Byron Leftwich, Nick Foles and other backup QBs hit center stage in Week 11

Gregory Shamus

With four starting quarterbacks suffering injuries in Week 10, the focus turns to backup quarterbacks.

Call this the weekend of the backup quarterback in the NFL.

Four starting quarterbacks went down with injuries last week, putting their status for Week 11 in jeopardy.

Ben Roethlisberger has shoulder and rib injuries and he's been officially ruled out. Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Michael Vick all suffered concussions last week. Smith has a legitimate shot to play while Cutler and Vick both seem likely to sit for at least one week.

More: 3 questions on the Steelers future | Inside football's biggest gambling contest

With four teams playing their backup quarterback this weekend, you know one of them will get screwed with very bad quarterback play. It has happened before, with the 2011 season as a great example.

The Bears lost Jay Cutler in Week 10 last year and in went Caleb Hanie, who lost all four of his starts. The Bears missed the playoffs.

Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

The Chiefs, as miserable as they are this year, were in the playoff hunt last year. But they lost Matt Cassel in the middle of the season and Tyler Palko started four games, winning just one of them. The Chiefs missed the playoffs.

The Texans last year lost Matt Schaub in the middle of the season and were forced to start rookie T.J. Yates. They're actually somewhat of a success story because Yates won two games down the stretch, enough for the Texans to make the playoffs and actually win a postseason game.

But you see the point. Every year a team loses their starting quarterback at the worst time and it drastically impacts their season.

The Bears could be without Cutler this weekend after he suffered at least his fourth concussion (possibly more). Jason Campbell is a top-end backup quarterback in the league so the Bears are in a better situation than they were a year ago. With Cutler already having multiple concussions, the Bears could be preparing for life without Cutler for multiple weeks and it couldn't come at a worse time. The Bears will face three of the league's better defenses in the next mnoth against the 49ers, Vikings (twice) and Seahawks.

The 49ers appear to be in the best position entering Week 11. Smith has been cleared for non-contact work, paving the way for him to get some practice in and possibly start. If he can't go, Colin Kaepernick would be the guy. His skill-set is different than Smith's, so the 49ers may need to tweak their offense to fit him if Smith can't go.

Then there's the Eagles. Unlike the Bears, 49ers and Steelers, Vick's Eagles aren't in a playoff race. At 3-6, their season is effectively over. They're not making the playoffs. But their backup situation is one of the most intriguing because there have been some calls for Nick Foles to start over Vick, whether Vick is injured or not.


The Steelers will turn to Byron Leftwich with Roethlisberger out. As far as backup quarterbacks go, Leftwich isn't the worst candidate. He has 49 career starts, but he has not been the regular starting quarterback since the 2006 season. The Steelers offense is already "dink and dunk" so their tactics may not change drastically, but Roethlisberger's ability to beat the pass rush and stay on his feet is unmatched.

The Steelers are in the most trouble here. Roethlisberger's injuries are extremely serious, enough that some are suggesting he could be out for several weeks, if not longer. Talking with SB Nation's Behind The Steel Curtain this week, I can tell how much Roethlisberger means to the Steelers. The Steelers are in a good spot as far as the AFC Wild Card goes, but losing Roethlisberger for a stretch of time could have the same impact that losing Cutler had on the Bears last year.

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