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Old 08-15-2009, 07:26 AM   #1
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Default Steelers 2nd-year QB Dixon shows off arm and maturity in strong outing vs. Cardinals

Young Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon swears he did not think much about Michael Vick other than he hoped he would get another chance to play in the NFL.

No one said anything to Dixon, even as false reports persisted that the Steelers might be in the running to sign Vick. The Steelers' hierarchy ignored the rumors and "reports," as they most surely ignored Vick because they never had an interest in him other than the curiosity everyone had about what might become of the fallen quarterback.

The Steelers long ago came to the quick conclusion that the negatives far outweighed the positives for any match with Vick.

Plus, the Steelers like what they have in Dixon, who has many of the attributes of a Michael Vick, none of the baggage and has his career ahead of him. Dixon, as he showed publicly on one dynamic 47-yard touchdown run in a rookie preseason game and as he did in college, has the ability to run and throw.

Dixon was a Heisman Trophy candidate at Oregon before his ACL tore late in his senior season. He is over that and appears to have made great strides since his rookie year.

Statistics from a preseason game do not mean much -- Dixon completed 10 of 19 for 112 yards Thursday night, including a perfect strike on a slant over the middle to rookie Mike Wallace. He did not have a run from scrimmage.

The Steelers' six Lombardi trophies will be on display at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum from Monday through Aug. 30. Also on display in the fourth-floor Campbell Gallery is a photo exhibit, Behind the Scenes with the Pittsburgh Steelers by Mike Fabus, the team photographer. That exhibit runs through January.

"I was looking to stay in the pocket more," said Dixon, who the Steelers regard as a quarterback and not a novelty for any "wildcat" offense. "As a quarterback, your initial reaction is to throw the ball first. I look at myself as a quarterback; if the pocket breaks down, I'll use my God-given talent, but I'll throw the ball first."

Coach Mike Tomlin's reply was a typical understatement about a young player when asked Thursday night about Dixon.

"He had some good moments and he had some moments where you would like to see him make a few more plays," Tomlin said. "I thought we had a couple guys deep down the field on some play actions that you would like to see one or two connected on. I liked his presence and I thought he handled the group very well."

The Steelers did not go after Vick for many reasons, and one of them is Dixon.

Let's take a look at some other fallout from the Steelers' first exhibition game:
Running back

Isaac The Tank does not rhyme, but Isaac Redman has one big thing going for him -- production. While still early, Redman has gotten the job done every time he has been in a goal-line situation -- twice Thursday night from 3 and 5 yards as well as twice in the goal-line drill in practice Sunday.

Again, statistics are not the thing here -- Redman led the Steelers with 10 carries and 32 yards. They are not looking for Redman, an undrafted rookie from Bowie State, to carry a load or to snap off 40-yard runs. They want someone to cross the goal line from the 2. It's something they have not had consistently since Jerome Bettis retired after the 2005 season.

Redman is 6 feet, 230 pounds and seems to have a knack for finding the hole, breaking an early tackle and picking up those tough yards.

Thursday night, Rashard Mendenhall was kept in the game on first-half short-yardage situations with Carey Davis as the fullback. By the time Redman entered the game, Frank The Tank Summers (5-10, 240) joined him -- as the fullback.

Later, Redman moved up to fullback, even though he has played little there in training camp, and Summers played halfback.

Summers did not get the chances that Redman had and carried twice for 3 yards.

"Hopefully we will get some more looks at him against some varsity guys, if you will," Tomlin said of Redman after the game. "He did a nice job with what he was faced in front of tonight. We are not going to make too much out of it."

Veteran receiver Shaun McDonald is said to be too small and slight to fit well with the Steelers. Yet all he does is produce. He catches everything thrown near him, as he did Thursday night when he led the Steelers with six receptions and 69 yards.

McDonald is only 5-10, 183 pounds and is competing for a fifth spot on a roster that likely will have five wide receivers. Four already have secured their roster spots -- Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed and Mike Wallace. There are other prospects for No. 5 such as Dallas Baker, Brandon Williams and Martin Nance.

But, on a team that has only two experienced receivers, McDonald, with seven years in the league, seems like a nice fit. He also has been durable, playing 84 games over the past four seasons with St. Louis and Detroit. He led the pathetic Lions with 79 receptions for 943 yards in 2007.

And the Lions, for all their problems, helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls by providing many a supplementary player and a Pro Bowl center in Jeff Hartings.

Maybe the Steelers finally found their niche on the fifth round of the draft. For the third consecutive year, they appear to have hit it big after drafting only one player of any significance on the fifth round in this century -- Verron Haynes in 2002.

In 2007, though, they drafted William Gay of Louisville who has become their starting left cornerback. In '08, they drafted Dixon. This year, they drafted cornerback Joe Burnett on the fifth round.

Burnett intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards to the 3 to set up their first touchdown Thursday night. He looked as though he knew what he was doing while running.

He also is getting the main opportunity to return punts. While he did return one for 13 yards Thursday night, he had a bit of trouble when he fumbled after running into a teammate.

But, all in all, Burnett looks like not only a keeper but a potentially dynamic player for the Steelers.
Special teams

If Daniel Sepulveda keeps punting the way he did against Arizona, those who criticized the Steelers for using draft picks in the fourth and sixth rounds in 2007 to get him will be proven wrong.

The Steelers won a Super Bowl despite their punting woes last season, which Sepulveda missed after ACL surgery in August. Combined with the improved punt coverage that saved that unit last season, their punting game could rank among the stronger parts of the team.
The Position Battles:

Running Back Isaac Redman

The undrafted rookie from Bowie State (pictured) had 10 carries for 32 yards Thursday night, but more important, two of those carries went for scores. The Steelers haven't had an effective goal-line back since Jerome Bettis. Could Redman be The Man in the end zone?

Receiver Shaun McDonald

The previous time the Steelers signed a former Lions player, it worked out well as center Jeff Hartings helped bring home the franchise's fifth Lombardi Trophy. McDonald, a seven-year veteran, spent the past two seasons with Detroit and caught everything that was thrown his way Thursday when he led the Steelers with six catches for 69 yards.

Cornerback Joe Burnett

The Steelers look like they have found another fifth-round gem in Central Florida's Joe Burnett. He had one of the biggest plays of the game Thursday when he intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards to set up the Steelers' first touchdown.

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Old 08-15-2009, 07:39 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers 2nd-year QB Dixon shows off arm and maturity in strong outing vs. Cardin

I was VERY impressed with our rooks on Thursday night. Dixon played exceptionally well and showed a lot of gut and poise out there. He also proved that he is quite capable of throwing the ball with velocity and accuracy and doesn't have to use his legs to make plays.

We need a goal liner and Redman just might be that guy.

Mike Wallace - what more can I say? He's fast, smart and can make plays. I was impressed with him from what I saw in camp and even more impressed during the game Thursday night. Definitely a keeper.

I was a huge supporter of bringing Shaun McDonald here and have no doubts whatsoever that he is going to be a valuable asset to the O. He's a crafty little (literally) bugger and if Ben can get the ball anywhere near him, he's going to make the play 99.9% of the time.

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Old 08-15-2009, 08:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers 2nd-year QB Dixon shows off arm and maturity in strong outing vs. Cardin

I thought I could see Dixon getting more and more comfortable as he played. With more playing time he will just get better and better. I thought his throw in the middle of the field to Wallace was the play of the game.

Wallace impressed me as well, not only is he fast, but seemed to run good routs. If Dixon had not under thrown the ball when he was open in the end zone that would have been a TD.

I have been a fan of Burnett's for a while now and was not disappointed.

Thank God for Sepulveda. I hope they wrap that leg in bubble wrap when he leaves the field.

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Old 08-15-2009, 11:12 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers 2nd-year QB Dixon shows off arm and maturity in strong outing vs. Cardin

That article said tank was 240.....Try more like 260.........
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