Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Obligatory Dixon vs. Leftwich post

By Jeff

Sports fans only care about two things right now. One is how sweet the Consol Energy Arena is (I might be the only Pittsburgh blogger not invited to tour the building or eat the food). The second is who will be starting the first four weeks of the NFL season for the Steelers.

The players competing are Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. The first preseason game saw Dixon light up the Detroit Lions' backups, while Leftwich couldn't get the first-team offense moving. In Leftwich's defense, Rashard Mendenhall killed a drive that looked promising with a fumble.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said months before training camp that the job was Leftwich's, with Dixon backing him up. The Steelers traded a draft pick to the Tampa Bay Bucs for Leftwich's services because he played in the system in 2008. He is a former first-round pick and had a decent, but injury plagued career in Jacksonville.

Dixon has all of one NFL start, which he lost.

On paper, it makes sense for Tomlin to want Leftwich to be the man in Ben Roethlisberger's absence. But as Lee Flowers taught us, paper (champions) don't mean squat in the NFL (Excuse the horrible reference, I just really wanted a Lee Flowers shout out somewhere in this blog). And despite it was a preseason game, Dixon's performance cannot be ignored.

So let's weigh the pros and cons of each player.

A preview of Week 2?
The Steelers offensive line the past few seasons has more resembled the paper doors contestants ran through at the end of The Gauntlet on "American Gladiators" (chalk up obscure reference No. 2!), than it has a wall. Roethlisberger shoulders his fair share of the blame for all the sacks he's taken in that span, but it's widely known throughout the league that the Steelers line wasn't exactly helping him. I bring this up because Leftwich is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the league. He can't escape rushers and buy himself time like Roethlisberger does on a weekly basis. If the line doesn't improve, the Steelers will be carrying Leftwich off the field.

If Leftwich does have time, he is a serviceable quarterback. He has a cannon and gets the ball where it needs to go very quickly. That big arm also allows him to take advantage of the speedy Mike Wallace and rookie receivers on deep balls.

Dixon is basically the complete opposite of Leftwich. He is very quick and can make plays with his feet. He has little NFL experience and is thought to have an weak arm. In his one start, which many Steelers fan thought was very impressive, Dixon was predictably inconsistent. The first half against Baltimore was very good. I think he was something like 8 for 10 with a touchdown pass and no turnovers. The second half was another story. He was 4 for 16 and threw the interception that led to the Ravens' game-winning field goal. He did scamper for a 24-yard touchdown, though, showing his potential to be a threat to run or pass.

And soccer players
are considered gay?
I think Steelers fan overrate Dixon's performance in this game. It was by no means terrible, especially when you consider he didn't know he was starting until the day before, but it wasn't all that good either.

So who starts Week 1? To me, we have to see what happens in the next two preseasons games. The team and fans can't overreact to the first preseason game of the year. While I think Dixon deserves a longer look with the first team from the coaching staff, I'm not ready to declare him the better choice for Week 1.

Of course, these players are not just playing for the right to start Weeks 1 through 4. They are also playing for the right to be the guy fans will be screaming for when Ben has a bad week later in the year. It's kind of a Pittsburgh tradition. Forget all the great games your starter has played and just focus on the few bombs he drops. I Guarantee the local radio shows will be flooded with callers begging to put Leftwich or Dixon in late in the season after Ben has a two-interception game.

BoDeans - Closer to Free


  1. Yesterday afternoon, MM stopped berating callers long enough to bring up a good point. Leftwich is more like Big Ben than Dixon is. It might be best if he starts and everyone on offense gets used to the not too mobile, cannon for an arm QB.
    Then again, Dixon's mobility might be a real asset with the Steelers swiss cheese o-line.

  2. Why not have Leftwich start and give Dixon 10-15 snaps per game?

  3. Joe, I can see where you and MM are coming from. But I think you have to play the man who gives you the best chance to win. To do that, I still think more needs to be seen from both players.

    Greg, I don't like that idea. When are you going to give Dixon those 10 to 15 snaps? I think it would be hard for either quarterback to get in a rhythm.

  4. That's very true. Having two quarterbacks will almost surely take them out of their rhythm. I'm a Dennis Dixon fan because I think that he can bring a spark that this team needs after losing their quarterback for 25% of the season and one of their best receivers for good. This probably sounds really stupid but if Ben was traded in the off season and these were our two options for the upcoming season I would definitely want Leftwich to start because he's the safer bet. He's proven he can win and he's done it in our system. However, I think a four game regular season experiment with Dixon in September could pay off big time.

    One thing to add about Dixon's only NFL game in his career...I think a lot of people (and by people I mean MM) underrate his performance. It was his first game ever and it was against one of the best defenses in the league. The Ravens always step it up against the Steelers and Dixon came to play. He gave us a chance to win but we came up short in overtime to a very good team.

    As far as when to give Dixon touches, maybe when you get a fresh set of downs at midfield? Or dare I say we run a wildcat with him? Yeah, don't see the Steelers doing any of this, just rambling really. Whatever, we'll go 3-1 no matter who's back there. Go Steelers.