The radio and TV guys are raving about what kind of shape Pig Ben is in at the start of training camp -- he's svelt, muscular and his arm looks deadly. They haven't gone so far as to call him dreamy, but they've been drooling. From a football perspective, this is great news, but honest, Ben, it took a police investigation, a serious reaming from the Commish and a four to six game suspension to get your ass into the gym? Seriously? Oh well.
Meanwhile the debate rages, in my head if nowhere else, over which quarterback should be the one to try to stake the team to a good start until Goodell gives Pig Ben the nod to play. Byron Leftwich? Or Dennis Dixon?
I've always liked Leftwich. He's has had success in the NFL and he seems to be a really good guy. I'll never forget that Steelers fans are very much indebted to him for pulling out a very nice win in D.C. in 2008 (absolutely crucial to getting the playoff bye that year), to say nothing of his amazing heroics at Marshall. I never get tired of watching that.
But ... Leftwich is what he is. He had some really good years in Jacksonville, was a great backup here, but was underperforming so much last year with Tampa that he was pulled after three games in favor of The Joshes, Johnson and Freeman.
With Dixon, what there is a lot of unknown, but the little we do know makes me salivate. He can fly and he can throw; before his injury at Oregon, he was a really special talent. He's like the prettiest Christmas present under the tree. You are dying to open it, but half the time, it turns out to be a pair of lousy socks from your great aunt and not the iPad you were hoping for. Dixon = Socks? Or iPad?
Dixon is a bigger risk, but with an exponentially bigger upside if it works. Leftwich is the guy who you can rely on to hold the fort, assuming the rest of the team performs well. I was wondering which way Tomlin would go. Mark Kaboly of the McKeesport Daily News reports that Leftwich is getting the lion's share of reps at QB.
Byron Leftwich took the most snaps during team drills in both the morning and afternoon sessions Monday and also exclusively played with the first-team offense during the afternoon practice.
In four practices so far, Leftwich leads the quarterbacks with 56 reps in 11-on-11 team periods. Roethlisberger is next with 51 followed by Dixon with 29.
Charlie Batch has taken only one snap during team drills in four practices and he handed off.
The numbers are a little skewed because both Roethlisberger and Leftwich ran the 2-minute drill Sunday in which each got at least seven snaps. Dixon will have a chance to run the drill later in the week.
I guess I have my answer. No socks and no iPad under the tree, this guy instead:
Things could be a lot worse, given all the givens.
The other question mark for me was whether or not Rashard Mendenhall had recovered from the Mad Fumblitis but it looks like he's still got a raging case:
Even with Rashard Mendenhall sitting out because of a toe injury, the fumbling didn't stop for the running backs. Mewelde Moore fumbled during 9-on-7 drills during the afternoon practice. Mendenhall fumbled in practices Saturday and Sunday.Also courtesy of Mark Kaboly.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, D-Line coach John Mitchell said he plans on using a six man rotation and is excited about it. The Starting Six are: the familiar faces [1) Big Snack (Casey Hampton), (2) Brett Keisel and (3) Aaron Smith], plus, the 2009 top draft choice [(4) Ziggy Hood], the journeyman [(5) Nick Eason] and old reliable [(6) Chris Hoke]. The Steelers list a bunch of other players on the D line, including 2nd round draft pick Jason Worilds, who it appears they will deploy as a linebacker, not a down lineman.
One last thought on the defensive side of the ball - it goes as Polamalu goes. I love this bit from James Walker's ESPN blog:
"He just kind of opens the playbook to anything you want to do," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "It's just a matter of how far off the diving board you want to go."