2010 NFL Position Battles: Who Should Sub for Big Ben in Pittsburgh?
We know it's not going to be a long-term gig, but talk is heating up about who will be the temporary face of the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise on opening day in 2010.
Ben Roethlisberger is slated to miss a minimum of four games, and possibly up to six, leaving Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, and Dennis Dixon to battle it out for the starting gig that should last about a quarter of the season.
While Leftwich has reportedly started off-season work with the upper hand, it should be interesting to see how the veteran Batch and the potential-ridden Dixon fare in the coming months.
For current positioning and analysis, read on:
He still has tremendous size and good arm strength, but he's also still not an elite passer or overly mobile.
He was playing on a woeful Tampa Bay team at the beginning of last season, but there's still no excuse for his poor play.
Leftwich is standing atop this competition based on his solid game-managing skills and his stellar play back in 2008, when he was a backup with the Steelers. If there's one way Leftwich can be unseated, it's by someone else wowing coaches with better accuracy and timing on his passes; two areas where Leftwich has struggled throughout his career.
People forget that Dixon was a sensational talent coming out of Oregon, and that if it weren't for a knee injury, he could have been drafted much higher and starting elsewhere in the league.
However, he's in Pittsburgh, and for some reason he still hasn't been able to quiet all of this Byron Leftwich talk.
Dixon doesn't quite have Leftwich's size, but he's not small, and he has much better athleticism and play-making ability on the fly.
Dixon wasn't amazing in spot-start duty in one game against the Baltimore Ravens last year, but he did pass for a touchdown and ran for another. And, well, it was the Ravens.
Judging on that game alone, Dixon has the mental make-up to manage games, but also could end up gaining the upper hand with his potential and play-making ability.
If it were up to me, there'd be a Charlie Batch on every team. He'd be the backup, but he'd still be on every team.
Batch isn't explosive and he won't win many games by himself, but he's proven with experience and in the form of wins that he can manage an offense and lead a team to victory when called upon at times.
He's a smart, heady player, but he's more like a bench/role player than a guy you want to trust in doing magical things for your franchise on a consistent basis.
Batch is a good guy with a solid skill-set for being 35 and coming off injury, but he's unlikely to be seriously considered for the starting job.
Ben Roethlisberger is a big, massive man of a quarterback. He runs around and makes plays with a cannon arm and keeps things alive with excellent scrambling ability.
He also manages games, leads clutch drives, and plays with a swagger.
I'm not sold on Dennis Dixon's swagger just yet, but it's getting there. It may not look like it now, but three months from now, Dixon should be head and shoulders above Byron Leftwich (and Batch).
Leftwich is slow, lacks great mobility, and isn't a very accurate passer. While Dixon also needs to work on accuracy, he possesses all the same skills that make Roethlisberger such an electric quarterback.
Dixon won't be on Big Ben's level just yet, but come opening day, he should get the chance to give it his best shot.
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