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Steelers Quarterbacks: Evaluating Dennis Dixon's Worth

There has been some drama surrounding Dennis Dixon during this Free Agency period and the start of camp. Dixon went on the record a few days ago to say that he wanted to leave Pittsburgh and go somewhere where he could be a starter. After a couple of days of searching, and teams filling their QB holes with other players, Dennis quickly cowered down and accepted a one year deal for the Steelers. The terms for the one year deal are yet to be released. Is Dennis worth keeping around when we’ve got two other capable QBs on the roster?

Before I give you a short answer to that question, let me blabber on for a minute. Dennis Dixon was an Oregon QB who was drafted in the 5th round of the NFL draft in 2008. As we all know, the first few years with Big Ben behind center yeilded some very interesting moments. From bike crashes to appendixes to sexual allegations off the feild, and Super Bowl Titles on the field, Big Ben was a scary person to have be the leader and big money player on your team.

In other words, It’s no wonder they drafted Dixon.

Dixon is that Slash kind of player in that he uses his feet to scramble around the pocket and often pick up positive yardage and touchdowns running. He’s seen a little action in the NFL, namely in a Ravens game where he had us in a position to win against our biggest rivals, and some during the beginning of the 2010 season at the time of Ben’s 4 game suspension. It is these moments that will need to be evaluated to understand what we’re dealing with here. Dixon believes he’s shown us that he is starting material. But is he?

For me, the move to draft Dixon was an obvious one. It’s security for Big Ben, and a young guy that can maybe develop nicely behind a veteran QB. Add to that the fact the two other vets, Byron and Batch, have been around since Dixon’s innaugural season, and you’ve got a nice environment for growth. Also, Batch is old. He’s been relatively reliable, but he’s getting old. So there is that to take in to account as well.

SO, Dixon’s first career start was on November 29th, 2009 against the hated Baltimore Ravens. He went 12-26 with one touchdown and one interception, finishing with 145 yds passing and 27 yds on three Qb runs. So basically, it was OK. The real thing was, and I remember thinking this during the game, that Dixon did very well through three quarters of the game. The Steelers ran the ball a ton, and started him out with some screen passes and tight end passes and other things that are low pressure for the QB, and opted to let him use his feet from time to time. I thought during the game that they were being too careful and needed to just let Dixon play and do his thing, but that was before his interception in the 4th quarter. Dennis had actually done a fine job getting the Steelers in a position to win, but the defense just couldn’t stop the Ravens, which put Dennis in a two minute drill type situation which is when, as expected in a rookie QB, he threw his interception.

Then in 2010, after Big Ben’s mishap and suspension, and LOTS of QB drama, the Steelers opted for Dixon at Qb and Batch at backup. They used a very similar strategy in that first game and relied heavily on the defense and run game to win. It ended up going to overtime and was won when Rashard broke off a 50 yard TD run to win the game. In game 2 against the Titans, Dixon injured his knee which put him on IR for the remainder of the season. Batch took over and played spectacularly, boasting the best stats of his entire career over the next couple of games.

In 2010, Dixon went 22-32 over all, throwing for 254 yards with 1 interception and 1 fumble (in the 2 2010 games). He rushed 5 times for 32 yards over 2 games, with a long of 21 yards.

Basically, his performances were nothing to write home about. When I watched him play, I remember thinking that with some time in a starting role, he really could develop in to a good starting quarterback. Maybe even a very good one. That being said, with Free Agency where it was, and with Dixon coming off of a serious season ending knee injury, it’s no wonder no one paid him any attention when he showed interest in leaving Pittsburgh.

I’ve gone on record saying many times that I believe the lineup at QB should go: Big Ben, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, and Leftwich should be let go. To me, Leftwich was appealing when we needed someone to come in and play backup while Batch was hurt, and somehow he just lingered around. Yes, Batch has experienced some injuries over the past few seasons, but his performance in 2010, during Ben’s suspension, was enough for me to see that Batch is the guy for that position, hands down.

That being said, Dixon should remain number 3 at worst, and be able to continue to develop under Big Ben. We all know how fragile Ben is, and I don’t mean physically. Physically he is a man among boys. It is his off field issues that make him fragile, and if he were to do something stupid again, and be done in Pittsburgh, then I would say Dixon is the guy to start, and Batch remains backup. That might sound weird, but short term, Batch is the guy. He is the guy who can get the job done well enough until Ben gets back. Batch is not a long term prospect, Dixon is.

All in all I’d say that Dixon belongs in Pittsburgh. I am not happy about him looking to leave, but it’s understandable that he would want to go somewhere and start. All competitors want that same thing. I just think his look for exodus was a little premature. We’ll see as camp progresses, how these guys compete for a position. As of now, we have 4 guys where there needs to be three. You know my three, I just hope the Steelers feel the same way.

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