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fordfixer
08-27-2011, 12:52 AM
Steelers have plenty in reserve behind center
By Ralph N. Paulk, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, August 27, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 53734.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_753734.html)

Steelers backup quarterbacks Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon could be playing for a starting job in the team's final two preseason games.

Just not necessarily in Pittsburgh.

Miami's and San Francisco's starting quarterback jobs remain unsettled, and other teams are scouring the waiver wire and seeking trades in search of a serviceable No. 2.

Not surprisingly, the Dolphins and several others are taking a long look at Leftwich, Batch and Dixon, beginning with tonight's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field.

"I think it's everyone's dream to be a starter," said Dixon, who last year went 1-1 as a starter during Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension before a knee injury ended his season. "But it's all about timing. Right now, I'm in a position to fight for a job that's all that counts."

With the Steelers' seemingly vulnerable along the offensive line, it's possible Roethlisberger could miss time, thrusting one of the backups into a starting job.

Problem for the Steelers is deciding who.

The reserve quarterbacks kept the Steelers afloat with a 3-1 record before Roethlisberger returned from his suspension. Quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner is confident any of the backups can command the huddle and lead the Steelers to back-to-back AFC titles.

"They all have had a good camp, and they are in pretty good shape," Fichtner said. "It's remarkable what they were able to do without us (during the lockout). I know Ben is feeling pretty good about himself. Byron, as much as anybody, missed not being here for the offseason workouts. He likes to study the game, and he's learning more about the concepts of our offense, and he's challenging himself to make plays."

Leftwich probably will be Roethlisberger's backup when the Steelers visit Baltimore in the regular-season opener Sept. 11. But offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Fichtner likely will have a difficult time sorting through game film trying to decide who the third quarterback will be.

"I don't prepare myself as a backup," Leftwich said. "I'm ready at the drop of a hat. If you prepare yourself as the backup, you'll slack off."

Leftwich has proven he can adjust. In recent years, he has played in four different offenses two with Atlanta, then Pittsburgh, then Tampa Bay before returning to the Steelers last season.

"We're very confident if one those guys have to step in," Fichtner said. "They are really starters-in-waiting."

But someone likely must go after the final preseason game Thursday at Carolina. Keeping a fourth quarterback is rarely an option.

"I don't know if there's clear-cut No. 3, but we were on uncharted waters last year given Ben's situation," Fichtner said. "This year, minus the circumstances surrounding Ben, every day is an evaluation. If they let me keep all four quarterbacks, I wouldn't turn either back in. I'm trying to keep them focused so they can play well for the Pittsburgh Steelers maybe for themselves."

The Steelers have options. Among the scenarios is dealing Batch or Dixon, who was forced to report to camp a week late because he signed as a free agent.

"I'm not opposed to any deal, but that's not up to us," Batch said. "Nobody is really in control of their own destiny. When you get on the field, everybody is watching you play."

If the Steelers jettison Dixon, they would be left with two backup quarterbacks with a combined 23 years of experience. For a team trying to infuse its roster with youth, bouncing the 2008 fifth-round pick out of Oregon seems counterproductive.

"Dixon is starting to get a rhythm now," Fichtner said. "He's getting more reps in game. He's moved the ball, but little mistakes here and there have kept us from getting points on the board."

Dixon and Batch must score tonight to bolster their chances of securing a roster spot.

Three for QB

The three quarterbacks battling for two roster spots behind Steelers starter Ben Roethlisberger:

Byron Leftwich

Age: 31

NFL experience: Ninth season

Height, weight: 6-5, 230

Of note: In his second stint with the Steelers after appearing in five games in 2008. ... Was 5 of 7 for 42 yards in last year's regular-season finale, his only game action. ... Has thrown for 10,260 yards, 58 touchdowns and 41 interceptions in his career.

Charlie Batch

Age: 36

NFL experience: 14th season

Height, weight: 6-2, 216

Of note: Has been with the Steelers since 2002, appearing in 26 games. ... Made two starts last season; overall, he finished 29 of 49 for 352 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in three games. ... Has thrown for 10,402 yards, 60 touchdowns and 47 interceptions in his career.

Dennis Dixon

Age: 26

NFL experience: Fourth season

Height, weight: 6-3, 209

Of note: Started the first two games last season before a knee injury sent him to injured reserve. ... Finished 22 of 32 for 254 yards and an interception. ... Had played in just two games before last season, with one start. ... Has thrown for 402 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in his career.

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