Tomlin has big QB choice to make

Mike Tomlin has a big choice to make this week, and he might not have a choice at all ...

... when he picks his starting quarterback for Pittsburgh's game in Tampa Sunday. He might be left with just one healthy quarterback.

Charlie Batch, who has been injury-prone much of his career, stood as the only healthy quarterback on the roster when the Steelers started the week leading up to their visit to Tampa.

Dennis Dixon injured his left knee during the first half of the Steelers' 19-11 victory in Tennessee Sunday and although it is not considered serious, it also might limit what he can do.

The other candidate is Byron Leftwich, who has been on a roller-coaster ride all summer. Leftwich, tabbed as the quarterback to replace Ben Roethlisberger during his four-game suspension, missed the first game with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He was listed as probable after his return to practices late last week, but then he was released last Saturday.

That was a procedural move for the Steelers to sign a defensive lineman and Leftwich was to be re-signed this week -- and maybe even start against the team he was with last season, the Bucs.

"I don't know who is going to play quarterback next week," Tomlin said. "I know it won't be me. I'm not good enough."

None of his other quarterbacks seem to be good enough, either. They won in Tennessee without generating an offensive touchdown after not scoring one in their opener against Atlanta until overtime.

They have won both games without Roethlisberger by playing smothering defense -- which stopped Chris Johnson's quest for a 13th consecutive 100-yard game stone cold, holding him to 34 yards on 16 carries in Nashville.

"We knew everybody was going to count us out, having Ben out," said linebacker James Farrior, the defensive captain. "They think we can't win without Ben, but that just gives us a little more motivation. Mike Tomlin's been pissed off the last couple weeks, so he has been taking it out on us and we have been taking it out on other teams."

Tomlin indeed said, "We're a little bit annoyed to be quite honest about the premature reporting of our death."

TRENDING: LB LaMarr Woodley has at least half a sack in 10 straight games. He has one in each game this season. Woodley led the Steelers with 13.5 sacks last season and has two in two games.

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie WR Antonio Brown, who did not dress in his first game, returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown, the first by a Steelers kickoff return man in three years. Brown may have earned himself a steady spot as the return man. He also returned one punt for 21 yards.

UNDER THE RADAR: Lawrence Timmons was Mike Tomlin's first draft pick in 2007 and in his fourth season, he's breaking out of his shell. He had 15 tackles Sunday to go with 11 in the opener and looks like Troy Polamalu playing linebacker. He was held back last season, his first as a starter, by ankle injuries but is healthy and bursting from inside next to James Farrior.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Interceptions the Steelers have after two games. All last season, they managed only 12.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

* WR Hines Ward extended his streak of catching a pass to 180 straight games, fifth longest in NFL history. He caught one pass for nine yards in Tennessee.

* LB James Harrison is off to a fast start with three sacks in two games, and his two forced fumbles vs. Titans. His seven forced fumbles in 2008 tied the Steelers record and his five in 2009 rank fifth.

* S Troy Polamalu has two interceptions after two games. Even though he played in just five games last season, he tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

* QB Charlie Batch had his most extensive playing time Sunday vs. Titans since Dec. 30, 2007, when he started at Baltimore and played the entire game. Batch entered in the second quarter and finished the game in Tennessee.

* K Jeff Reed has six field goals in his first two games and his kickoffs are higher and deeper than they've been in years. He credits the latter to working with new special teams coach Al Everest.


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