Tomlin indicates Leftwich will start during Roethlisberger suspension

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers' starting quarterback entering training camp will be Ben Roethlisberger. And Byron Leftwich.

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Because of Roethlisberger's six-game suspension, the Steelers already know they must prepare another quarterback to play when the season starts. From the way coach Mike Tomlin dealt out snaps during the voluntary practices that concluded Thursday, it seems all but certain that Leftwich will be that quarterback.

While Tomlin isn't ruling out third-year pro Dennis Dixon or longtime backup Charlie Batch, the coach said the way that playing time was distributed this spring is an indication of where the Steelers are going.

When Roethlisberger was around, he took nearly all of the snaps with the starters. When he wasn't, Leftwich did.

"I'm not going to name a No. 1 -- I don't need to," Tomlin said after the Steelers held their only practice all spring at Heinz Field. "I think how we distributed reps is an indication at this juncture."

Because Roethlisberger can't practice during his six-game suspension, Tomlin said it becomes even more important for the quarterback to receive quality work during training camp. Tomlin isn't ready to detail how the snaps will be divided during training camp, other than there won't be enough for all four quarterbacks to equally prepare.

"I think he's going to have the mentality like he always has when he reports to training camp," Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. "And that's to put himself in position to be the very best he can and be what we need him to be, and prepare himself for the season. He's still going to have any opportunity to do all these things (to get ready to play)."

Tomlin also isn't concerned -- at least not publicly -- about the practices that Roethlisberger will miss during a suspension that runs into October. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has the option to shorten the ban to four games.

"Ben's a pro," Tomlin said. "When the time and the opportunity to play come for him, I'm sure he'll be excited about that."

While the Steelers brought back Leftwich in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following Roethlisberger's suspension, Tomlin said he intentionally tried not to reduce the amount of practice time Dixon received this spring.

"That may change when we get to training camp," Tomlin said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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