It's been the only thing taking the heat out of Ben Roethlisberger's kitchen: the Steelers September quarterback controversy. For the duration of camp, the first-team snaps have been taken by veteran (and former first-round pick) Byron Leftwich. Even through OTA's and the start of camp, there were murmurs floating around that perhaps unproven, but electric QB Dennis Dixon deserved a shot at the job.
After two preseason games, it's gone far past "murmurs". Dixon is playing for keeps, and in this blogger's humble opinion, should take Heinz Field against the Falcons on September 12th. Why should he? Well let me tell you.
1. The Steelers have ZERO quarterback protection.
Steelers O-Lineman running away from the oncoming rush
This offensive line is in trouble. Big time. For the most part, the first-team offensive lineman have looked like turnstiles. They can't run block, and they certainly can't pass block. Having Leftwich at the helm would exacerbate that issue even further. I like Byron Leftwich, but he's about as mobile as a can of tuna. Dixon would be able to somewhat mask that problem with his pure athleticism.
2. Opposing defenses would need a radically different game plan.
Forget blitzing. If you blitz Dennis Dixon and DON'T get him, goodnight. It's over. It also seems as if Dixon's maturity would prevent him from being confused by many defensive schemes. If you've watched Dixon's play this preseason, you've certainly seen that he's going through his progressions better than at any point in his career. And even if he were to be foiled by a defensive tactic, you STILL have to catch him and bring him down, which is no small feat.
3. News flash: he can actually throw too!
Lost in the stereotyping of Dennis Dixon as a running quarterback is the fact that he is immensely talented as a passer. Prior to his season ending injury in 2007 at Oregon, Dixon was completing nearly 68% of his passes-which would have put him in the top 5 in the NFL last season. Even in his lone start last season, Dixon showed flashes of this ability; his stats merely marred by several drops and by the fact that Bruce Arians refused to devise a game plan that catered to Dixon's strengths.
This is no knock on Byron Leftwich, by any means. He's a funny guy, good team player and above all, a good quarterback. He's just not the right one. Dixon provides excitement, and in the eyes of many, a better chance to win those first 4-6 games. I think Dixon has proven that not only should he start, but he needs to see the field even upon Roethlisberger's return. He's too talented to sit on the bench all year. Even if it's only for a few plays a game, that's all Dixon needs.
And if not, Dixon will still have a spot open for him on the Pirates.