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.
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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.
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are considered gay?
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.
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