By Teresa Varley
Ben Roethlisberger practiced on Wednesday and is expected to start on Sunday in Baltimore. But just in case, Dennis Dixon will be ready.
Dixon, a second-year quarterback from Oregon, was quickly elevated to the number two spot after Charlie Batch broke a bone in his wrist against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"As a player you try to embrace everything that comes your way," said Dixon. "I said early in the year if my number is called I want to perform for this team. I want to show them I am confident and ready to do it. I have to show my team I am confident and ready to go. I have to do the little things and big things."
Dixon hasn't played at all this season and completed his only pass attempt in 2008, getting in for two series in the regular season finale against Cleveland. And while he will get more snaps in practice this week that is the only thing that will change in his preparation as he approaches each week with the realization he could be called upon at any time.
"Going on out there, preparing in practice goes a long way," said Dixon. "It's like every other week. Go out there and do the little things. Also some extra film work with Ben goes a long way."
The Steelers also added quarterback Tyler Palko to the practice squad. Palko played for the University of Pittsburgh and spent time on the New Orleans Saints active roster and practice squad.
The Steelers are ranked 25th in the NFL in giveaway/takeaway ratio and those on defense want to do their part to turn things around.
"We need to have more turnovers," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Right now that is an area we must do better in. Our opportunities are there. We just have to come off the field with the ball."
The defense missed two opportunities for interceptions against the Chiefs and they are hoping that won't be the case this week against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I had my hands on the ball, two hands on the ball and basically let Chris Chambers break it up," said safety Ryan Clark. "Ike (Taylor) makes a great play and it comes out on the ground. That's two turnovers you have to make and you should have. It's not one of those things where I almost tipped the ball. Two guys with two hands on the ball who should make the catch.
"It's about making the plays when you have the opportunity. We can't start pressing and trying to make those plays and not being where we are supposed to be. The reason we had those opportunities was doing our jobs, reading the route progressions and attacking the ball."
And while they look to make big plays, they are also looking to eliminate opposing offenses from making big plays against them in crucial situation.
"We gave up too many big plays last week," said LeBeau. "That's easy to put a finger on that. They executed very well on a couple of them and we didn't. Those are the kind of plays you have to cut out in any quarter, but particularly in the fourth quarter when you are playing with a lead. We have to finish these games and end up with a win and not a loss. We are just working to get better. That is what we do."
Improving special teams, with a concerted effort on kickoff coverage, has been a focus this week for the Steelers, with the team adding cornerback Corey Ivy and linebacker Rocky Boiman to help bolster the effort.
"I think I bring a lot of experience," said Boiman, an eight-year veteran who has played with the Titans, Colts and Chiefs. "I have played a lot of games, seen a lot of situations and I have confidence in that.
"I think that is why they brought me in. My job now is to make the coaches and staff look like the smartest guys in the world by coming out and showing what I can do and making an impact."
Ivy will be going against his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, on Sunday night and he is hoping to bring his attitude to the black and gold this time.
"Hopefully attitude, knowing special teams is a team effort and 'want to' is what I bring," said Ivy. "I want to go out there and not mess anything up and help the team contribute to win.
"It's always tough coming into a new situation. I am going out there and doing my best. Take the coaching I am giving and apply it on the field."