Lost in the Steelers loss to the Ravens and the aftermath thereof were two simple realities.
First, most of the football-watching world had forgotten about Dennis Dixon.
Second, they’ve all now remembered him.
Dixon looked great under incredibly difficult circumstances. Apart from that 24-yard touchdown run, which conjured images of a young Randall Cunningham, Dixon looked sharp — even if the numbers (26 attempts, 12 completions, 145 yards, one touchdown, one interception) didn’t scream out excellence.
He was, after all, facing the Ravens, with a limited opportunity to prepare.
The most encouraging development might have been Dixon’s demeanor after his overtime interception became a three-point win by Baltimore. As Tim Brando of Sporting News Radio pointed out during our weekly Monday visit, Dixon was clearly dejected — which suggests that he’s got the kind of drive and desire that will help him get the most out of his abilities and thus develop into the best player he can be.
But where will that be?
When the Steelers picked him in round five of the 2008 draft, we thought the goal was to use Dixon as a backup for a few years, and maybe to flip him into a higher draft pick if he shows moderate NFL skills. After last night, the Steelers likely could get a second-round selection in the 2010 draft; eventually, they could move him for a first-round pick.
What if the goal, however, is to groom Dixon to take over for Ben Roethlisberger? Coach Mike Tomlin likely won’t be leaving before Ben’s career ends, unless Tomlin decides (like Bill Cowher apparently did) that he wants the kind of market deal the Rooneys never will offer.
And while plenty of Steelers fans view the notion of Roethlisberger departing the Steelers before he’s ready to do so as the equivalent of using a Terrible Towel as an alternative to a chain of perforated paper squares, it’s not all that ridiculous to consider the possibility that Tomlin might at least toy with the notion of ultimately picking Dixon over Roethsliberger.
Tomlin drafted Dixon; he inherited Roethlisberger. Already, the tailback Tomlin picked in 2008 — Rashard Mendenhall — has supplanted Willie Parker, one of the stars of Super Bowl XL.
We’re not saying it will happen. But we’re thinking that maybe it could.
Whether Tomlin intended to do it or not, the manner in which the decision to not start Roethlisberger was handled will cause some of the players in the locker room to ponder the possibility, too. And it will make some of them more willing to accept the change, if/when it comes.
Heck, some of them might want it to happen right now.