NFL Pittsburgh Steelers Youth Is Served: Dennis Dixon Should Start

James BrownSenior Analyst IAugust 27, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 21:  Dennis Dixon #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass against the New York Giants during their preseason game at New Meadowlands Stadium on August 21, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

For the first time in a long time, the Steelers are not being talked about as favorites to go to the Super Bowl. In fact, they are not even discussed as teams that are likely to win the AFC North. Bet Mania has the Steelers listed as 9 to 1 to win the AFC and 18 to 1 to win the Super Bowl. Part of the reason that these odds are higher than usual is due to the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger.

In the offseason, Roethlisberger was suspended for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. This suspension can, and most likely will, be reduced after the season has started. The latest rumor is that Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly is leaning toward reducing Roethlisberger’s suspension to four games.

In the meantime the Steelers have to play football and replace Roethlisberger at quarterback. Luckily for the Steelers, they do have some options.

In the offseason, the Steelers swapped a seventh round selection to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to acquire Byron Leftwich. Leftwich has experience with the Steelers organization. He backed up Roethlisberger in 2008, when the team won the Super Bowl.

He is a favorite of the coaches, knows the system, and is the epitome of a great teammate. Thus far in the preseason he has posted decent numbers (nine-of-16 passing, 138 yards, one TD) and most surely would do a fine job as a starter. However, he is not the best man for the job.

That man is Dennis Dixon. Dixon was drafted in the fifth round by the Steelers out of the University of Oregon. Dixon possesses an edge that Leftwich does not, and that is mobility. Dixon has quick legs and can avoid pressure in the pocket allowing his receivers more time to get open. His mobility provides just another angle that an opposing defense has to prepare for.

Dixon started against the Baltimore Ravens last year, when Roethlisberger was sidelined with an injury. Although the Steelers lost that game, Dixon played admirably as a young player against a ferocious Ravens defense.

The way that Dixon has performed in this preseason, he deserves to get a shot.

Dixon has astounded the coaching staff in the preseason, completing 13-of-15 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in two games. He has a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the preseason, and on Sunday night against the Broncos he will get quality playing time with the starting unit.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has a special plan for Dixon in the regular season and has developed special plays to utilize his talents. That time may come sooner than they think, because the time to start Dennis Dixon is now.

The Steelers take on the Broncos Sunday night. BetMania has listed the NFL sports betting odds for this game, and they have the Steelers listed as two-point favorites and the total is set at 42.5. Sign up at Bet Mania and contact customer service with the NFL preseason promo code REGAW and get a free $50 bet on the game.

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