Dixon rolled early, but not often enough

SCI.net columnist Mark Kaboly would like to see Bruce Arians stick to the script with Dennis Dixon. Also, was Bryant McFadden great or awful? And which OT gets the help up front this week?

So often over the years, mobile quarterbacks are hell-bent on doing everything but what they do the best – running with the football.

It's obvious that Dennis Dixon's best attribute isn't his arm, isn't the way he reads defenses, nor is it his calm and soothing demeanor.

To quote ZZ Top, (well, sort of) Dixon's got legs and he knows how to use them.

Now with the first-game jitters out of the way, it's time for Bruce Arians to open that playbook a little more and begin putting Dixon in position to succeed.

And that position? Well, anywhere but directly behind center Maurkice Pouncey.

Now, I'm not suggesting running the spread or anything of the sort, but Arians needs to roll Dixon and the pocket one way or the other to get the most out of his young quarterback.

It was clear against the Falcons that when the QB and his pocket moved, Dixon was at his best. Give Arians credit for doing that early on last week.

Actually, the first two pass plays in an obviously scripted first dozen or so plays had Dixon moving around in the pocket one way or another before throwing the ball. But when that script ran its course, it was drop back passing at its ... well, not its best, but I guess at its average.

Out of 26 pass attempts, Arians moved the pocket for Dixon four times, and mind you, two of those came on the first two passing plays of the game. Of course, Dixon did scramble and throw four other times, but that's not enough.

All combined, when Dixon moved his feet and threw the ball, he completed 7-of-8 attempts.

Eighteen times Arians called a straight drop back pass for Dixon and he completed 11 and threw his only interception. Three of those seven incompletions could've and should've resulted in picks.

Dixon's take?

"I like to do that but I want to be able to stay in that pocket and throw as well," Dixon said.

That's like Mike Wallace running digs and outs all day, which makes no sense to me, but I suppose there's a reason why Arians and Mike Tomlin get paid to make those decisions and I don't.

BEST OF GAMES, WORST OF GAMES

If Week 1 was any indicator, Bryant McFadden is set to have one of the best/worst years in the history of the league.

Best/worst?

The best by way of his flawless execution of coordinator Dick LeBeau's scheme.

The worst by way of the 17 times Atlanta QB Matt Ryan targeted McFadden's side of the field, the 14 times he threw it to Roddy White with McFadden in coverage. White caught 8 passes for 77 yards against McFadden, who heard about it from the critics. But he responded the other day.

"Those passes are not going to beat us," McFadden said.

Of course, one of the big problems the Steelers had last year was allowing the big play in the passing game, a huge no-no with LeBeau.

The Steelers allowed 46 pass plays of 20 yards or longer last year and nine of 40 or longer.

LeBeau believes that no team can nickel and dime the Steelers down the field on a consistent basis without one of their play-making linebackers eventually making a big play. Either that or an offense won't be patient enough to take 5 yards a pass play like the Falcons averaged last week.

To play this style, a defense must have extremely disciplined and patient cornerbacks. If one game is any indication, the Steelers have it.

WHICH TACKLE TO HELP?

I'll be the first to admit that Flozell Adams looked more like Slowzell Adams the first few weeks of training camp. The way he performed during that span, there was no way he was making my team. Not only was he slow, but he seem disinterested, and that's certainly not a very good combination for a starting tackle in the NFL

Apparently, the crafty veteran was just biding his time this summer before turning it on during the regular season. The Steelers are lucky that appears to be the case.

Adams has been one of the Steelers' best linemen over the past few weeks and has made Kevin Colbert look like a genius. However, that moniker is in danger with the injury to Max Starks.

Let's face it, for Adams to be successful in obvious pass-rushing downs against a speed rusher, he's going to need help from either a tight end or a chipping running back.

If Adams doesn't get help with speed, he's likely to get beat. So with Starks out, does Adams or new left tackle Jonathan Scott get the help during passing situations?

Obviously, it's unwise to max protect successfully very often with the simplified offensive scheme run by Dixon.

The common solution is to help out the left tackle so the quarterback isn't blindsided by a steamrolling defensive end. But common sense says you help out the slowed-footed tackle who's up against a speed guy.

But who is the slowest-footed tackle these days? It's probably not Adams anymore.

Fortunately for the Steelers, they won't face a true speed rusher until Terrell Suggs and the Baltimore Ravens come to town in a couple weeks. By then Starks should be back.

(Mark Kaboly appears courtesy of the McKeesport Daily News.)


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