By Teresa Varley
Last year Dennis Dixon came to training camp as a rookie looking to learn as much as he could.
This year, he comes in wanting more.
Dixon, the team's fifth round draft pick a year ago, would love to emerge from camp as the team's number two quarterback, a job that has been held by Charlie Batch the last few years. Batch missed the 2008 season with a shoulder injury, but Byron Leftwich was brought in because Dixon was too inexperienced to put in that role.
Batch is returning from the shoulder injury, and while Dixon has the utmost respect for the veteran, he still is striving for his role. And it's a role he feels he is ready for.
"It's always a dream going to that next level and getting that shot," said Dixon. "Once my number is called I will try to respond. I am confident. I think the players have confidence in me. You need that going in to training camp."
Dixon knows a year ago he wouldn't have been as comfortable in the role. He wasn't ready for it just yet. But now he is.
"What a difference a year makes," said Dixon. "Going from OTAs to training camp I feel confident and want to improve.
"You know what to expect. Last year I didn't know what to expect. Now I know the ins and outs and can prepare my body day in and day out."
Dixon knows that if he does win the number two spot it doesn't guarantee playing time as he will still be learning behind Ben Roethlisberger. But it does give him the opportunity if it presents itself in the wildcat offense, something he would love.
"I know the ins and outs, what keys to read," said Dixon of understanding the offensive set. "I am ready for it if it comes along. I know I won't lobby for it, but I think the players on offense will. If it comes, I will be ready."
Kicker Jeff Reed will become a free agent at the end of the season, but he is hoping to sign a new contract and likes what has been happening with the team keeping their core of players.
"You look at the end of last year and you had 12 or 13 starters up," said Reed. "And you see Hines (Ward), Heath (Miller) and Max (Starks) already re-signed and it gives you more hope that this team is going to be good for a long time, which I wouldn't doubt anyway. It's going to be a great team for a long time, but right now I'm just focused on right now."