Dixon an unnecessary gamble vs. Atlanta

Mike Prisuta doesn't believe Dixon should start at quarterback for the Steelers over Charlie Batch.

Perhaps Dennis Dixon will wind up running 74 yards through the heart of the Falcons' defense and into the end zone to seal a resounding come-from-behind victory with less than two minutes to play, as Kordell did against the Ravens in '97.

Perhaps Mike Tomlin will be waiting for Dixon afterward with a big, sloppy kiss (tying Bill Cowher's career record).

Perhaps in the aftermath of a Dixon-inspired Steelers' victory over Atlanta Tomlin will even lob an I-told-you-so or two in the direction of the Dixon Doubters in the media.

It could happen.

But a more likely scenario involves Charlie Batch or the defense saving the day if it is destined to be saved, and Tomlin regretting his decision to start Dixon either way.

Dixon as the counter-punch, the change-of-pace, the curve-ball complement to Batch, as Dixon would have been to Byron Leftwich, makes sense.

Dixon would have been involved that way and would have been able to play to his strengths. This way he'll have to play a complete game like never before. And now really isn't the optimum time to find out if he's capable of doing so in a game that counts.

The preseason, from as far back as the OTAs, through St. Vincent, and the games, established that Dixon isn't yet ready. The visions that keep running through my mind regarding Dixon's preseason are these:

* On an all-or-nothing snap from inside the 10-yard line on fourth down during a two-minute drill, Dixon gets himself out on the wing and then throws back across his body, an ill-advised pass that winds up being deflected repeatedly before falling incomplete.

Coach Mike Tomlin, who was in the vicinity, asked Dixon if he could have run the ball instead and scored.

"Probably," Dixon responded.

"Then put the thing in the end zone," Tomlin barked.

The run/pass battle is one Dixon continues to fight.

* In a wide receivers/defensive backs one-on-one drill in which the quarterbacks are zipping passes into the end zone from the 5-yard line or so, Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are firing on the break – before, in some instances – and Dixon, for the most part, is waiting until the receiver breaks open. And by then it's too late.

* In Exhibition No. 3 at Denver, Dixon throws two interceptions, one because he confused Matt Spaeth with Shaquille O'Neal and then under-threw him, and one because he didn't get an out to Emmanuel Sanders in time (that was the pick-six, as opposed to the INT that cost the Steelers at least three).

Isn't it supposed to be about avoiding mistakes in Ben Roethlisberger's absence, about the Steelers not beating the Steelers? Isn't Batch much more of a sure thing along those lines?

"Upside" is another matter entirely, but the Steelers should be interested first and foremost in not being 0-4 upon Roethlisberger's return, not in Dixon or anyone else establishing how dangerous they might become someday if only they could eliminate the mistakes committed in the name of on-the-job training.

Batch's accuracy and veteran acumen are the perfect fits in these troubled times. But Tomlin has been admittedly swayed, in part, by Batch's "durability," or "lack of durability." Batch looked pretty durable in Denver.

And it's not as if Dixon has a long history of taking hits and coming back for more unscathed, in the NFL or at Oregon.

Perhaps he'll begin to establish one on Sunday.

Perhaps he'll prove to be the second coming of Kordell in the process.

Tomlin's clearly counting on as much, even if he has yet to pucker up.


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