That was it. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It was the thin air. It was jet lag. We had trouble breathing. There are mountains of excuses that could be used to justify the less than stellar performance of the Steelers third, second, fourth, or possibly first string quarterback Dennis Dixon and possibly the odd man out, Charlie Batch.
Let’s deal with first things first. Denver beat Pittsburgh, 34-17. The sirens are wailing and mouths are flailing. Here are a few of the things that are burning up the wire. “Dennis Dixon is not ready. He is nothing more than a third-string quarterback, whose legs are far more equipped than his arm or his brain.” Some of these folks seem to be as Aretha Franklin would so aptly point out card carrying members of “the chain of fools.” Why do I have to keep beating my prognosticator, “Kemosabe” drum?
Let’s talk about the predecessor of Dixon, Ben Roethlisberger. In 2004, starting QB Tommy Maddox was injured in the second game at Baltimore. Enter “Big” Ben. As a “first year” QB, Roethlisberger went on to beat two previously undefeated teams, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles en route to a unbelievable 15-1 season. His lone defeat came in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots, a game we can all realistically assume was a part of Bill Belichick’s “videotape” archives.
Everything was done to make Roethlisberger comfortable and confident. Personnel and play calling were tailored around him and his ability, because the Steelers were faced with an emergency situation. This was a true 9-1-1 and the troops rallied around their young, tough and fearless leader who oftentimes exhibited a reckless gunslinger type of mentality. Pittsburgh also had a bone crushing, jaw dropping running game to complement their young signal caller as well as a homicidal defense. There were all sorts of mechanisms in place to sort of “help a brother” out. The same cannot be said for Dixon. He is being popped up and down and side to side sort of like a perverted Mexican jumping bean, jack-in-the-box hybrid. There does not seem to be many comforts afforded to him.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has two weeks to up the dosage of Prozac to someone, somewhere in order to implement solid and less schizophrenic-like coaching decisions. In order for the Steelers to at least split the first six games, whoever is being ordained to start must receive all the first string reps, all of them.
The current mode of thinking by the talking heads goes like this. “Well ah, like ah, see if Big Ben does not get the proper reps with the first team he is going to be rusty and that is not going to bode well for the Steelers when he returns.” Huh? You gotta be freaking kiddin me! During the first six or four games, (I personally believe that it will be four) Big Ben will not be allowed to run with the first team at all, so any way you slice the bologna he is still going to be rusty when he returns to reclaim his starting role.
All I heard was yak, yak and yak, in regards to the lackluster performance in Denver. Do you remember Baltimore 2009? The Broncos have a pretty darn good group of cornerbacks so why keep throwing at them. Make the safeties earn their money. Throw a few short passes to backs coming out of the backfield. If a ball is “picked” in the middle of the field, statistically there is a better chance that it may not be run back for a score. The play calling by Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians continues to be less than stellar even when considering the limited playbook and selection implemented for the preseason.
During Roethlisberger’s suspension, personnel groupings and play calling for Dixon or anyone else is going to have to be stepped up because if the Steelers employ the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) concept for too long, opponents won’t need illegal videotapes, well now it’s DVDs. All they will have to do is grab a Mountain Dew and watch game film and lick their chops. The ordained first string guy will not be going up against the enemy’s second or third stringers in the third or fourth quarters. Teams make adjustments, especially the boys who are appointed with starting positions and anointed with big bucks. Dennis Dixon must take all the snaps with the first team this week leading up to the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, if Pittsburgh has any chance of having a decent season. The one serious plus for Dixon, and any other of the Steelers QBs, is the “big nasty D.” This year can be a banner year for the defense but the window of opportunity for the team is closing faster than a Kaufmann’s department store.
Oh, I forgot to mention at the outset of this communiqué “Kemosabe” was used in ‘The Lone Ranger’ TV series by Tonto the native American sidekick of the Ranger himself. The word is said to mean “trusty scout” or “faithful friend” in the Potawatomi language. Boys and girls, don’t believe everything that you hear or read, well except from “Inside Conditions.”
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)