On the Steelers: Dixon OK with Tomlin's QB setup
Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon on his chances of being the team's starting quarterback: "Honestly, I feel everything is pretty much equal."
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All remains status quo as the Steelers resumed practices. Ben Roethlisberger was nowhere in sight Tuesday, and Mike Tomlin's pecking order has not changed.
Dennis Dixon, though, sounds convinced he has the same opportunity to win the starting job as Byron Leftwich, who has run the first team in every practice since minicamp that began April 30.
"Honestly, I feel everything is pretty much equal," Dixon said after practice Tuesday. "Everyone's getting their share of reps."
There is a theory that Tomlin wants to see how Dixon reacts in this competition while running the second team behind Leftwich, wants to see if he will compete for the job rather than have it handed to him.
Yet as the OTAs dwindle -- eight remain through June 10 -- and with Tomlin's stated desire to have his starting quarterback chosen before training camp begins, it looks more and more apparent that the coach and his staff are preparing Leftwich to open the season as their starter.
"I haven't been told anything," Dixon said as to what it all means and whether he will get a turn with the first-team offense. "All I can do is control myself on my reps and try to make the most of it."
Leftwich said no matter who is chosen to start the season while Roethlisberger serves his minimum four-game suspension, "I really believe they'll do the right thing for this team."
"We're all competing to play, we all want to be the guy to play," Leftwich said. "We all have enough respect for coach Tomlin and his team to understand that they'll make the right decision and, whatever that decision is, we'll live with it. Right now, that's the least of my worries. I can't be thinking about September."
Leftwich, the 30-year-old veteran who was a first-round pick and former starter in Jacksonville, and the young and inexperienced Dixon have differences in styles as well as backgrounds. Leftwich is not a scrambling or running quarterback; it is one of Dixon's fortes. In fact, he can run like no other quarterback to wear a Steelers uniform since Kordell Stewart, and he has adopted Stewart's No. 10 jersey this season as well, the same number Dixon wore at Oregon.
"When I was coming up, Kordell was pretty much one of the main guys I was looking up to," Dixon said. "Vince Young, that's a key one as well. I've been looking at their game and I can see similarities."
Stewart's time as the Steelers' starting quarterback, from 1997 until he was deposed early in 2002, was a mix of highs and lows. He was their starter for two AFC championship games at home after the seasons of 1997 and 2001. He made the Pro Bowl and was voted his team's MVP for that 2001 season. He was the team's No. 2 career passing leader behind Terry Bradshaw until Roethlisberger moved ahead of him. And he was the most dynamic quarterback on the run in the NFL.
Yet, he frustrated his coaches who tried to turn him into something he was not, a pinpoint passer. There was one game that Stewart helped win in Jacksonville when he ran for a touchdown. He came to the sideline and was dressed down by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for not throwing to what the coach said was an open man in the end zone.
Stewart remains the team's fourth-most accurate career passer with a 56.5 percent completion rate.
Stewart's ability to run, then, either was a detriment to his development as a passer or the coaching staff did not know how to best deploy his unique talent. Might the same thing happen to Dennis Dixon?
"That is a flaw," is how Dixon phrased the dilemma of run vs. pass for someone with his ability. "But, then again, you have to use it when you have to. Don't do too much of it. Throw first, that should be your No. 1 thought."
That is what he said he was thinking in Baltimore for the most part but could not resist running for a 24-yard touchdown, one of only three carries in the game for him, his only start and appreciable appearance in a regular-season game in his two seasons. He also burst for a 47-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 in a preseason game as a rookie in 2008.
Leftwich said he and Charlie Batch were discussing Dixon's running ability Tuesday and, "I wish I could do what Dennis does.
"I don't think it's a detriment if he's still going through the same process of understanding, trying to get the ball to the right guy, doing all the things and just going where his read takes him, and sometimes it says RUN.
"I've never been a guy to run around. I just make sure I get the ball to the right guy because we all know I ain't going to do too much running around.
"The great thing is, he has that ability that a lot of quarterbacks wish they had in this league. To say is it a detriment? I don't think so, as long as he always gets the ball to the right guy."
Receiver Limas Sweed watched practice Tuesday, leaning on crutches and with his left foot in a cast. Sweed had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon that occurred on the final day of minicamp, May 3. He has been placed on injured reserve and cannot play or practice with the Steelers in 2010.
First Published May 26, 2010 12:00 am