The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


August 2, 2010

Steelers have a wealth of talent at quarterback

LATROBE — Ron Hughes spent 17 years at or near the top of the Detroit Lions’ organization, and he likes to joke that “They’’re going to write on my tombstone: ‘He never got us a quarterback.’ ”

Funny, because in seven years as the Steelers’ college scouting coordinator Hughes has helped put together one of the best and deepest quarterback corps in Steelers history.

Here’s the rundown:

n Ben Roethlisberger, 28, already has two rings.

n Byron Leftwich, 30, has started 50 games.

n Dennis Dixon, 25, the “prospect,” is entering his third season after nearly beating the Baltimore Ravens in the Steelers’ biggest game last season.

n Charlie Batch, 35, has also started 50 games but is the so-called “camp arm,” or fourth quarterback, because of circumstances surrounding Roethlisberger’s early-season suspension.

n Even Antwaan Randle El, 30, has been working once again as the Steelers’ “Wildcat” quarterback. One of the league’s original “Wildcats,” Randle El has completed 21 of 28 career passes for 324 yards, no interceptions, and five touchdowns, including one in Super Bowl XL.

Have the Steelers ever trotted out such a talented array of passers at one training camp?

“This is the first time I’ve seen a group this deep,” said Batch, who played with Tommy Maddox and Roethlisberger in 2004-05. “Our fourth guy was Brian St. Pierre, but he didn’t have any game experience.

“Dennis has played and played well, so it’s never been like this.”

What about back in the 1970s?

“Not that I remember,” said “Mean” Joe Greene. “I hadn’t looked at it that way, but you’re right about this group.”

“Nineteen-eighty,” said Tunch Ilkin, a veteran of 31 Steelers camps. “We had Terry Bradshaw, Mark Malone, Cliff Stoudt, and Mike Kruczek.”

Close, but no cigar. Another close comparison might’ve been the 1955 bunch with Jim Finks, Ted Marchiboda, Vic Eaton and “camp arm” John Unitas.

But then again, probably not.

“This is a unique group. It really is,” said Hughes. “The problem is finding enough reps to go around – unless you want to practice six hours.”

By the looks of the last three practices or so, each of the current quarterbacks is getting just enough practice reps.

At Monday afternoon’s workout, nary a ball hit the ground, with “the kid,” Dixon, leading the way with only one incompletion in nine attempts.

“I’m really pleased,” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said of the group. “We’ve only had two picks and one of those was a drop. They’re protecting the football well and really doing a good job on third down.”

Here’s Arians’ camp breakdown of the quarterbacks receiving the majority of snaps:

n Roethlisberger. “Oh, man, he’s quicker, faster, stronger, and he’s throwing it as well or better than he’s ever thrown it. He’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen.”

n Leftwich. “He’s been solid. He’s been going to the right spots. Knowledge-wise, he’s as sharp as anybody we’ve got.”

n Dixon “He’s had a great camp. Knock on wood, because interceptions plagued him all spring. He’s been really good with the football – really good.”

Arians said he’s never seen a group this talented in his

18 NFL seasons.

“Never,” he said. “You’re always looking for a (No.) 3, so of course I’ve never seen four this good.”

Or five.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Pirates cut down by Reds’ Cueto

    April 23, 2014

  • Penguins 0422 Blown leads are troubling trend in series

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sunnehanna makes changes to tourney week

    April 22, 2014

  • Penguins 0421 Penguins finish hot to grab 2-1 series lead

    Brandon Sutter, Lee Stempniak and Jussi Jokinen scored in a span of 2:13 of the third period to revive the Penguins from yet another two-goal deficit in a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0421 Pirates walk off against Reds to halt home skid

    Ike Davis became the first player to hit grand slams for different teams in the same April, and Neil Walker had a winning run single with two outs in the ninth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates twice overcame deficits to beat the Reds 6-5 Monday night.
    Pittsburgh trailed 2-0 before Davis’ fourth-inning homer off Mike Leake.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sitting Bulls bring home national sled hockey title

    The Johnstown Sitting Bulls disabled sled hockey team recently won a national championship.
    The team, comprised of disabled athletes from Cambria, Somerset, Indiana, Bedford and Blair counties, finished first in the Youth B Division at the USA Hockey National Disabled Hockey Festival held April 11-13 in Marlborough, Mass.

    April 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 21, 2014

  • APTOPIX Boston Marathon.jpg Marathon men’s winner has names of victims on bib

    The winner of the Boston Marathon men’s race had the names of last year’s victims written in marker on the corners of his race bib.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates Brawl 0420 Brewers top Pirates in game highlighted by dustup

    Ryan Braun homered in the ninth inning to tie it, then Khris Davis hit a home run in the 14th that put Milwaukee ahead for good.
    Yet those were hardly the big blows that attracted all the attention Sunday in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Football team ends boycott of embattled coach

    Minnesota State University-Mankato’s football team has ended its boycott of reinstated head coach Todd Hoffner, who successfully fought child pornography charges and other misconduct accusations that removed him from the job for 20 months.
    Hoffner said he assured the players, who refused to take the practice field Wednesday, that interim coach Aaron Keen, who led the team in Hoffner’s absence, will continue in a major role with the team.

    April 20, 2014

AP Sports Video

Should the NFL get rid of the extra-point attempt after a touchdown?

     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow