Share This Page

Steelers elevate Dixon to No. 2 quarterback

Dennis Dixon, who has thrown one NFL pass, is one hit away from playing quarterback for the Steelers.

Yet the Steelers couldn't have gotten much better news on their quarterback front than when Ben Roethlisberger told coach Mike Tomlin on Monday morning he felt fine — and then proved it by passing a battery of neurological exams.

Roethlisberger, who got knocked out of the Steelers' 27-24 overtime loss to the Chiefs after taking a knee to the helmet, is slated to practice today and play Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore.

Roethlisberger sustained a mild concussion in the Chiefs' game, and Tomlin offered one caveat Tuesday to the sixth-year veteran playing in Sunday night's nationally televised game: If Roethlisberger starts to feel the effects of his third football-related concussion since 2006, he could miss the first of the two grudge matches that the Steelers and Ravens stage annually.

Tomlin said doctors have told the Steelers that Roethlisberger is "symptom free" in regard to his latest concussion.

Roethlisberger, Tomlin said, will continue to take the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test (ImPACT) exams — they measure the effects of concussions — leading up to the Ravens game.

"If any symptoms re-occur or if he feels less than fine, we're going to act appropriately," Tomlin said yesterday at his weekly news conference.

If Roethlisberger's recovery takes an unexpected turn, Dixon will start against the Ravens. Charlie Batch, the Steelers' No. 2 quarterback, will miss two to four weeks after breaking a bone in his left wrist while filling in for Roethlisberger in Kansas City.

Batch is scheduled to have surgery today, and Tomlin said the Steelers will keep him on the 53-man roster and make do with two healthy quarterbacks. They are expected to sign former West Allegheny High and Pitt star Tyler Palko to the practice squad to give them an extra arm in practice.

"Some teams only have two quarterbacks on their roster, so that's a risk we're willing to weigh and run with this week," Tomlin said.

Tomlin said he doesn't know who would play quarterback in the event of injuries to both Roethlisberger and Dixon.

Dixon doesn't have much more experience playing quarterback in the NFL as the Steelers' prospective emergency quarterback, who will be determined this week.

He played in just one game last season — it came at the end of a 31-0 win over the Browns on Dec. 28 — and the 6-foot-3, 209-pounder completed his only pass attempt for 3 yards.

Dixon starred collegiately at Oregon and might have been a first-round draft pick had his senior season not ended prematurely because of a knee injury.

The Steelers were elated to get the dual-threat quarterback in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, and Tomlin said he is "very pleased" with how Dixon has progressed.

But, Tomlin added, if Dixon plays against the Ravens, "No question we would have to do some things to help him. If he plays in this game and plays extensively in this game, we have to do things schematically. His teammates that get in the huddle with him would have to be at their absolute best to assist him."

The plan, of course, is for Roethlisberger, who is fourth in the NFL with 2,867 passing yards, to only come out of the Ravens game in the event of a blowout.

If he has to leave the game or not play in it for another reason, Tomlin stated the obvious when he said, "It would change our strategy in a lot of ways."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.