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fordfixer
08-04-2010, 12:06 AM
Arians: Juggling QBs shouldn't affect offense's potency
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 93330.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_693330.html)

Another 4,000-yard passer. At least two 1,000-yard receivers. A 1,500-yard season from running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Those are all realistic goals, Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Tuesday. That means Arians is wildly optimistic or that someone forgot to tell him that the Steelers' defense is going to have to carry the offense through at least the first part of the season.

"Put the running game back where it belongs," the Steelers' offensive coordinator said in reference to improving in short-yardage situations, "and I think we're pretty potent offensively."

That could especially be the case after starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returns from a conditional suspension. Roethlisberger, who will miss four to six games, has been sharp during the first week of training camp and impressed the Steelers with his trim physique as much as with his right arm.

"He's in the best shape I've ever seen him," Arians said. "This may be the best I've ever seen him (this early in camp)."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended Roethlisberger in April for violating the league's personal conduct policy, is scheduled to visit training camp Thursday.

Roethlisberger and Goodell are slated to meet, but the Steelers don't expect any indication from Goodell on whether he will reduce the suspension.

Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon are competing to start while Roethlisberger is out. And Arians said Dixon will be given an opportunity to win the job even though Roethlisberger and Leftwich have been getting most of the work with the first-team offense.

The attention given to the number of snaps taken by the quarterbacks with the starters has been a source of amusement to some of the Steelers coaches.

Arians said Roethlisberger, Leftwich and Dixon have all gotten the same amount of work. The Steelers, he said, are focused more on what the quarterbacks do with the repetitions they get not which players they are taking them with this early in camp.

Leftwich and Dixon are a study in contrasts. The former as a classic dropback passer; the latter excelled running a spread offense in college.

If Leftwich does emerge as the starter for the first month of the season, the Steelers may also explore ways of getting Dixon on the field in certain situations.

Arians is no fan of the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Dixon running a lot. He reiterated yesterday that he won't use Dixon in a wildcat formation because it would make the third-year man too susceptible to injury.

But Arians did not rule out using Dixon as a change-of-pace quarterback if Leftwich is the starter because of Dixon's running ability.

"If he's your No. 2 quarterback, now you may take some risks that you wouldn't take with him as your starter," Arians said of Dixon.

If the situation at quarterback is the most scrutinized storyline in camp, the running game is also getting a considerable amount of attention.

The Steelers had a 4,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher last season for the first time in franchise history. But they scored touchdowns just 48.2 percent of the time when inside their opponents' 20-yard line, which ranked 21st in the NFL.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said in January the team needs to do a better job of running the ball. Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday that the edict does not mean the Steelers will alter the approach they have taken in recent years.

"I think what we're more interested in is running the ball more effectively," Tomlin said. "Our emphasis really hasn't changed whatsoever."

Nor will it, Arians said.

"We want to improve the running game, but we damn well don't want to step back in the passing game," Arians said. "We want to keep our passing game right where it was and just improve those situations that are critical running areas."