Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin is not likely to give any clues to who will start in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Regardless if its Bryon Leftwich or Dennis Dixon, the Steelers’ must play well in all three phases of the game to get through the first quarter of the season without their Super Bowl winning QB, Ben Roethlisberger.
If Dixon or Leftwich receives support from their defense and running game, the Pittsburgh Steelers will do fine until Big Ben comes back.
The first six games for the Steelers: at home versus the Falcons, on the road in consecutive contests against Vince Young’s Tennessee Titans and the Tampa Bay Bucs, then back to back home games versus Baltimore and Cleveland and finally a road game vs. Miami.
If the Steelers can go 3 and 3 at worst at the very least in the first six games, preferably two wins against divisional opponents–Baltimore and Cleveland–the Steelers should be still in the playoff hunt and still in contention for a division title.
Dennis Dixon did struggle some in a preseason loss against the Denver Broncos, but the Steelers should be able to survive until Ben Roethlisberger comes back from his suspension.
Dixon’s two interceptions against the Broncos were not good for the stat line-especially the one in the end zone-but this game shouldn’t disqualify him from starting on opening day.
The coaches were disappointed, but it appears the 6’3 Dixon still has the overall confidence of his coaches, including offensive coordinator, Bruce Ariens.
In the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the following was said after Dixon’s performance:
“It speaks for itself,” Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “I didn’t like the interception in the red zone. Hopefully, he’ll get better.
Sometime this week, Big Ben will meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss the prospects of reducing his six-game suspension stemming from his involvement in a Milledgeville, Georgia incident back in March.
Big Ben has stayed out of trouble for the most part, and the media hasn’t reported any other incidents, so there is a strong likelihood his suspension will be cut down four games.
So if that is the case, then the combo of Dixon, veteran Byron Leftwich and elder statesman and emergency QB Charlie Batch should be able to keep the Steelers competitive.
Dixon is a young player, but one must remember last year’s game in Week 12 versus one of the league’s feared teams, the Ray Lewis-led Baltimore Ravens.
Dixon was a surprise starter when Big Ben was hurt, and he did alright and managed the game. The Steelers’ defense could have been more supportive in an overtime loss, but a late interception by Dixon helped Baltimore to pull out that game.
Some will judge Dixon harshly for his two INT game against Denver, but he did some good things as well in his 9 for 16 passing performance for 94 yards which includes a completed pass to rookie WR Tyler Grisham that was sandwiched between a couple of Bronco defenders for 13 yards.
Dixon isn’t Peyton Manning, but his mobility and ability to improvise on passing plays give the second-year player from Oregon an advantage over the less mobile Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch.
Dixon has to be able to manage the game, limit his mistakes and hope that the Troy Polamanu-led big play Steelers’ defense is able to make plays and that the running game is able to provide enough support to get Dixon and Steelers through the first four or six games of the 2010 NFL Season.