Dennis Dixon takes a big step backward

After the Steelers’ first preseason game against the Lions, we argued that quarterback Dennis Dixon deserves some reps with the first team, given the fact that he played really well against the Lions’ reserves — and that presumed interim starter Byron Leftwich didn’t.

The disparity in the performance of the two quarterbacks made the predetermined decision to go with Leftwich seem odd.  Dixon had played well when pressed into service last year due to a concussion to Ben Roethlisberger, and Dixon had done nothing to justify not giving him a shot to compete with Leftwich in the 2010 offseason or training camp, because Dixon simply didn’t receive an opportunity to compete with Leftwich.

Since nothing in the NFL happens by accident, we tried to identify the reason for the decision to not give Dixon a fair shot.  The possible explanations fall into the realm where reasonable minds can differ; we (at least, I) became intrigued by the possibility that the Steelers, who in an apparent effort to keep signing bonuses low don’t require late-round draft picks to sign four-year deals, didn’t want the third-year quarterback to become a hot commodity as he approached restricted free agency in 2011.  If the Steelers intend to follow through on reports that one more false move from Big Ben will get him booted out of the ‘Burgh, it makes sense for the Steelers to find a way to keep Dixon around at a reasonable price until Roethlisberger can prove over a full offseason that this specific leopard has truly changed his black-and-gold spots.

Again, all we wanted was for Dixon to get a fair shot.  And the coaches in Pittsburgh apparently saw enough through two preseason games to conclude that he deserved one.  And so he got one.

And on Sunday night in Denver he apparently blew it.

Dixon completed nine of 16 passes for 94 yards, but he threw two costly interceptions, including a ball that was returned 77 yards by Broncos cornerback Andre Goodman for a touchdown.  Though he also gained 33 yards on three carries, Dixon appeared to be out of his element and comfort zone while facing the Denver starting defense.

Does it mean that Dixon didn’t deserve a shot with the starters?  No.  The Steelers needed to see what Dixon could do — especially since Leftwich hasn’t exactly looked a whole lot better the third quarter of Sunday night’s game, throwing three passes and completing none.

Though Dixon still has special skills, his inability to step up when he got his chance to take the starting job for the first four games means that he probably won’t be the starter come Week One, and that the Steelers won’t have to worry as much about someone making Dixon an offer next offseason that the Steelers won’t be willing or able to match.

68 responses to “Dennis Dixon takes a big step backward

  1. Wait.. What?
    Is this the same Dennis Dixon you just KNEW wasnt being given a chance because he was going to play better than Ben and then start complaining about playing time…
    you mean THAT Dennis Dixon?

  2. Batch is making a stronger push than Dixon or Leftwich at this point.
    Think it’s safe to conclude the Squeelers will be 0-4 on Ben’s return.
    Interesting to see what Ben does after 4 weeks of no team contact.

  3. Did you ever give credit to the fact that the coaching staff might know just a little more than you about the players they coach? NO! You had to make the dumbass spin on it that it had to be because of money or keeping his talent under wraps. Once a lawyer, always a lawyer. Once a “Media Person”, never wrong. Just a little less right. RIGHT?

  4. You make it sound like his chance with the first string was long overdue. Can’t you just admit you were wrong? You tried to perceive the motives of the Steelers coaching staff, and were dead wrong.
    Is it possible that maybe, just maybe, they knew something that you didn’t? Maybe that he didn’t play well enough in practice to earn a chance until the past game?
    The notion that an NFL coach would put a completely unproven guy who happens to be their best chance for winning games on the bench just so they don’t lose him after the season is utterly ridiculous. It’s especially crazy when you consider that the Steelers will need every win they can get while Ben is out to give them a chance to make the playoffs in a very tough division. Again, you were wrong, yet you perpetuated this little charade well after it became obvious that you were. Too bad I can’t keep myself from continuing to read this site in spite of these types of things…

  5. So much for Batch looking better.
    Still looks like Dixon is the best playmaker, Leftwich is the original Mr. Checkdown.

  6. “Batch was best of the backups.”
    Now Batch has thrown a pick six. I guess everyone is speaking to soon.

  7. This has been an unnervingly strange preseason. For some reason I have a really bad feeling about this coming season, across the board.

  8. Florio, serves you right for ignoring Pat White! Now you two crazy kids make up and burn some couches together!

  9. If Dixon took a step back it was only to join the rest of that has-been team. They’ll be fighting to avoid residence in the basement, something most of their fans failed to do.

  10. Hey Mike can you speak English at all? It should read “Dennis Dixon TAKES a big step back.” Sigh.
    And btw, Bryon Leftwich was 0 for 4 tonight. Why didn’t you mention this?

  11. i have to admit the reasons for assuming that Dixon wasn’t getting a fair shot appeared to be conjecture. Was there any evidence at all or was it just pure speculation?

  12. Looks like the entire Steelers team hasbtaken a step back from last year. With 3rd preseason being the most important game the Steelers still don’t have a solid backup QB and looks sloppy as hell.

  13. Oh good grief.
    Queen Victoria, will you PLEASE stop using the imperial we. And I’m sure Rosenthal and MDS are glad you at least stopped using it long enough not to implicate them in your conspiracy foolishness. Dixon isn’t a franchise QB and won’t be a franchise QB if Roethlisberger wakes up in the morning and decides to reinvent himself as John Dillinger. The Steelers figured that out in camp–you know, CAMP … that thing you said coaches use to figure out who’ll start so they don’t really need four preseason games. They DID give Dixon a fair shot–in CAMP.
    Now we’ve seen his limitations … or you have. They were apparent to the rest of us long ago. As for those rumors about Roethlisberger’s short rope in the ‘burgh. Are they as reliable as the rumors a few months ago that he was on the trading block when they never tried to deal him?
    Give it up. Find a new hobby. Even if you could get the whole Steelers fanbase to buy into this nonsense, it still wouldn’t influence the team decisionmakers. You should know that.

  14. Again, all we wanted was for Dixon to get a fair shot.
    First off…Who’s we?
    Oh…you wanted him to get a fair shot because:
    – You are his agent?
    – You are part of his family?
    – You are founder and charter member of the DD fan club?
    – You are the defender of truth, freedom, justice and equal starting opportunities for all QB’s around the world?

  15. dixon is a dude that is still learning the nfl game.
    he blew up a knee in college and played with it the next week.
    morons who think that you just walk out of college and become the next greatest quarterback don’t understand it.
    dixon was fine. batch looked good. leftwich should be worried. the only thing that leftwich did was make tebow’s delivery look short.

  16. I just want to know why they brought in Leftwich instead of giving Batch a chance to compete. Batch played pretty well when Ben was out in past seasons. It’s strange that he wasn’t even given consideration to start while Ben is suspended.

  17. Such bull this all started when troy gaykman talked about how he was pick-free in the preseason and training camp! what a jinx!

  18. He didn’t look that bad to me. Then again, I’m a Niner fan and am force to watch Alex Smith play the position of quarterback. What do I know??

  19. Come on Florio, don’t you think they TOLD him to tank to prevent that QB controversy you have been talking about?
    Tonight was the Dennis Dixon all of us saw in camp. Inaccurate running QB, a lesser Kordell Stewart.

  20. Dixon looked lost at times during plays. A big step backward for Mr. Dixon. Leftwich is still the starter dujour but Charlie Batch played well late.

  21. I hope the people that say “Squeelers going 0-4” know they are as stupid as the ones saying “4-0.”

  22. And this surprises you?
    Anyone with even a tidbit of football knowledge could see that Dixon did play well against 3rd and 4th stringers,but starters are a completely differnt pedigree of football players.To say that they dont want Dixon to play well because they might lose him is the dumbest thing i ever heard.If Dixon played well they could possibly trade him to another team.Especially with Batch and Leftwich still on the team.Ben is a special player that only comes around every so often.To even compare Dixon to Ben is idiotic at best.

  23. You call Cowilshaw out for not admitting his mistake then you do the samething but worse. He admitted he was wrong but tried to say it wasnt that bad. You made a big long story of why you werent wrong.
    Everyone knows you were saying Dixon should be the starter and Leftwhich shouldnt. Then you went on to say how great Dixon was and how he was the next Matt Shaub. The fact that you cant admitt that you jumped to conclusions with no bases and you were wrong just proves how much a hypocrite you are.

  24. # red13 says: August 29, 2010 11:23 PM
    I just want to know why they brought in Leftwich instead of giving Batch a chance to compete. Batch played pretty well when Ben was out in past seasons. It’s strange that he wasn’t even given consideration to start while Ben is suspended.
    Yeah I wondered that myself. They must have some reason obviously. Any Steelers fans who know the answer?

  25. This notion some people seem to have that coaches don’t know what they’ve got in a player until they see them in a preseason game is utterly baffling.

  26. @CKL
    I believe the Steelers were concerned about Batch getting older and his recent history of getting injured.If he was a little younger I dont believe they would have ever brought in Leftwich.Personally I would rather have a healthy Batch over Leftwich or Dixon.Having said that Leftwich has played well for us in our last SB run when Ben got hurt.

  27. Florio will bury a guy if he has any actual facts to use. He is used to merely libeling people with inuendo and rumors. Now Florio has poor Dixen pushing up daisies because of 2 INTS when playing under pressure with the first team for once.

  28. This was an eye-opener for Dixon… In no way does it point to him being a bad QB, it purely shows him that there is some work to be done. He showed some real talent at some times and inexperience at others. The pick in the endzone was a sign that he needs some coaching still. At that time, a veteran QB would have thrown it out of bounds and had another down to work with. The second pick can’t be 100% blamed on him.
    Leftwich showed that he is inconsistent, he always has been and Steeler fans have to understand that. He is a good QB, but sometimes shows his lack of polishing.
    Batch is the lost QB in the whole shuffle. He was never given a true shot to compete for the job. He is a good QB for a few games, he just is not good for a whole season. I think the depth chart will go Leftwich, Dixon, Batch but the interesting thing will be “What happens if Byron struggles?” Dixon will probably only be used in special packages and is #2 just so they can bring him in when they want. Batch will take the reigns full-time is Leftwich struggles.
    I see a heavy dose of Mendenhall for weeks 1-4. I will bet that he has over 500 yds and 5-6 TDs after week 4.
    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is how about the showing the Jonathan Dwyer had…. WOW, for a guy that was a slow starter at camp he surely impressed. I think this game may have secured his spot on the team.
    Sorry for the long post 🙂

  29. so by your logic throwing 2 ints means your finished? so where does that leave JAKE DELHOMME? that bumb couldnt start for my hometowns high school team!!

  30. “Dixon had played well when pressed into service last year …”
    No he didn’t. He only completed 46% of his passes and averaged 5.6 yards per attempt. Kordell Stewart could break out his old Steelers jersey and play better than that at age 37 after 4 years away from the NFL.

  31. I love how all the booing morons in Denver shut up like scared mice once Ben hit that first pass. Oh was that beautiful!

  32. “And on Sunday night in Denver he apparently blew it.”
    Mr. Definite Big Ben is a Scumbag can’t make his mind up on whether or not Dixon blew oats last night?
    Don’t you think it is a huge mistake that Mr. Goodell made suspending the best QB in the game for trying to get laid, because gossipy websites ran with the story?
    I know, that’s taking a hard stance on a subject and that is a bad thing in corporate America, sometimes.

  33. No Florio, Dixon did not take any steps back last night . It is who he is right now. It is called “being able to judge talent”, not just talking and trying to stir controversy and create more hits to your site.
    Many of us told you Dixon’s REAL status earlier this week, because ya know, we watch his games and some practices. He is fast. So was Kordell. This is the NFL.

  34. “morons who think that you just walk out of college and become the next greatest quarterback don’t understand it.”
    Roethlisberger did it….
    People need to get over the whole panic they are going through right now. Leftwich is going to start the season. You do not put Batch in there. The people that are saying “put Batch in, he looked pretty good last night” are the people who were saying the same thing about Dixon after he tore up the Lions 3rd stringers.
    Given Leftwich did not look too good last night, guess what…he was playing with back ups! None of those guys will be starting once the season starts. Leftwich is the best shot the Steelers have at producing something positive during the first four games of the season!

  35. Anybody see the lick Woodyard gave Dixon? I am impressed with the fact Dixon got right back up. Other than that, he was lackluster to say the least.

  36. Florio- your conspiracy theory was unfounded in fact. Journalist??? Dixon deserved a shot, he got it, and blew it. He has a long way to go. I am not saying that he should or should not start the season, but to put him in the same conversation with ben was/is ridiculous!

  37. All last night proved was the coaches were right for not automatically naming him the starter. Leftwich did nothing to prove he’s the right choice either. I’d be worried about the D a little more than the QB, they looked awful as well. Penalties were rampent.

  38. Leaving Batch out of the equation (why??)…If I had to choose the starter, Leftwich > Dixon. DD had to play out of his mind to wrest the starting spot away from Lefty and his “veteran presence”, knew he had to do it, and couldn’t. I’d rather see Lefty lose a game because he keeps taking sacks and giving the ball away than Dix because of stupid mistakes.

  39. Rev. Dr. HollywoodWags says:
    August 30, 2010 6:02 AM
    “And on Sunday night in Denver he apparently blew it.”
    Mr. Definite Big Ben is a Scumbag can’t make his mind up on whether or not Dixon blew oats last night?
    Is that John Oates of Hall & Oates fame?

  40. Dixon was never going to be the starter. Coach Tomblin merely capitulated to a segment of the fan base and journalists who have been clamoring to give Dixon a shot with the first team. Now, how did that go?
    Frankly, I don’t have a problem with Coach Tomblin giving Dixon a chance with the first-team, but to bring him back to start the third quarter merely to avoid bruising his ego was ridiculous.
    Leftwich needs more time, in game conditions, with the first team, and sending him out there after Dixon to be pummeled behind the second-team offensive line was a bad idea.
    Hopefully, this can be repaired before the regular season, but Coach Tomblin needs to name his starter now and give that starter at least the first half of Thursday’s game, even if it is against the opponent’s second team defense.

  41. As I have said before on the QB issue, in contract to the raving BS that PFT tends to post merely to get interest in the site, Dixon is just not ready to step in. He appears to have some nice athletic skills, but he is still too green. I would not brand him as never able to become a good QB, just not now. And there is no way he should start the season. At this point, the Steelers have to rely on Leftwich’s experience, and attempt to push the run and tough defense for the first 4 games.
    For those of you morons that last week said the Steelers should cut Ben and let Dixon start, you must feel pretty damn dumb now. Ben is light years ahead of them all, which is not ususual considering he is one of the best QBs in the entire league, love him or hate him.
    Last night the defensive play was a little concerning. They really didn’t consistently shut the Broncos down. And the dumb penalties have to stop. Further, the offensive line play is still too pourous.
    Lot of work to do, not unusual at this point, but all the teams have issues.

  42. I thought he looked a lot better than Byron Leftwich. He made some mistakes reading coverages but he needs to make them in a game to learn. His running ability is incredible and he was pretty accurate, just looks raw as a passer.
    With the way the OL pass blocks, you are going to need him out there making plays with his feet.

  43. I’m amazed you didn’t theorize that Tomlin told Dixon to throw the interceptions to make him look bad and reduce the pressure on Roethlisberger.

  44. # In & Out Burger says: August 29, 2010 11:37 PM
    I hope the people that say “Squeelers going 0-4” know they are as stupid as the ones saying “4-0.”
    I will be really happy with a 2-2, going into the off week.

  45. I was watching Pouncy. He was the only player for the Steelers that actually looked good. Hartwig was getting pushed around by the second/third teamers. At least Hartwig helped Leftwich get up.

  46. Dixon is doing the same thing Ben did when he first started–trying to force the ball or throwing it up in the air instead of throwing it away. It has to do with learning and being more comfortable playing. Tebow was doing the same things. It’s called being a young, novice QB.
    As for Batch, he’s a good QB, but every time he goes in the game, he gets hurt, so he’s not reliable. He’d make a better coach.
    Florio, just admit you wanted him to play because you thought he’d be better. Don’t backtrack. That’s how you lose respect.

  47. The play of the back-up QB’s makes one appreciate the level of play that starters bring to the game. There is no replacing that amount of talent and experience. Leftwich will be under center games 1-4 with an occasional appearance by Dixon in whatever the Steelers call their “wildcat” formation.
    I realize the topic here is Dixon (who was not drafted to be a starter) but the bigger issue last night was the lack of discipline by the defense. Tomlin’s post game comments in the P’gh paper seem to show he was more upset with their personal fouls than the play of any of his QB’s. Two on Lewis got him benched. Two picks by Dixon did not.

  48. pharaoh says:
    morons who think that you just walk out of college and become the next greatest quarterback don’t understand it.
    A-hem … apparently YOU don’t understand.
    Roethlisberger–who never played QB until his senior year of high school–came off the bench his rookie season, went 13-0 with a 98.1 passing rating, and took the Steelers to the conference championship.
    Namath was AFL rookie of the year.
    Montana didn’t become a starter until midway through his rookie season but had the league-leading pass percentage.
    Marino didn’t become a starter until midway through his rookie season and became the first rookie QB to start in the Pro Bowl.
    Brady began his rookie year #4 on the depth chart and the following year was Super Bowl MVP.
    McNabb started his rookie year as a backup and the following year finished second in voting for league MVP.
    Jim Kelly was USFL MVP in his second year.
    Peyton Manning set five NFL rookie records.
    Flacco took the Ravens to the conference championship his first season. Elway took the Broncos to the playoffs his first two seasons.
    The notion that it takes YEARS to develop a great QB is bull. Either you have IT or you don’t.
    Dixon is going into his THIRD year and still hasn’t learned the playbook. He struggles to make basic reads. He may be a serviceable QB one day, but he’ll never be a star. Thinking he could challenge a talent like Roethlisberger in his prime is truly moronic.

  49. Name me any time that Dixon has played consecutive regular season games? All of your examples go out the window based on that alone. The only way you compare him to any of those guys would be if Roethlisberger were out for more than 4-6 games and he played in all of them. That D last night couldn’t have carried Big Ben in his rookie season.

  50. Jack, I was very clearly answering the comment that rookies can’t come out of college and become the next great QB. My examples perfectly address that comment and demonstrate its fallacy.
    Roethlisberger’s rookie passer rating was 98.1–breaking Dan Marino’s record. Maybe you have a different take on how football is played, but as I recall, the defense was not carrying him anywhere when he was passing.
    If you want to continue indulging the fantasy that we’re going to cut Roethlisberger in favor of Dixon, by all means, dream on. But I’m too busy to keep indulging the delusional with pointless debates. Maybe you and Florio can do lunch.

  51. I’ve never been of the mindset we ditch Ben for Dixon, I’m not a delusional fan. What I am saying is Dixon hasn’t played an entire season either affroding him the ability to “gain traction”. If he was behind all but a hand full of QB’s, including Ben, I’d say start him the whole season. Leftwich isn’t going to give you anything more than Dixon will at this point that’s my thought process.
    If this was Cleveland everyone would be clamoring for him to start just on his possible abilities. I honestly think he’ll be better than anyone is giving him credit for but he’ll probably need to play elsewhere to see the playing time.

  52. Agree that Leftwich doesn’t look terribly promising. Two years have slowed him down even more. I’d rather have Charlie out there than any of them, but he’s so bloody fragile. Our best hope of surviving the first four games is to throw everything but the kitchen sink at opponents. Play everyone–let Randle EL throw. Run, run, run. Pray the D can score. We just have to try and keep our heads above water anyway we can. I’m not a fan of the wildcat, but let Dixon run it if he can.
    But I don’t see tremendous success in Dixon’s future with anyone. It’s not personal, but he doesn’t seem to have the mental game. People underestimate what it really takes to be an elite QB in today’s. Arm, mechanics, leadership, courage, plus intelligence/mental game. Few have whole package. There aren’t 32 elite QBs in the game today. But I think the ones who are that good shine through before this point. That’s how Brady went from 4th to 2nd on the depth chart so fast. The coaches see it in practice even if they’re not in a game. I haven’t heard anything from the Steelers’ coaches or players to indicate they see it with Dixon.

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