Day One of the Pittsburgh Steelers positional breakdown analysis - The Quarterbacks
The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have five quarterbacks on the roster and by tradition that's two more then normally makes the final 53 man roster in the ‘Burgh. Unlike many teams in the NFL, the Steelers have an incumbent in Ben Roethlisbereger who is the king of his thrown.
There is next to no chance the 100 million dollar QB is not the starter on day one.
The backup role is one for debate though, as the wily vetern, Charlie Batch, is coming off a season ending injury and the ultra-talented Dennis Dixon enters his second season as a Steeler.
This role is a critical position for Pittsburgh as the oft maligned offensive-line allows Big Ben to hit the turf more then we would like to see. Batch is the likely back-up but Dixon could make it an interesting camp battle, one we will watch very closely here at Pittsburgh Blitz.
Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger
Better known to the avid fan as Big Ben, was selected 11th overall in 2004 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Drafted out of Miami University of Ohio, Roethlisberger was 13-0 as a rookie and lead the Steelers to a 15-1 record. Earning him the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
He became the youngest Super Bowl–winning quarterback in NFL history, helping lead the Steelers, in his second professional season, to a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL at the age of 23. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2007.
Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a second Super Bowl title in four seasons as they defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, 27-23, after he made a game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the final 35 seconds.
Roethlisberger currently ranks seventh all-time in NFL passer rating (89.4) and yards per attempt (7.86) among quarterbacks with a minimum of 1500 career attempts.
Known for playing outside the quarterback pocket in what he calls “backyard football,” Roethlisberger is often compared to his childhood idol, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, due to the similar styles and fourth-quarter comebacks.
Roethlisberger, who also grew up idolizing Joe Montana, wears No. 7 in Elway’s honor. With two Super Bowl rings already on his fingers, Big Ben will only get better as his career progress’s and he is the unquestioned starting QB for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Charles D’Donte Batch
The move to initially sign Batch wasn’t a surprise, given that Batch was from Pittsburgh and the Steelers’ current Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert initially drafted Batch in Detroit.
Despite not playing in 2002 (being third string behind Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox, who split the year as the starters), Batch became popular with Steeler fans, likely due to having grown up in nearby Homestead.
His contract was renewed by the Steelers, and Batch saw some action in 2003. In 2004, Batch spent the season on injured reserve after offseason knee surgery.
In 2005, he became the second-string quarterback for the Steelers, playing behind Ben Roethlisberger. During 2005, an injury to Roethlisberger gave Batch two starting opportunities, yielding two victories.
In the process, Batch became the first Pittsburgh-area native to start for the team at quarterback since Terry Hanratty, a native of Butler, Pennsylvania, who tarted for a few games during his rookie season in 1969 before becoming a backup the following season to Terry Bradshaw.
Batch has been a vital part to the Steelers organization since he joined the team and we do not see that changing anytime soon. His age may limit his playing time but his knowledge is invaluable to the team and Big Ben’s growth as a NFL quarterback. We see Batch as more of an extra coach now then a back-up QB for the Steelers.
He will be in the mix to be the No. 2 QB, but we won’t be surprised if Dixon beats him out at camp for this spot on the team. Which won’t be a bad thing for Batch as the team values his services too much not to keep him around as the No. 3 clip board holder.
Dennis Lee Dixon, Jr - Dixon was a consensus four-star recruit, and was ranked among the top passing and rushing quarterbacks in the nation before attending the University of Oregon.
During his college career Dixon made quite a name for himself and was a front runner for the Heisman Trophy during his senior season while pushing Oregon to a No. 2 ranking in the BCS poll, before suffering a torn ACL.
With the devastating injury, Dixon’s team and draft stock would plummet from a possible 1st rounder to an after thought.
In the 2008 NFL Draft, Dixon was taken in the fifth round (156th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was deactivated for most of his rookie season and acted as the third-string quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich.
He does hold one memorable stat as a Steeler as on Dec. 28, 2008, Dixon completed his first official NFL pass to Hines Ward—the reception was Ward’s 800th.
Look for Dixon to possibly be named the No. 2 quarterback this year as the Steelers would need to do so, to be able to bring him in and out of games in certain formations, such as the Wildcat. We feel Batch would get the starting nod as a long term replacement for Big Ben, due to injury, if the situation was to arise.
A little known fact about Dennis Dixon - Following his junior year at Oregon, Dixon was picked by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. Dixon only hit .176 in 74 at-bats with two Atlanta Braves rookie league teams, and returned to Oregon for his senior football season in 2007.
Kevin McCabe - Signed as a rookie free agent by the Steelers on April 27, 2009. McCabe began his college career with the University of Virginia then transferred to California University of Pennsylvania for his final season of eligibility.
In 2008 (California University of Pennsylvania): Started all 14 games for the Vulcan while completing 253-of-386 passes for 3,214 yards with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. McCabe also set four school records – passing yards, total yards, touchdowns and completions.
Though he had some decent numbers as a collegiate don’t get to familiar with McCabe as his signing was mostly as camp fodder and to fill out the roster. We look for McCabe to be cut early and move on to other professional opportunities. His chances to remain a Steeler are next to none.
Mike Reilly - Began his college career as a walk-on at Washington State but transferred after red-shirting. Went on to become a four-year-starter and set virtually every passing record in Wildcat history.
He was runner-up for the Harlon Hill Trophy as a senior, which is given to the nation’s top Division II football player. Reilly also holds the NCAA all-divisions record with at least one touchdown pass in all 46 career games. Bottom line, Reilly was a productive small-school prospect with top intangibles but marginal physical tools.
ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski had this to say about Reilly, “His wasn’t the easiest tape in the world to get,” Jaworski told USA Today. “I just saw an NFL quarterback. This is a guy who has (Tom) Brady-like attributes.” Some high praise from Jaws. More then likely Reilly makes the team as a practice squad member only. He could possibly become the third string quarterback in a year or two when Charlie Batch decides to hang up the cleats. It will be interesting to see how Reilly progress’s though. He could be a training camp wild-card and we will be keeping a close on eye him here at Pittsburgh Blitz.
Training Camp Battles
The competition at quarterback won’t revolve around the starting position but Batch and Dixon both could be given the chance to earn the No. 2 job. There is no official word out of Pittsburgh that there even is a battle for this slot, but Mike Tomlin has been known to allow silent competition and select the options he feels are best for the team as far as positional and depth charts are concerned.
We look for Batch to remain the true No. 2 QB on the charts but Dixon to be named to that role as to be used on game day in certain situations without violating any NFL rules.
Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome. Let us know what you think.
*Check back May 10 for the second edition of this nine-part series. Next up will be the running backs.