Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

In the weeks leading up to training camp, I will be taking a position-by-position look at the roster. No firm roster projections will be made yet (that will have to wait until the first 53-man roster projection right before camp starts), but I hope to give you a general overview of how things stand at each position. Today, we'll look at the quarterbacks.

Total Roster Spots: 3

Locks: 2 (Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch)

Spots Open/Candidates: 1 (Dennis Dixon, Jared Zabransky, Mike Potts)

Overview: We know that Roethlisberger and Batch are firmly entrenched at the #1 and #2 QB spots. I don’t think I really need to elaborate on Ben. He’s a proven commodity, a top 5 NFL quarterback that we are lucky to have. It’s an absolute joy to watch him play. Batch is a solid #2, though his production declined last season. He struggled in his only significant appearance against Baltimore, and at age 33 his career is winding down. But he’s better than the #2 option on many other teams, and I’m comfortable with him if he has to start a game or two. If Ben goes down for a significant amount of time, though, we’re fucked. Batch will be a free agent after this season, and I highly doubt he’ll be back. At best I could see him re-signing for 1 year to allow for more time to groom our future #2 QB.

History has shown that the Steelers almost always carry three quarterbacks, so it’s reasonable to assume that this year will be no different. The main competition for the #3 job will be from Dixon and Zabransky. Potts is an undrafted free agent from William & Mary who is camp fodder and has little to no chance of making this roster. Folks will remember Zabransky as the quarterback at Boise State who led the Broncos to an improbable comeback victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. But he’s going to really have to impress in camp for him to win the job over Dixon. The former Oregon QB is supremely talented and was a Heisman candidate before his knee injury. There is no doubt he would have been drafted higher than the 5th round without those injury concerns, and the organization has made it clear they see him as a legitimate #2 QB option down the road. In addition to being more talented than Zabransky, Dixon’s 4.5 speed and athletic ability speaks to his versatility and makes him a viable option for gadget plays. Throw in the fact that the team invested a draft choice in him, and the job is Dixon’s to lose.


Anonymous said...

I like my boy Dixon...go Duck Alum...though who doesn't like it when you can use the word fodder when talking about the NFL...

Dave Wannstache said...

Who is this loftinator guy?

Just kidding, good to hear from you.

I've got high hopes for Dixon as well. This is a guy who completed 68% of his passes in his senior season against some stiff Pac-10 competition. He's an athletic QB that can actually throw the ball. I don't forsee him becoming a Kordell Stewart/slash type of guy. The organization has made it quite clear they see him as a legitimate future #2 QB.

Jay said...

I'd love to see them use Dixon a little bit in the offense THIS year. He'd probably run that Arians bootleg better than Ben