Prior to Sunday night, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon had the starting job in within reach.
After starting the preseason off completing 13 of 15 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, Dixon had all of the momentum going his way.
One problem, he accomplished this against second and third teamers.
Dixon was able to rely on his legs against this competition over the first two weeks, running 11 times for 58 yards. Sunday night, he finally let his running take a back seat to his arm.
The results were not good.
Denver’s defense intercepted Dixon twice, both when the team was in scoring position, including an ill-advised interception in the end zone.
According to Dixon, he was attempting to get a touchdown rather than take the safe play.
“That’s just something where I was trying to make a play. That’s just me being the competitor that I am. It’s something that I won’t do again; it’s a learning point. As a quarterback, there are certain things as far as being on the same page as far as receivers; then again it takes focus on stuff like that.”
In fact, Dixon believed his performance inside the 20 overall was not very good.
“I made progress tonight, but the Red Zone wasn’t my best effort, and I can take full blame, as far as that.”
Mike Tomlin was not impressed either.
“He didn’t play well.”
In fact, Dixon played so poorly that Bryon Leftwich did not even need to complete a pass to seal a job... and a pass he did not complete.
Leftwich, in his limited action, did not complete a pass in his four attempts behind an offensive line that did not give him a chance to succeed. It was also not a performance that can give the coaches or fans confidence entering the season, but a decision will need to be made soon.
As far as Leftwich knows, a decision has not been made yet.
“I don’t know. I’m quite sure they will let us know sometime soon. September is really right around the corner. They’ll let us know sometime soon. I’m glad we’re getting closer to that day, and we’ll see.”
Despite the likelihood that Leftwich will be starting due to the poor performance from Dixon, Dixon should see playing time in special packages come the regular season. Given what the quarterbacks showed Sunday night, the Steelers will need whatever sparks they can get.
What the team does not need is a quarterback who will make a game deciding mistake. At this point of his career, Dixon is still prone to do just that. For a team looking to return to the playoffs, the Steelers will have to lean on the veteran Leftwich. Though he does not offer the same playmaking abilities as Dixon, he will also not throw the costly interception.
In the coming days, expect the decision to be made. Leftwich will start the season, but it is clear that Ben Roethlisberger’s return will be what the Steelers offense needs to thrive.
Until then, they will need to be in survival mode.