PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Steelers reacquired quarterback Byron Leftwich by dealing a seventh-round draft pick to Tampa Bay, a sign they expect Ben Roethlisberger to be suspended for the start of the season.
Leftwich backed up Roethlisberger in 2008, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. He knows offensive coordinator Bruce Arians' system and could be ready to play Sept. 12 when the Steelers open against Atlanta.
The Steelers play three teams that didn't make the playoffs — the Falcons, Bucs and Titans — plus division rival Baltimore in their first four games, a period that could span any Roethlisberger suspension.
Pittsburgh already has third-year quarterback Dennis Dixon and longtime backup Charlie Batch under contract. Batch has been injured each of the past two seasons. Dixon has started only one NFL game, but likely would compete with Leftwich in training camp to be the early season starter if Roethlisberger is suspended.
The 30-year-old Leftwich played in five games for Pittsburgh in 2008, throwing for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He was 7 of 10 for 129 yards and a touchdown while replacing the injured Roethlisberger against Washington on Nov. 3, 2008.
The former Marshall quarterback played for Jacksonville from 2003-06, Atlanta in 2007 and Tampa Bay last season. He started the Bucs' first three games last season before being replaced by Josh Johnson.
Leftwich completed 58 of 107 passes for 594 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions before being placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury.
The trade leaves the Steelers with 10 draft picks, including one in the seventh round — the compensatory pick they received for Tampa Bay signing Leftwich last year.