After the Steelers’ first preseason game, we argued that quarterback Dennis Dixon deserves a chance to take some reps with the first-team offense, in order to give the team a chance to determine whether Dixon would be a better option than Byron Leftwich as the interim starter during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension.
And we couldn’t understand why, given the obviously special skills that Dixon has displayed in two preseason game, the Steelers had predetermined that Leftwich would be the interim starter, with no competition whatsoever. It prompted us to search for an explanation, and (to the chagrin and aggressive disagreement of Stan Savran) we suggested that the Steelers didn’t really want Dixon to become a hot commodity in the third year of a three-year rookie contract.
If it’s true that Roethlisberger is one more ugly off-field incident away from being cut or traded, the Steelers need to have a competent long-term replacement on hand, in the event that Roethlisberger reverts to his pre-suspension lifestyle. So if the Steelers do with Dixon after the 2010 season what the Falcons did with Matt Schaub after 2006 and if Roethlisberger ends up being unavailable in 2011 like Mike Vick was in 2007, the Steelers would be screwed.
Regardless of whether the Steelers were hoping to keep Dixon on ice long enough to be sure that Roethlisberger can get through a full offseason without being accused of sexual assault, they’re now apparently realizing that the potential gap between Dixon and Leftwich is too big to ignore. On Wednesday, coach Mike Tomlin said that Dixon will get first-team reps in the third preseason game, entering the action against the Broncos after Ben Roethlisberger and before Byron Leftwich.
“I intend to give Dennis Dixon some looks with the first group against
some good people,” Tomlin said, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I think he’s earned that likewise. And
that’s what this preseason is all about.”
We agree completely. And we think it’s overdue. And to the extent that the Steelers had hoped to keep the rest of the football-following world from realizing that Dixon has the potential to be a very good NFL quarterback, maybe the Steelers have realized that folks already are figuring it out, so they may as well use him while they still have him.