willing to give up a good gig to get it.
"If I get an opportunity to go and start somewhere one day, it’ll be great," Leftwich said. "But at the same time I love knowing that if I do get a chance to play, I’m going to have a chance to be successful. That’s where I’m at in my career."
A career that is a far cry from the one he envisioned coming out of Marshall nine years ago. The burly 6-foot-5, 245-pound Leftwich earned a starting spot right away in Jacksonville and appeared ready to become one of the league’s young guns along with Ben Roethlisberger.
It never happened. While Roethlisberger developed
He’s not angry or bitter. Not anymore. There are worse jobs in the world than being the primary backup on a team with Super Bowl aspirations every year. Could he go somewhere else and try to help a rebuilding club get its footing? Probably. He’s not particularly interested at the moment.
"Look at the players around you," he said. "There’s never been a good quarterback in this league with bad players around him. If you’ve got playmakers all over the field like we do, you’re going to be successful. I’ve just got to make sure I’m healthy and ready if called upon."
And, for the first time in awhile, Leftwich insists he’s healthy. He missed all of 2011 when he broke his left arm while diving for yardage in an exhibition game last summer. The injury came on the heels of a knee injury he suffered in the final preseason game against Carolina in 2010 that prevented him from filling in while Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.