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With Batch out, Steelers sign Leftwich to one-year deal

LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers signed veteran quarterback Byron Leftwich to a one-year deal on Sunday, choosing the former Jacksonville Jaguars starter over Daunte Culpepper, a three-time Pro Bowl player.

The Steelers signed the 28-year-old Leftwich after both he and Culpepper worked out Sunday morning at the team's training camp at Saint Vincent College. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Steelers were in the market for a backup to Ben Roethlisberger after veteran Charlie Batch broke his right collarbone in Friday night's 16-10 preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field. Batch, who is to have surgery Monday, is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Leftwich, who has started 46 career games for Jacksonville and Atlanta, may not be released when Batch returns.

"We're just going to let the play talk," Tomlin said. "You know how we do it. We're going to evaluate what we see based on performance."

Leftwich was released by Atlanta in February and has played in just nine games in the past two seasons because of ankle injuries. A first-round pick by Jacksonville in 2003, he saw action in 15 games that season, making 13 starts. He missed two games in 2004 and five in 2005 with injuries.

A serious ankle injury in 2006 limited him to just six games, opening the door for backup David Garrard to get a 10-game audition and win the starting job. Leftwich was released at the end of training camp last year and signed with Atlanta.

The Steelers also signed veteran punter Mitch Berger to a one-year deal on Sunday to compete with Paul Ernster. Daniel Sepulveda, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, tore an anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the year.

The 35-year-old Berger is a 12-year veteran with a career average of 43.1 yards on five different teams, including Arizona in 2007.

The Steelers also activated Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton from the physically-unable-to-perform-list, where he had been since failing his conditioning test July 27. To make room for Leftwich and Berger on the roster, the team waived wide receiver Gerran Walker and linebacker Anthony Trucks.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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