SJ Mailbag: Could the Pittsburgh Steelers Make the Playoffs With Dennis Dixon?

TJ JenkinsAnalyst IApril 11, 2010

BALTIMORE - NOVEMBER 29:  Dennis Dixon #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers passes against the  Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 29, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 20-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images
In the first installment of the Phenomenal One’s NFL Mailbag, our friend Steve asked this:

“Do you think that if Ben Roethlisberger gets a suspension from the NFL Dennis Dixon will be able to step in and keep the team in playoff contention?”

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t believe that Roethlisberger is going to receive a suspension from the NFL as no charges have yet been filed and even if they are it’s highly doubtful that they are substantiated. The only thing the quarterback is guilty of, in my eyes, is putting himself in questionable situations.

But, onto the question.

I won’t lie, no one wants to see Dennis Dixon in the game. And that’s not to discredit Dixon, he’s a phenomenal athlete. But he simply can’t put up the numbers on a consistent basis like Roethlisberger. If he has to start more than two or three games, this team is more than likely packing it in and playing for next season.

As Steelers fans, we’ve really only had one glimpse at Dixon, that of course was the game against the Baltimore Ravens where he not only threw a touchdown but also ran for one before throwing the game-ending interception in overtime.

Though, to be completely fair to Dixon, I chalk that up to the coaching staff not utilizing his abilities to the put him in the best position possible.

So, I suppose that, depending on the amount of games that Dixon is asked to win, he could possibly get us in, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

If the team puts him behind center in, let’s say, games one to four, then I don’t see them getting off to the start the fans want. Because like it or not, Roethlisberger is going to get the majority of the snaps in training camp and offseason drills.

If, however, he’s asked to come in for the last few games, I’d hope that we were well in the playoff hunt and it wouldn’t hurt the position to get him some snaps. When his abilities are used right he can be a game-changing player.

If it were up to me, we’d use him in a Joshua Cribbs type role with the offense—put both him and Roethlisberger on the field and let them make plays. Or if it’s just Dixon in the game, then play him the way he’s used to.

That means playing him in a spread offense, like the one he played in at Oregon. Let him use his speed and agility to win the battle. Don’t force him to throw it deep every chance that he has, let him get comfortable with the short patterns and, most importantly, get him out of the pocket. Let’s see what he’s really got when the game's on the line.

So Steve, if Roethlisberger is suspended for any substantial amount of time, no I don’t foresee Dixon being able to lead the Steelers to the promised land. If he comes in and plays for an injured Roethlisberger, then yes. I think he can get it done in that sort of situation.

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