Tomlin still unclear on QB derby

Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference Monday as the team moves quickly into prep mode for Thursday night's preseaon finale.

PITTSBURGH – It was a game that once again illustrated the importance of Ben Roethlisberger.

Not only did Roethlisberger lead the Steelers to a field goal in his only complete series, but his main backups played so poorly that the third backup might've thrust himself back into the derby to play during Roethlisberger's suspension.


No more so than Coach Mike Tomlin, who was asked on Monday whether he had "any clarity on the quarterback situation."

"Not for me," Tomlin said. "No, it's a process."

Tomlin has three days of work with which to figure it out, and it won't be easy after both Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich struggled Sunday night in Denver and Charlie Batch looked better than both.

Batch, of course, was intercepted for a 48-yard touchdown by rookie cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, but it was a play in which rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders ran a wrong route. Sanders also failed to come back to fight for a Dennis Dixon floater that was intercepted by Andre Goodman and returned 77 yards for a touchdown.

"Critical errors," Tomlin said of Sanders. "Where there's pain, there's growth."

The same could be said of Dixon, who also threw an interception in the end zone and was thrown for a loss on a fourth-and-1 bootleg play that collapsed all around him.

"I take responsibility fully for that," Tomlin said. "I wanted to see the ball in his hands in that situation, probably more so than getting the first down. They were prepared for him to potentially come on the edge, so it was a tough situation for him."

Leftwich was thrust into another "tough situation" when the supposed opening-day starter was inexplicably held out of the so-called "dress rehearsal" third preseason game until the final two series of the third quarter. Missed blocks by rookie runner Jonathan Dwyer and veteran center Justin Hartwig thwarted both drives as Leftwich threw incomplete on all four of his passes.

Dwyer recovered from his horrendous series with Leftwich to score a 5-yard touchdown for Batch. Dwyer later ripped off a 40-yard run in which he finally displayed his power and speed combination for Steelers fans.

Dwyer's fourth-quarter performance brought unsolicited praise from Tomlin on Monday, but Tomlin added that "we judge on the complete body of work."

Tomlin also praised the performances of rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, strong safety Will Allen, and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

Tomlin criticized the performances of Sanders, cornerback Keenan Lewis, and long-snapper Matt Stewart.

Of course, Tomlin will find himself under intense criticism himself if he doesn't put an efficient quarterback on the field for opening day. He wouldn't say whether Leftwich will start Thursday night's game against the Carolina Panthers, but Leftwich needs some quality work – unless it'll be given to Batch.


Get in line.

NOTES – ILB James Farrior required six stitches to close a laceration on his head … CB Bryant McFadden will miss Thursday's game with his chest injury, but is expected to return for the opener. … Sanders will handle return duties Thursday night.

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