Well, it took nearly a month but injuries finally made their way through the Steelers locker room. Byron Leftwich, apparently Mike Tomlin’s guy since returning to Pittsburgh this offseason, hobbled off the field Thursday after hurting his left knee in the second quarter against the Panthers.
You might wonder why the presumed regular-season starting quarterback was still under center in the second quarter of a Week 4 preseason game. I wonder the same thing. Also curious: why Ben Roethlisberger started the game since it’s likely he’ll be on couch duty until October (unless…).
Whatever, Byron’s now injured (no word on the extent, although he reportedly went to a local Pittsburgh hospital for tests hmm, it appears Leftwich tore his MCL), which means that, barring a remarkable recovery, it’s Dennis Dixon’s job. Yay, right? Um, maybe not.
(Quick aside: if it turns out that Byron will be on the shelf for some time, you know it’s legit. This is the same dude who played on a broken shin in college, and was hit not once but TWICE by a car while growing up in DC.)
After Chaz Batch’s performance in Denver last week, coupled with forgettable efforts from Dixon (two picks) and Leftwich (no completions), you could make a good argument that he deserves the starting gig. I’ll be honest: at this point I don’t know what to think. Batch looked fantastic against a bunch of Broncos scrubs, but that’s the same trap we fell into with Dixon the first two weeks. That said, Dixon’s unproven; we know what Batch can do when the games really matter because, you know, he’s done it.
Then again, this is Chaz we’re talking about. I made the joke on Twitter earlier, but it’s worth repeating here: if Byron misses time, Batch and Dixon will both play. Not necessarily because the Steelers will still use Dixon as a change of pace (and they might), but because Mr. Glass goes as Chaz Batch for Halloween.
I think this offensive line will be better than the ’08 and ’09 versions, but unless they can guarantee that Batch will go untouched on every dropback, then he won’t last the month. (And he still might not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chaz, even with no pressure, literally threw his arm off Dave Dravecky-style)
So that means that Dixon’s the man. I’m much less confident about that prospect now than I was in July. But then I remember that the difference between Byron and Dennis is negligible; they both have shortcomings — one is glacially slow, the other is raw and inexperienced — it’s just a matter of how the coaches manage those shortcomings.
On the one hand, there’s not much you can do about Leftwich’s long delivery and plodding style. What you see is what you get. There’s no upside with Byron, but there aren’t many surprises, either. On the other hand, Dixon is a playmaker. He also has the potential to make plays for the other team. Which means that Wallace, Hines, Heath and Rashard are going to have to do the heavy lifting, and the defense will need to play like it’s 2008.
Either way, I asked for Dennis, and now it looks like I’ll get him. One way or the other.