Watch Tower: Mike Tomlin Has Managed the Quarterback Derby Well

You have to wonder what it takes to make some people happy.

Since the final gun of the 2009 season, the Steelers situation at quarterback has taken more twists and turns than the stretch of Glassrun road that connects Homestead to Baldwin.

Through all of it, there has been one constant:

  • The press has taken potshots at Mike Tomlin’s handling of the situation

Dammed If You Do, Dammed If You… Do?

In the collective rendering of the press Mike Tomlin’s quarterback management sins include:

  • Failing to give Dennis Dixon a fair chance
  • Playing Ben Roethlisberger too much
  • Erring by giving Dixon a shot at prime time in the preseason
  • Taking valuable snaps away from Leftwich because of the two reasons cited above
  • Exposing Leftwich to injury by playing him in the preseason finale
  • Starting Dennis Dixon over Charlie Batch to open the season

Makes for a long line at a St. Vincent’s confessional, doesn’t it?

Who’d have thought that, in spite of those ‘sins’ Steelers would go out and establish a 3-0 record. Few would, but the fact that it has happened is not enough for some critics.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Andy Kaboly, writing before the Tampa Bay game, weighed in on Sunday.

According to Kaboly, Tomlin was doing things just right, all the way up until Dixon began to shine against third and fourth stringers.

That of course, was the death knell for the Steelers quarterback derby. Don’t believe me, take a look at Kaboly’s own words:

Every move Tomlin has made with his quarterbacks since the preseason game against the Giants has been wrong.

Dixon got first-team snaps and started against the Broncos – wrong decision. Leftwich, the presumed starter in Week 1, played the final preseason game and ended up getting hurt – wrong decision. Dixon was named the starter over Batch — another bad decision — even though it was evident that what Tomlin was going to ask Dixon to do was something that Batch does better and has done many more times.

You wonder what criticism Kaboly has been holding in reserve in the event of something less than the 2-0 start that the Steelers had made in spite of Tomlin’s wrong-headed decisions at quarterback?

Kaboly is not alone. Ed Bouchette also rejoined the fray today on PG Plus arguing:

Just because his team is 3-0 does not mean Mike Tomlin handled his quarterback situation correctly. I still think he handled it wrong all the way through. He had no choice but to start Charlie Batch in Tampa and when he had a choice, he went with Dennis Dixon. If you put Batch’s hand to the fire, he would tell you the same thing. [Emphasis added.]

Defending Tomlin’s Decisions (Again)

Tomlin has handled the Steelers situation at quarterback just fine. As argued by Steel Curtain Rising before before, Tomlin had to give Dixon time against Denver’s first string. Dixon deserved it and Tomlin needed to know what to expect should Dixon get into the game.

Leftwich, likewise, needed to play in the final preseason match up for the simple reason that he needed reps, reps he otherwise would have gotten had Tomlin not needed to keep Roethlisberger sharp.

Certainly, Charlie Batch could have been a little more well-prepared to go into the game against Tennessee, but again Tomlin was vindicated.

Tomlin gave Batch fewer snaps throughout this entire process, in OTAs, in practices, in preseason, precisely because he knew he could.

Given the contrast between Dixon’s play against Atlanta and Tennessee, and Batch’s performance against the Tampa Bay, many are second guessing the decision to start Dixon over Batch.

Mike Tomlin is not one of them.

When asked this very question, he responded:

Man, I don’t get do overs. I don’t live in that world. I’ll let you guys talk about that. Right now we are 3-0 and we are getting ready for Baltimore.

Which brings us to the final point. Baltimore represents the final game of Roethlisberger’s suspension and that should end the story.

But then again, maybe it won’t. Perhaps the pundits will see fit to question Tomlin’s decision to return the starting job to Roethlisberger.

Mike Tomlin Has Earned Some Respect

When Tomlin decided to start Dixon over Batch, I took exception, but understood Tomlin’s decision. He’s grooming a young quarterback, wanted to give him real starting experience, and felt confident that he would not make any game-losing mistakes.

Tomlin was right. Dixon wasn’t as poised or as sharp as Batch, but he avoided critical errors.

The Watch Tower has spoken out on the media’s constant criticism of Tomlin’s management of the quarterback derby a number of times.

During training camp the plea was to cut Tomlin some slack.

The Steelers 3-0 record changes things.

Tomlin’s deserves respect for his ability to managed a quarterback situation that was unprecedented as it began and has developed in ways no one could have anticipated.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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