Steelers' Dixon mirrors Titans' Young
By Mark Kaboly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, September 19, 2010
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They both came from a college program that ran the spread offense.
They both were Heisman Trophy candidates.
They both set school records when it comes to running the ball as a quarterback.
They both are just about the same height and have nearly the same speed.
They both wear the same uniform number.
If you didn't know better, Vince Young could pass for Dennis Dixon and vice versa.
Even Steelers tackle Jonathan Scott, who protected Young's blindside for two years at the University of Texas and will do the same thing for Dixon today at LP Field in Nashville when the Steelers take on Tennessee, has a hard time telling the two apart.
"It was kind of funny," Scott said. "I looked at one of my teammates (Tony Hills) and said, 'Man, doesn't he remind you of Vince? They both make it look so effortless out there.' "
Hills, who played at Texas with Young and Scott, agreed.
"He definitely has Vince-like looks out there," Hills said.
Dixon is hoping he has Vince-like abilities, too, because he has patterned his game after Young's since his days at Oregon.
"I have been looking up to Vince the past couple years," Dixon said. "He has been there and done that. I am still young and fairly raw. You want to be like him and do what he does on the field."
Young had immediate success with the Titans after they made him the third overall pick in 2006. He went 8-5 his rookie year, threw for 2,200 yards and ran for 552 more. The next year was even better, going 9-6 and throwing 17 touchdowns in leading the Titans to the playoffs.
But then it all collapsed.
An early season knee injury in 2008 and subsequent reported depression led Young to take a back seat to veteran Kerry Collins for the rest of the year.
With his career at a crossroads last year, Young came off the bench on Nov. 1 and led the Titans to an 8-2 finish to rescue the season from a 0-6 start with Collins.
"That tells you that he has what it takes inside," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "The two main muscles playing quarterback are your heart and your head. He is looking like he has them."
Young threw 10 touchdowns in 10 starts last year and turned the ball over only seven times while averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Last week against the Raiders, he had a 142.8 passer rating.
"You have to give him credit," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "He's maturing at the position."
Young agrees with his coach's assessment.
"I'm more comfortable and more mature," Young said. "Now I can focus more on the defense and seeing what they are trying to do to me."
Although he has similar skills as Young, Dixon will be starting only his third career game today since being drafted three years ago. In contrast, three years into Young's NFL career, he had 18 wins and a playoff appearance
Young, though, said he respects Dixon.
"I see a very talented young man," Young said. "He's just like me when they said, 'You should change your position. I am very proud of him that he continued to stay on the same path and is trying to finish up his career as a quarterback."'
Dixon has shown he can be a quarterback in the NFL. He put together a solid preseason and helped the Steelers to a Week 1 victory over Atlanta in which he made few mistakes.
"Dennis is every bit as fast and as agile as their quarterback," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "He just needs experience."