QB situation still unsettled and possibly unsettling
August 30th, 2010
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DENVER --

Dennis Dixon showed Sunday night that there is still a little too much risk/reward with the third-year quarterback to entrust him with the offense for the first four games of the regular season.

And you have to wonder how ready fill-in starter Byron Leftwich will be given the limited of snaps he has taken with the first-team offense.

Leftwich played only a couple of series in the preseason opener against the Lions and a little more than a quarter against the Giants. In the Steelers’ 34-17 loss to the Broncos, Leftwich didn’t get any work with the starters.

Coach Mike Tomlin mercifully pulled him after less than a quarter at Invesco Field after Leftwich threw four incomplete passes and got drilled behind the second-team offensive line.

The Steelers’ have one preseason game left but starters typically don’t play more than a couple of series in that last exhibition contest. Complicating how much work the Steelers will get Leftwich Thursday is Roethlisberger’s desire to play against the visiting Panthers before he starts serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

“I’d like to get some no-huddle work in with the guys and I think that’s the perfect opportunity,” Roethlisberger said. “You’re at home. You can use the cadence. I’d like to get a couple of series to do that even though I don’t want to keep the (offensive) linemen in there too long.”

A couple of series for Roethlisberger would probably mean no playing time for Leftwich with the first-team offense. What do you do if you are Mike Tomlin?

Nothing about the Steelers’ quarterback situation has been simple this preseason with Tomlin needing to get three signal-callers ready for the regular season.

Two things that can be said: if the Steelers struggle out of the gate and spotty quarterback play is the reason why Tomlin, fair or not, will have to answer questions about why he overlooked the first four games of the season.

Also, Dixon is a wondrous talent but he is not quite ready to start in the NFL. That doesn’t mean the Steelers won’t use him as a situational and change-of-pace quarterback while Roethlisberger is out.

Asked to critique Dixon after his first work of the preseason with the starters, Roethlisberger was more charitable than Tomlin who said Dixon, “didn’t play well” against the Broncos.

“I thought he did a good job, just a couple of bad breaks and it happens sometimes,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s what I told him, don’t get down on yourself, things like that will happen sometimes. I thought he did a good job escaping and getting out (of the pocket).”

Dixon threw two costly interceptions against the Broncos. One came after he escaped a collapsing pocket and tried to hit 6-7 tight end Matt Spaeth in the back corner of the end zone.

"I think he puts another about inch under it, I think he’s perfect,” Roethlisberger said of the throw that rookie cornerback Perrish Cox picked off. “I think he’ll learn and he’s got all the reason in the world to keep his head up. He’ll be just fine.”

Will the Steelers’ quarterback situation be the same while Roethlisberger is out?

That remains with biggest question with the start of the regular season a little less than two weeks away.