Much debate has occurred regarding whether the Steelers should entrust the short-term quarterbacking job to Byron Leftwich or Dennis Dixon, during the suspension of starter Ben Roethlisberger.
Dixon earned a shot at work with the first-team by dramatically outperforming Leftwich in the first two preseason games, during which Leftwich played with the starters and Dixon played with the reserves. After Dixon stunk it up on Sunday night against Denver’s top defense, the pendulum seemed to swing back to Leftwich.
Count ESPN’s Jon Gruden among those who aren’t convinced that Leftwich is the answer.
“The Steelers are a team that really relies on Ben Roethlisberger’s
improvisation,” Gruden said during a Monday Night Football
conference call, according to Jim Corbett of USAToday.com. “I’ve never seen a guy create more offense on his own. He gets out of some of the most incredible situations where he makes
plays where they have him sacked twice and he still completes a pass.
“The guy who fits them the best right now, the guy I would go with is Dixon.”
Gruden pointed to Dixon’s mobility and his time in the system. “I
realize he threw a couple of interceptions against Denver,” Gruden said. “I just
think his escapability, his ability to run for two first downs, create
another two first downs scrambling out of trouble, checking it down, or
finding a big play down the field gives him the edge over these other
two quarterbacks. . . . All they have to do is win like they
won in Ben’s rookie year, run the ball, play good defense — don’t turn
it over and make some timely plays in the passing game . . . . Dennis Dixon can do that.”
Adding an extra layer of intrigue to Gruden’s assessment is the fact that, from 2002 through 2005, Gruden’s defensive backs coach in Tampa was a guy who is now the head coach of the Steelers.
So will Mike Tomlin listen to the guy to whom he once routinely deferred? Stay tuned.