By Teresa Varley
The Steelers will have some decisions to make after Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers with the final roster cuts due on Saturday, and one position where a big decision will come is at quarterback.
The Steelers currently have four quarterbacks on the roster – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon. The question is, will they move forward with those four or not.
Leftwich was signed following the preseason opener against the Eagles when Batch suffered a broken collarbone. Leftwich had a strong outing against the Vikings this past week, but Batch is also a few weeks into his recovery and has proven what he can do in the offense.
Head coach Mike Tomlin is going to use every bit of time needed to make a decision as to how the team will handle the situation.
"We'll cross that bridge after this performance," said Tomlin. "Like I have said all along that is a decision we have to make at an appropriate time. I think we need to gather all of the information based on the quality of play and the health of Charlie in terms of what direction we go in. We'll hold our cards until necessary in regards to that."
Batch has been a regular at the team's practice facility, but Tomlin said it's too early to tell where his progress is. The original time frame was he would miss four-to-six weeks.
In the meantime, Leftwich and Dixon are expected to get plenty of work against the Panthers. Roethlisberger will start and play a quarter, but after that Tomlin will get a last look at the other two before any decisions need to be made. This will be Leftwich's third game playing, the first coming just days after he signed.
"Every day is so important for him because there have been very few days and opportunities," said Tomlin. "So far he has taken advantage of that and has gotten better. He needs to continue to do that and Thursday night will be a big part of it."
Dixon didn't see any playing time against the Vikings, but is gaining more confidence each day and is anxious for another opportunity.
"It's all about repetition, regardless of it's a physical or mental repetition I am taking it all in," said Dixon. "I am just taking one step at a time."
Dixon is also taking in plenty of advice from his teammates. The quarterbacks have been giving him tips from reading a defense, to techniques and the difference seeing things in an NFL scheme as opposed to a college scheme.
But it's not just the quarterbacks who are sharing their knowledge with the rookie.
"I talk to Santonio Holmes the most because his locker was by mine when we were at camp," said Dixon. "He talks to me about being confident. At the end of the day it's a football game and you have been doing it for a while. That puts it into perspective. I just got out there and have fun and seize the moment."