Pittsburgh Steelers: Are the First Four Games an Audition for Dennis Dixon?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer ISeptember 7, 2010

Dennis Dixon will lead the Steelers during the Ben Roethlisberger suspension.
Dennis Dixon will lead the Steelers during the Ben Roethlisberger suspension.Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

On Monday, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin stated in his weekly press conference, that Dennis Dixon would be the starting Quarter Back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, when they host the Atlanta Falcons in their opening game of the 2010 NFL Season.

Prior to Mondays news, it was heard all over the Internet and TV, that the job was more than likely going to be held by long time Steelers back up, Charlie Batch. I, for one, could not be happier that Mike Tomlin has decided to go with the younger, more athletic Dixon.

There are many reasons as to why I feel this way, but prior to explaining them to you, I want to tell you why I feel the way I do.

1 - I love Charlie Batch. As many of the people that normally read my articles will tell you, I have a TON of respect for the man. I credit him with much of the on-the-field success of Ben Roethlisberger. I can not wait until the man accepts his best days in the NFL are over, and he decides to become the Steelers QB Coach.

2 - Byron Leftwich is now, and will continue to be the main back up for Ben Roethlisberger. How do I know this? I can read the writing on the wall.

Why did the Steelers decide to trade for Byron Leftwich in the first place? Not because they KNEW if Dixon was going to be a success or not, but because they knew that the four game suspension to Ben Roethlisberger was going to give them the chance to showcase what they had in Dixon.

In 2004, the Atlanta Falcons selected Matt Schaub in the third round of the NFL Draft. Though, at the time, they had Mike Vick (pre arrest and suspension), the Falcons drafted a player that was quickly moving up the draft charts of many teams.

Though the Falcons thought Schaub would never replace Vick as the starter, they still believed he would be a good quality back up. Schaub, in his two seasons with the Falcons, actually became a better player than many had thought he would become.

Schaub played well in preseason games, and in limited action during the season. He played well enough to show other teams the talent he had. Everyone knows that in the NFL, the Quarter Back position is the most important on the field. The Falcons had Vick (if only they would have known about his future troubles), so Schaub was expendable.

The Falcons traded Schaub in 2007 to the Houston Texans, who had David Carr, who had never panned out as the Franchise QB they thought he would be. In exchange for Schaub, the Texans swapped first round picks with the Falcons (picks 8 & 10), while trading a second round pick in the 2007 and 2008 NFL Drafts as well.

Based on the limited action Schaub had, this was a deal that was good for both the Falcons and Texans.

Back to Dennis Dixon.

Dixon was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Dixon was a one time potential Heisman Trophy candidate, until a torn ACL during his Senior season at Oregon put an end to that. It was believed at the time, that Dixon may be a first round pick.

Because of the torn ACL, teams were afraid to spend an early pick on Dixon, then, I believe, during the draft, teams either forgot about him, or thought that his ACL injury would ruin his career.

Dixon proved all the skeptics wrong, not only recovering from the injury, but now he is ready to lead the Steelers to the four games while Ben Roethlisberger is suspended. And to the point of the story.

Dennis Dixon is entering the final year of his rookie contract. At the conclusion of the 2010 season, (provided the NFL works out a new CBA), Dixon will be a restricted free agent. Pittsburgh knows that Dixon is not going to be around after his restricted comes off his designation, so they may as well showcase his skills to the rest of the NFL.

If Dixon could lead the Steelers while Roethlisberger is suspended to a record of 2-2 or 3-1, and shows good decision making choices, what could he be worth in a trade? There are many teams that would have an interest in trading for Dennis Dixon (provided he plays like he can).

Seattle Seahawks - Pete Carrol knows how Dixon plays, playing against him for four years while coaching USC. He knows Dixon can be a game changing player.  Matt Hasselbeck is not going to be around forever, and trading for Dixon could make the Seahawks playoff bound.

San Francisco 49ers - Already loaded with talent, if they had a TRUE starting QB, like Dixon, they would be favored in the NFC West, and possibly be favored to make it to the divisional round of the playoffs.

Arizona Cardinals - After the retirement of Kurt Warner, and release of Matt Leinart, the Cardinals are desperate for a player that can lead their team. Right now, they are starting Derek Anderson. How desperate will they be at this time next year?

Carolina Panthers - Matt Moore is not the answer. Jimmy Clausen has a lot to prove. If John Fox gets fired (which I think he will), a new coach is going to want HIS guy under center, and that very well could be Dixon.

Minnesota Vikings - How much longer do you really think Brett Favre has? If he retires after this season, the Vikings are going to be in the market for a starter, and PLEASE don't say Tarvarus Jackson.

Kansas City Chiefs - Matt Cassel has proved that he is not the player he was in New England, and after another poor season, the Chiefs may be looking for a change under center.

Jacksonville Jaguars - There is little question that David Gerrard is not going to take any team to the Super Bowl, unless his next profession is a Team Bus Driver. Also, with the possibility of having a new coach next year, the Jags may be desperate for this trade.

Cleveland Browns - I know that the Steelers trading within the division is a long shot, but Jake Delhomme and Senaca Wallace are going to give the Browns nightmares, and Mike Holmgren is going to have to do SOMETHING to improve the team next year, if he wants to keep his job.

Buffalo Bills - Have not had a quality QB since Jim Kelly, and are getting desperate, in a division with Miami, New England and the New York Jets all getting better.

That is nine teams, almost a third of the NFL. That is not counting any retirement or Super Star leaving via free agency.

If Dixon can do what the Steelers hope he can do, next off season, his value could be a lot higher than Schaubs was to the Texans. This is provided that Dennis Dixon not only leads the Steelers to no worse than a 2-2 record, but plays smart, makes good decisions, and shows he has more ability than potential.

Will the Steelers pull the trigger? What do you think they would get for a player like Dixon?


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