This is Part 5 of our Steelers position review series. If you haven’t read Part 1 – 4, please click the links below.
Now that we’ve finished reviewing the defense, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ offense. The first position that we’re going to review is the quarterback position.
Most fans would probably say that the Steelers are set at the quarterback position. They’ve got their franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and 3 veteran backups in Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, and Dennis Dixon.
Big Ben had an outstanding season. Despite missing 4 games, he still passed for 3,200 yards. But perhaps more importantly, he drastically reduced his number of interception. In 2008 he threw 15 interceptions, in 2009 he threw 12, but in 2010 he threw only 5. Even factoring in the games that he missed, this was still the lowest interceptions/game average of his career.
Big Ben ended the regular season with a quarterback rating of 97.0. That was 5th best in the entire NFL. Moreover, he led the Steelers to another Super Bowl. I think it’s safe to say that the Steelers’ starting quarterback position is in good hands.
The problem begins with the Steelers’ backups. Byron Leftwich was brought back to carry the team during Big Ben’s suspension. However, he got injured before the season started, and he never got to fill that role.
The injury wasn’t Byron’s fault, and I don’t hold it against him. However, I have a huge concern about what I saw before he got injured. During training camp, he looked extremely inaccurate. During the preseason, that inaccuracy didn’t seem to change.
In his first stint with the Steelers, I felt very confident anytime Byron entered the game. He was an experienced veteran who had seen it all. However, during his current stint with the Steelers I have yet to feel that confidence.
Leftwich is 31 years old, which isn’t particularly old for an NFL quarterback. He still has quite a few years left in his career. However, he has to look much better during this year’s training camp than he did last year, or he might not make the team.
While Byron Leftwich is young enough to play for a few more seasons, Charlie Batch probably isn’t. Batch will turn 37 during the 2011 season. He’s been a backup quarterback for the Steelers for the past 8 years (since 2002). Batch has been a reliable backup during that time. But he can’t play forever. People wanted to see Brett Favre retire when he was Charlie’s age. And Brett was one of the all-time greats. So I think it’s time for Batch retire. Sorry Charlie. But for what it’s worth, I think Batch would make a great addition to the Steelers’ coaching staff.
Dennis Dixon is the final backup quarterback for the Steelers. Like Leftwich, Dixon missed much of the season with an injury. However, Dixon is only 26 years old. That’s about how old I would expect a backup quarterback to be.
Dixon has shown some good things in the limited opportunities that he’s gotten to play. But he’s also shown some bad tendencies. To be honest, I’m not sure that all of it is his fault. For example, Dixon is probably the most athletic of all of the Steelers quarterbacks. Yet, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians seldom allowed him to utilize his running talents. This was partially due to the fact that Leftwich was already hurt, and Roethlisberger was suspended. Arians didn’t want to risk Dixon getting hurt (which ultimately happened anyway). But going forward, Arians has to utilize all of Dixon’s skills.
To make the matter even more complicated, Dixon is a free agent this year. So it’s possible that the Steelers could lose him to free agency.
If I were to guess what will happen going forward, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie Batch retired, Byron Leftwich was released, and the Steelers signed Dennis Dixon and another veteran quarterback to be the second backup quarterback on the roster. How does Bruce Gradkowski sound?
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