With starter Ben Roethlisberger still two games away from returning (and my fantasy team at NFL.com anxiously awaiting that moment), the Steelers have two healthy quarterbacks on the depth chart.
But, technically, they’ve got six quarterbacks on the roster.
Per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, coach Mike Tomlin pointed out Tuesday that, in addition to Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch, the Steelers have the injured Dennis Dixon and three receivers who played quarterback in college — Antwaan Randle El, Arnaz Battle, and Hines Ward.
Tomlin says that Randle El will be the emergency quarterback on Sunday in Tampa.
Frankly, given the way the defense has been playing, kicker Jeff Reed could take the snaps and turn and hand the ball off and the Steelers would win more games than they’d lose.
Meanwhile, the manner in which the Steelers handled the Byron Leftwich situation last week has raised some eyebrows in league circles. Though the 54-man roster trick, in which a vested veteran is cut to clear a roster spot at a position of greater need and then the veteran is re-signed the following week, has become an accepted practice despite the necessary use of a supposedly impermissible side agreement between the player and the team, Leftwich apparently was still injured when he was cut.
And a player can’t be cut while injured, even if it’s a temporary injury. The appropriate way to get a player with a temporary injury off the roster is to place him on “minor” injured reserve. The problem with this approach, however, is that the player then can’t return to the team at any point over the balance of the season.
It’s unlikely that the league will investigate the situation or take action against the Steelers for at a minimum spraining the rules. But some of the folks who are conscientious about adhering to the letter and spirit of the rules (and, yes, there are a few) privately are objecting to what the Steelers have done.
Either way, Leftwich could be playing again for the Steelers on Sunday.