2nd Banana

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There are many, many reasons that the CEO is the guy sitting at the top of the food chain. Why the president of the company is the president and the vice-president is one heartbeat away from the first chair as opposed to “being the heartbeat.” The “backup” quarterback of the Steelers is Byron Leftwich. He is the man, behind the man, Ben Roethlisberger who has performed as the top banana in three, count em, three Super Bowls and has walked away with two rings. If not for an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a few sleepwalking moments in the Steelers secondary in Super Bowl XLV it is quite possible that Roethlisberger could have pulled off the trifecta and have replicas of three Lombardi Trophies in his own personal trophy case.

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When the Steelers took the field on Sunday night against the Ravens to fight for the AFC North Division crown, they did so with more than a small bit of trepidation. They did not know what to expect from Leftwich, their resident clipboard holder who when he was not injured has been pretty much a part of the “sideline” brigade. Don’t get it twisted folks, because where there is a general in command, there must always be a colonel, major, captain and lieutenant holding up the rear? That being said very few people except military history junkies know the names of the colonels that sat under General Dwight D. Eisenhower or Douglas McArthur. Why are their names not indelibly etched in our psyches? Well, because they were what, 2nd bananas. Now these comparisons are not meant to knock Leftwich. In past seasons there have been many occasions that Ben Roethlisberger has looked like anything but a starting quarterback. Plus, he was placed in an environment that provided him with the supporting cast needed to win. He had an above average offensive line. He had a running back whose bust is being forged as we speak for the Hall of Fame. Oh, by the way there was a lights out defense that always ranked near or at the top of the NFL. If the top brass of the Steelers were petitioned by “Big” Ben to draft a player or two, then hey I don’t see anything wrong with listening to his suggestions because organizations should at least attempt to accommodate their top performers.

When Steelers Hall-of-Famer Dermontti Dawson was asked who was one of the toughest players for him to block he cited Cincinnati Bengals D-Lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen. Pittsburgh ultimately signed Von Oelhoffen which came back to haunt the “Bungles.” During the 2005 Wildcard Playoff game against Cincinnati, Von Oelhoffen fell into Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer’s left knee. The injury to Palmer was severe. Shortly after Palmer’s injury, the NFL rules committee modified the rule regarding low hits on quarterbacks. The so-called “Kimo Clause” now requires that defenders take every opportunity to avoid hitting a quarterback at or below the knees when the quarterback is in a defenseless position looking to throw with both feet on the ground. Hey ya’ll take a glance at this if you will. During the past few years the NFL sorta, kinda re-sculpted it’s rulebook to handcuff the traditionally bloodthirsty Steelers defense because as we all know Steelers cornerback Mel Blount was the prime reason that bump and run defensive coverage was put out to pasture.

Let’s talk about another Steelers first string quarterback. “Slash” otherwise known as Kordell Stewart had three offensive coordinators in three years. His best offensive lineman Leon Searcy and his best wide receivers Yancy Thigpen and Charles Johnson were allowed to depart. Every performer, regardless of their natural ability, may not be equipped to function at an above average level when the national spotlight is focused on them. There were times at the beginning of his career that Ben Roethlisberger wilted like a week old rose when the spotlight shined on him but as time evolved as we have all come to know about him, he usually shines when all of the marbles are on the line.

Leftwich remains a good quarterback. He is not as great as he was but hey, who is? It used to require 30 minutes for me to cut the grass. It now takes me 120 minutes. Oops, I will not lie to “yinz’ guys and dolls. Takes me 30 seconds to hand out the dough for someone else to do it. None of us that God permits to get old will be able to perform the things at 60 that we did at 30. Please just remember that second banana does not equal second class.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on the ‘Odd Couple Sports Show’ where he is the AFC North and NFL analyst. The show is hosted by Adam Ragle streaming live on the WCWA Fox Sports Toledo 1230AM. Bruce is featured on Tuesdays from 10-11am during the NFL season. Listen to Aubrey’s archived “Odd Couple” segments on: http://www.worldspeakconnnection.com click on “Fair Catch.”)

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