For the first time in over a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers will enter their summer training camp with a quarterback controversy of sorts.
Due to star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's four to six game suspension, the Steelers will be forced to pick from Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch for the first four games of the season.
Each player has a case for and against them as a potential starter. Here's a look inside the Steelers' quarterback position.
Games Started: 1
Career Statistics: 13-27, 148 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (62.0 Rating)
The Case For Dixon to Start:
Dixon has the mobility, arm strength, and playmaking ability to be very effective as the trigger man in this offense.
He performed well as a starter against the Ravens last season and would have been a high draft pick had a knee injury not shortened his senior season at Oregon.
Dixon has a great skill set and he's agile and versatile. He has the potential to be a dangerous playmaker and has the ability to make virtually every NFL throw.
The Case Against Starting Dixon:
He's still raw. He owns two games of experience and only one start.
He lacks the excellent field vision of Ben Roethlisberger and can struggle some with reading defenses and responding to the blitz.
His knee isn't a concern, but he will need to be sharp behind what projects to be an average to below average offensive line. Plus, with his lack of experience, there are questions as to how much of the playbook he can execute in a game situation.
Games Started: 49
Career Statistics: 900-1,545, 10,218 yards, 58 TD, 41 INT (79.6 Rating)
The Case for Leftwich to Start:
Of the three quarterbacks being considered for temporary duty, Leftwich has by far the strongest arm. He can make every NFL throw.
He's as tough as they come, once having to be carried down the field on a game winning drive while at Marshall.
He knows this system from his 2008 days in Pittsburgh, where he posted a 104.3 rating in limited duty. During that period, he looked like he could function quite effectively in Bruce Arians' offense.
The Case Against Starting Leftwich:
Behind a suspect offensive line, Leftwich is a liability because he lacks any mobility. He's a pure pocket passer and he won't escape a good rush.
He's got a good arm, but his accuracy is mediocre and he has bad lapses in decision making. He can be a liability if asked to do too much, so the Steelers would have to rely heavily on the ground game.
There are concerns that he's never started a game in this system and he has not been effective as a regular starter since the 2005 season.
Games Started: 50
Career Statistics: 819-1,461, 10,050 yards, 57 TD, 44 INT (77.9 Rating)
The Case for Starting Batch:
He has, by far, the most experience with Pittsburgh, having been with the Steelers since 2002. He's been steady since his arrival and is like another coach on the sidelines.
He has sound decision making and an accurate arm. He can make most of the necessary throws and can execute the Steelers' offense efficiently and effectively when called upon.
He's a savvy veteran and he still has just enough mobility to escape from the pocket if necessary, although he's not a running threat.
The Case Against Starting Batch:
He's at the end of the line and his durability is a huge concern. He hasn't had an injury free season for a while and looks more like an emergency option at this point.
He hasn't started a game since 2007 and hasn't started four games or more since 2001, his last season with the Detroit Lions.
He's accurate but lacks arm strength, which means he can't get throws into good coverage. This keeps him from being a playmaker.
Each quarterback has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to this competition. Dixon has youth and ability, Leftwich has experience and the strongest arm, and Batch has longevity and savvy.
The winner of the competition should be:
Dixon has the most upside of the three. He has all the tools to be a successful starter for many seasons in the NFL. By contrast, Batch and Leftwich are nearing the end of the line.
Leftwich seems to be a favorite simply because he was re-acquired by the Steelers. It seems a sure bet that he will be on the roster all season, but I don't think it's clear whether they truly intend to start him.
Another major reason for starting Dixon is that, if the team does eventually decide to part ways with their trouble star, it would make sense to find out if Dixon has the ability to replace him.
If nothing else, they can showcase a young player and then deal him if they believe that Roethlisberger has turned the page on his immaturity.