Imagine that Ben wasn't suspended for the first four games, and consider how Mike Tomlin would distribute the preseason playing time to his quarterbacks. Then imagine that Ben gets injured in practice two days before the season opener, and is pronounced out of action for four to six weeks.
How much playing time would Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon have had with the first team in that scenario? Little or none, of course.
And how prepared would either of them be to be the starting quarterback for those four to six weeks? Essentially unprepared, of course.
Now compare that to the current situation. Ben has had a good amount of time with the first team in training camp and preseason games, although not as much as he normally would. And both Leftwich and Dixon have had more time with the first team than they normally would.
So why all the criticism and second-guessing of Tomlin's handling of the quarterback situation?
It seems to me that Tomlin is taking the longer term view, looking ahead to the entire season, and not for the first four games only, and is preparing the entire team accordingly, and not the starting quarterback only.
Yes, the quarterback who would be the starter must be prepared, but should that be done at the expense of the remainder of the team, in a way that is different than what would normally be done?
I think not.
So, while I'm not quite completely convinced that Tomlin's approach has been the best, I can't really disagree with it so far.
Ben is looking sharp, very sharp, to this point. But when he returns from his suspension in several weeks, would he be more prepared to resume his starting job, or less prepared, if Leftwich and Dixon were given all of the time with the first team in training camp and preseason games?
In his latest article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, columnist Ron Cook rakes Tomlin over the coals for not concentrating on preparing Leftwich as the starter. I think Cook is overreacting, and is taking a short-term view of the situation.
Tomlin needed to find out if Dixon has what it takes to be the starter now. As we have seen, Dixon has shown that he doesn't look ready to be a starter yet. While Dixon probably has more potential than Leftwich, Leftwich seems to have more consistency at this time, and looks to be the lower risk.
And with Leftwich's experience in the NFL, and his previous experience with the Steelers, it is likely that he didn't need as much time with the first team for Tomlin to know what he brings to the team.
So, while the situation still looks to be muddled, I would rather see the Steelers struggle through, and possibly lose, the first four games but finish strong to make the playoffs, rather than worry about making the perfect choice for a temporary starting quarterback.
Here's hoping that Mike Tomlin has the situation firmly in hand, knows exactly what he has been doing all along, and will in the end make us all look like fools for doubting him.