The final preseason game was supposed to be uneventful. Teams usually try to protect their starters, and give most of the playing time to non-starters who are still trying to make the roster. This is exactly what the Carolina Panthers did. The only played their 3rd and 4th string quarterbacks. The Steelers, on the other hand…….
In the 1st quarter, the Steelers started Ben Roethlisberger. The team wanted to get him some final snaps prior to his suspension. The coaches said that they wanted to get him more snaps in the “no huddle” offense as a final tune-up.
After Roethlisberger played two series, he was replaced by Byron Leftwich. Leftwich was presumed to be the Steelers’ starting quarterback going into the regular season. However, things can change quickly.
On his second series, Leftwich sustained a knee injury and had to leave the game. MRI results haven’t been reported yet, but it is believed that the injury may be serious enough to prevent Leftwich from playing for at least two games. If that’s the case, then the Steelers quarterback plans have suddenly been turned upside down.
Dennis Dixon had been battling Leftwich to see who would be the starting quarterback in Big Ben’s absence. But once Leftwich got injured, the team immediately started questioning their quarterback situation. Fourth string quarterback Charlie Batch, who has barely gotten any snaps during training camp or the preseason, suddenly emerged as a potential starter.
After Dennis Dixon’s poor showing against the Denver Broncos, the Steelers are probably reluctant to name him as the starter. So Charlie Batch, who was probably going to be cut from the team, is now the most seasoned quarterback the Steelers have available to them. More importantly, he may emerge as the starter.
Batch played the majority of the second half, though he mainly handed the ball off to the running backs. After Leftwich’s injury, the Steelers didn’t want to take any more chances with quarterbacks, so the called almost no passing plays.
The final score of the game was 19-3. However, after losing Leftwich, winning the game didn’t seem very satisfying.
Despite the bad news from the game, there were a few bright spots worth noting. Rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer got a lot of playing time at running back, and he capitalized on it. Dwyer carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards. He led the team in rushing yards. He was also the rushing leader in last week’s game against Denver.
Dwyer had been in jeopardy of not making the team, after sitting out most of training camp with injuries. But his recent performances may have won him a roster spot.
Another player who may have redeemed himself is Keenan Lewis. Lewis almost played himself out of a job last week when he lost his head and got called for several penalties. Coach Tomlin chewed Lewis out for his performance and benched him for the rest of the game.
But Lewis played well against the Panthers. He didn’t allow his man to catch any passes, and he seemed to be in the right place on most plays.
The Steelers have to submit their final 53-man roster to the NFL by Saturday, so they must make some very tough decisions over the next 48 hours. Prior to Thursday’s game, the quarterback position looked like one of the easiest roster decision. Now, it is suddenly one of the more difficult decisions for the coaches.
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