According to all reports, recently acquired quarterback Byron Leftwich has been taking all of the first team snaps in the Pittsburgh Steelers mini-camp.
Not to knock Leftwich by any means at all, as he performed quite well in his last stint with the team, throwing no interceptions and two touchdowns in limited playing time, but in my opinion the job should be Dennis Dixon’s job to lose.
Dixon also played well in his only game starting for the Steelers, against the tenacious Baltimore Ravens defense nonetheless. He scored twice, once on a pass and once on a run and overall played extremely well up until throwing an interception in overtime.
The biggest draw to Leftwich is his experience as an NFL starter and his famous toughness. We’ve all heard the story of his college days at Marshall where two of his offensive lineman carried him down the field after a long completion so he could continue to play.
The biggest knock on him is that he’s about as mobile as Drew Bledsoe was. Which, with a different offensive line wouldn’t be an issue, but with the Steelers infamous ‘big uglies’ it’s not exactly in the best interests of the quarterback’s health.
Whereas the biggest thing Dixon has going for him is his ability to extend plays, much like suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His speed is a driving force behind his ability to make plays and he throws well on the run.
The worst thing about Dixon is that sans the Baltimore game, he’s only appeared in one other NFL game in his career. Not to mention his decision making and release of the ball need to get better if he has a future as a starter in the NFL.
To truly predict who should and/or will start, let’s take a look at two recently drafted players that have an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the team: center Maurkice Pouncey and running back Jonathan Dwyer.
Those two and Dixon both have vast knowledge of the option offense, with Pouncey blocking for the ever famous Tim Tebow at Florida and Dwyer running from the triple option based attack of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Putting Dixon behind Pouncey and in front of Dwyer would make defenses think twice about what’s about to happen to them as the threat of the option is always there. Even if it’s not probably with the conservative play calling of Bruce Arians, it’s still a possibility that could ultimately change the complexion of a close game.
With Leftwich in Dixon’s place, there’s no threat of that. It’s simply chocolate or vanilla. Dixon gives you that ever satisfying twist for no extra cost.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ll take that mix of speed and the threat of an option happening over the tough, experienced play of a veteran Byron Leftwich.
The good news is that both players are willing to battle it out, with no hard feelings for the better of the team and in the midst of an off-season riddled with ugly headlines surrounding the Steelers organization, well, it just doesn’t get any better than good old fashioned teamwork and sportsmanship.
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