Leftwich imitating Warner now — and maybe later?

Having played mostly well in brief appearances at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Byron Leftwich believes he has at least put himself on the radar prominently enough to perhaps join another team as a starter next season.

On Thursday, Ben Roethlisberger’s understudy told a group of reporters that his experience with the Steelers, who signed him to a one-year contract in August after Charlie Batch was injured in a preseason game, allowed him to be “back hot” in the eyes of the national media.

Then, pausing, the former Jaguars starter said with a smile, “I’m warm, at least.”

The highlight of Leftwich’s season came in Week 9, when he took over for an injured Roethlisberger in the second half against the Washington Redskins and went 7-for-10 passing for 129 yards and one touchdown in a 23-6 victory.

Leftwich has spent the past two weeks of practice imitating Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner for the sake of Pittsburgh’s defense, lofting the ball high so that the receivers playing the part of Larry Fitzgerald (Limas Sweed and Dallas Baker) can pluck it out of the air, the way Fitzgerald does. Leftwich is inspired by Warner’s comeback after he won NFL and Super Bowl MVP honors with the St. Louis Rams — how he picked himself up after a rough season with the New York Giants and beat out first-round draft pick Matt Leinart for the starting job in Arizona.

“I just hope, one day, I get that opportunity,” Leftwich said.

He is enjoying his role — with one exception. He never can quite figure out, when Roethlisberger goes down with an injury during a game, if he truly is hurt enough to leave the game. Leftwich was getting warmed up on the sideline during the AFC Championship Game two weeks ago, noting that the ball was coming out of his hand as well as it ever had.

“Then, all of a sudden, Ben walks past me on his way back to the field and says, ‘Sorry, bro,’” Leftwich recalled.

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