By Chris Gates
Mike Tomlin’s goals for the Steelers’ quarterback conundrum were plain and simple going in to training camp.
“We wanted Ben to have a productive training camp and preseason, and we wanted to get the other guys ready to play,” Tomlin said after the Steelers second preseason game in New York.
As basic and to the point his strategy is, it should be equally as understood as to why Dennis Dixon doesn’t deserve first-team reps in the preseason.
There simply isn’t enough time.
Preparing two quarterbacks to start in training camp and the preseason is something that’s never been done. We know who will start the first four weeks. It will be Byron Leftwich. He may play through week six depending on how long Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension lasts.
Once it’s over, Roethlisberger takes control. There’s no doubt. Even if the Steelers are 4-0, average 40 points a game and have shut every opponent out.
It’s Roethlisberger’s team.
But as we’ve seen so far this preseason, managing this quarterback situation is tricky.
Throwing a third quarterback in to the mix would be irresponsible, regardless of what talents he brings to the team. He would take reps away from Leftwich and Roethlisberger, who are going to have less preseason time than every other starting quarterback in the league to begin with.
Dixon has his time in practice to play with the first team. In fact, Tomlin and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians have suggested Dixon will have his own package of plays to run when the season starts.
Leave that in practice.
Isn’t that what Dixon’s all about — A change of pace for the offense?
So let it go unseen. Let Dixon run the first team in practice against the Steelers’ first-team defense — a defense that is probably as good a unit as Dixon will play against this season.
It could prove beneficial for the Steelers once the games count in more ways than one.