Logic would suggest that there is a better chance of the Pirates making the World Series than having a Quarterback controversy in Pittsburgh. But hold that thought my friend. There is more to the situation than meets the eye.
That’s right, one of Pittsburgh’s favorite sons has a chance of losing his position this summer, and don’t be surprised if it happens at the hand of a young man that has never started a game in the NFL.
Ben Roethlisberger has been entrenched as the starting quarterback in Pittsburgh ever since he took over for Tommy Maddox in 2004. Since Roethlisberger splashed onto the scene, the Steelers have won two Super Bowls in his first five seasons. Something they had failed to do since Terry Bradshaw was under center in the '70s.
Early success prompted the Steelers to make a significant financial investment in Roethlisberger. Guaranteeing that he would be the Quarterback that continues to lead them into whatever future success they may have.
With recent Super Bowl success and over $100 million invested in Big Ben, could it be possible that there is a Quarterback controversy brewing as the Steelers enter training camp?
There certainly is.
Now take a deep breath and cool off for a second. Before you call me anymore names let me just say that Roethlisberger’s job is about as sure as making a bet that the Steelers will be wearing black and gold this fall.
The question is, who is going to back him up?
In light of recent events concerning Ben Roethlisberger the subject bares more relevance than it did just one week ago. While the civil case is being built one can only wonder what is going through the mind of one Roger Goodell. The NFL Commissioner has been less than lenient concerning off the field issues, and it bares mention that should Roethlisberger be found guilty or try to settle out of court there would likely be a suspension to follow.
Here’s where we stand as of today
Charlie Batch will enter camp as the number two guy. He is experienced, well respected by his teammates and dependable when on the field, but that’s where dependable ends concerning Charlie Batch.
Being the hometown kid that grew up in nearby Homestead, Batch has always found favor with the fans in Pittsburgh. Since signing in 2002 however, he has never been accused of being dependable physically. After being drafted in the second round by the Detroit Lions in 1998 Batch has had his fair share of long-term injuries, and he may be losing favor with the team.
After missing all of last season with a broken collarbone Batch signed a one-year, $895,000 contract that includes a $50,000 signing bonus. The move was pretty much expected after Byron Leftwich went on to sign a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Bucs over the off-season.
Why layout a new contract with Batch (a short term one at that) if there are reservations about his durability?
The Steelers had an agenda, and if everything this off-season went according to plan, it wouldn’t have taken the duration of training camp to materialize.
What's this agenda?
Look no further than the guy wearing the number two on his jersey. Call it irony, coincidence, or whatever else you can think of, but whatever you do don’t sleep on Dennis Dixon this summer.
The former Hiesman Trophy front-runner has had a full season to heal from the torn ACL he suffered during his senior year at Oregon. Add to the fact that Dixon continued to show great arm strength and blazing speed in workouts this Spring, and you can feel the quiet anticipation rising from within the organization. Having been able to learn and digest the more complex NFL playbook during his rookie season it may be safe to say Dixon is a step closer to taking on a more substantial role in 2009.
That role may entail the use of his athletic ability in trick plays and in running situations, much the same way the departed Antwaan Randel El was used during his time in Pittsburgh. Yet, I would have expected to see Dixon in this role last season at some point if this were going to be the case. It seems the Steelers have the idea of making a real Quarterback out of Dixon.
Regardless of how you look at it, the Steelers are by all accounts the team to beat in the NFL right now. Dixon is going to have show some remarkable improvement to go with his God given ability for the coaching staff to make the switch from a veteran, game-tested backup like Batch under the current situation.
It may even be safe to say that the no one will benefit more from the Roethlisberger civil case than Charlie Batch. If nothing else, Batch will get an extra look and the benefit of the doubt during camp with an uncertain situation at hand.
Regardless of the outcome the competition will push both Batch and Dixon to be at their best, and Steeler fans are going to get a great show as the two battle it out this pre-season in Latrobe.