The fact that former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired former Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich, who played under Arians, to be the Buccaneers’ new offensive coordinator isn’t necessarily related to the Steelers.
But the fact that he first caught the coaching bug while he was in Pittsburgh is worth discussing. He talked about that during his introductory press conference as a first-year coordinator on Friday, including what it was like to take things away from being able to play behind Ben Roethlisberger and learn from his game.
“To be in a room with a player that was that good, to really be in the room and see how he does things and executes things – I used to think it was luck, but then you watch it and you say, ‘damn, this is a skill-set”, he said of watching a younger Roethlisberger extend plays.
“This guy can really play. This is really how he plays the football game. This is him’”, he went on. “And to be in a room with a guy like that really helped me because I was an ‘Xs and Os’ guy, I was a guy that was never leaving the pocket. I’m a true pocket guy and the way I had to see the game was the way I had to see the game for myself”.
He said that coming to Pittsburgh after serving as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starter early in his career forcing him to slow down. “It allowed me to see the way that I played the game and the way he played the game, and see that there’s a whole lot of different ways you can get the job done”, he added.
Leftwich originally joined the Steelers in his sixth season in 2008, but parlayed that into a starting opportunity with the Buccaneers in 2009. After that flamed out, he returned to Pittsburgh to finish his career as a backup to Roethlisberger for another three seasons.
With Arians as head coach with the Arizona Cardinals, Leftwich was hired as a coaching intern in 2016 and was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2017. Though Arians retired after that season, he stuck around in Arizona for one more year, and has not been brought over to the Buccaneers for yet another promotion.
The Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy in the middle of the season a year ago and Leftwich served as the interim coordinator, giving him an opportunity to call plays, which he will now be doing in Tampa.
And he likes what he sees in the quarterback who will be running his plays, drawing comparisons between Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston. “That’s the great thing when you have someone like Jameis – they can bail you out of certain situations, they can make plays, they can extend plays, they can do certain things with the football to buy time to help the team out to make the play”, he said.