POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 03:11 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2010
PITTSBURGH » Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon is learning there's two speeds played in any NFL game: fast and faster.
He's also discovering that's the pace the NFL coaches go at in making personnel decisions.
With Byron Leftwich mending quickly, Dixon understands he must throw effectively, get plays off quickly and limit his mistakes tomorrow at Tennessee if he's to keep his starting job for the rest of Ben Roethlisberger's four-game suspension.
With those early-season games taking on even more importance than usual because of Roethlisberger's absence, Dixon likely needs to produce more than the nine points the Steelers scored in regulation during their season-opening 15-9 overtime decision over Atlanta.
"I'm going to have to (play better)," said Dixon, the No. 3 QB on the depth chart when training camp began. "I've got to improve day in and day out, on a week-to-week basis, while my number is called."
Dixon didn't play badly enough to lose that game, but he didn't play well enough to win many games.
Leftwich was set to start against the Falcons, Titans, Buccaneers and Ravens while Roethlisberger sat out, only to sprain the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the final preseason game Sept. 2. He could be ready to play as early as Sept. 26 at Tampa Bay, where he played last season, but whether he does might depend on how Dixon does against the Titans.
Dixon is much like Titans quarterback Vince Young in that he is often at his best when he takes off running. However, the former Oregon star was limited to two runs for 4 yards against Atlanta, most likely because the Steelers wanted to lessen the possibility of injury.
Dixon won't say he was playing under restraints, but rather that he was more concerned with managing the offense.
"I'm just trying to make plays out there, regardless of run or pass," he said. "I'm just taking what the defense gives me. ... It's based on instinct pretty much. There's no real, 'You go, run.' You run when you can."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians likes that Dixon got better as the game went along, something that doesn't always occur with a relatively inexperienced quarterback. Dixon was making only his second NFL start, and his first since Nov. 29 at Baltimore.
After going 10-for-16 for 91 yards and an interception in the first half, Dixon completed eight of 10 for 145 yards with no interceptions during the second half, although the Steelers only kicked three field goals until Rashard Mendenhall scored on a 50-yard run in overtime.
"He did a great job, I thought, getting better, catching up to the speed of the game," Arians said. "He had some low throws early because he worked too fast. But I'd rather see low than high because high can get intercepted."
In his two NFL starts to date, Dixon has completed 30 of 52 passes for 381 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That's enough to show wide receiver Hines Ward, the Steelers' most experienced starter on offense, that he's capable of handling the job.
"The more reps Dennis gets, the more comfortable he is going to become and the more we can expand our playbook," Ward said. "There is no question you can't replace a Ben Roethlisberger; he is an elite quarterback. Dennis has great talent and it's him just trying to take advantage of the opportunities that he gets. We are going to ride this thing out with him and see how it goes."
Dixon certainly hopes it goes farther than Tennessee.
"Going week to week, as opposed to a year waiting for the next opportunity, I'm ready for it," Dixon said. "I'm going to have fun in the process."
The NFL says that while there was "unprofessional conduct," New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and his staff acted promptly to correct the situation that arose last weekend when a TV Azteca reporter said she felt uncomfortable in the team's locker room.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday that the league will implement a training program for all 32 teams on proper conduct in the workplace and that the program would be underwritten by Johnson.
The NFL came to its conclusion after interviewing 17 people who were present when the incident occurred involving reporter Ines Sainz, who works for the Mexican network. Sainz was among those interviewed.
Quarterback David Garrard returned to practice yesterday after sitting out Thursday with a strained back.
Garrard said his back "is definitely OK," he just wanted to be smart with it. He says he has been "getting a lot of treatment and they've got it feeling brand new."
The status of defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth for tomorrow's game against the Texans is uncertain because of a sprained ankle.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Haynesworth practiced yesterday, but the team's injury report listed Haynesworth as limited. Haynesworth is officially questionable for tomorrow and the club hasn't said which ankle is hurt.
Haynesworth sprained his ankle during Wednesday's practice and wasn't able to take part in team drills Thursday.
All games Hawaii time tomorrow unless otherwise stated. TV games subject to change. Capsules by Barry Wilner, Associated Press
Time: 10:15 a.m. (KGMB)
Line: Patriots by 3
Darrelle Revis, the Jets' All-Pro cornerback, called Patriots receiver Randy Moss a "slouch" during a word-association game on television in January. Moss didn't take kindly to that description and said Revis would get "60 minutes of this slouch" tomorrow. Not to mention Tom Brady and Wes Welker.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Titans by 5 1/2
Last week, Titans RB Chris Johnson rushed for 142 yards and two TDs as he chases an unprecedented 2,500 yards for the season. He's looking for his 13th straight 100-yard rushing game, one short of the record held by Barry Sanders. Doing it against the strong Pittsburgh run defense would be as impressive.
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Line: Chargers by 7
Known for starting slowly in a season, then coming on, the Chargers used that formula at Kansas City. They fell behind 21-7 and nearly rallied. Rookie RB Ryan Mathews could be a force. The Jags were outscored 61-3 in trips to Seattle and San Francisco last year, so they'll travel this afternoon instead of yesterday.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Panthers by 3 1/2
Despite suffering a concussion in the loss to the Giants, Panthers QB Matt Moore is expected to start. He needs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to run strong. That could happen against rebuilding Tampa, which yielded 230 yards rushing in two games to Stewart and 152 in one to Williams last season.
Time: 7 a.m. (KGMB)
Line: Vikings by 5 1/2
Brett Favre needs two touchdown passes to become the first player with 500, but he looked ordinary against New Orleans. The Dolphins completely shut down Buffalo's runners, none of whom resembles Adrian Peterson. The Dolphins haven't had two straight road wins to start a season in 33 years.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Packers by 13
The side story to this matchup has been Green Bay's need for a running back with Ryan Grant gone for the season with an ankle injury. QB Aaron Rodgers suggested the Packers should deal for the Bills' Marshawn Lynch. The Bills managed just 166 yards of offense in losing to Miami, the worst output in Week 1.
Time: 10:05 a.m.
Line: Broncos by 3 1/2
Two rah-rah coaches, Pete Carroll and Josh McDaniels, go at it. Seattle was helped as much by San Francisco's sloppy ways last week as by its own performance. Still, Matt Hasselbeck completed passes to eight players and the Niners got just two field goals. Denver has won 10 straight home openers.
Time: 10:05 a.m.
Line: Raiders by 3 1/2
Sam Bradford threw 55 times against Arizona, hardly the formula for winning when you have Steven Jackson in the backfield. Look for Jackson to tote the ball plenty. Oakland has have lost five straight home openers. RB Darren McFadden had 150 yards from scrimmage last week, the second most of his career.
Time: 2:20 p.m. (KHNL)
Line: Colts by 5 1/2
As juicy as Manning vs. Manning might be, this game could be decided on the ground. The Colts couldn't stop the Texans' running game and now they are missing key safety Bob Sanders (biceps surgery). Look for the Giants to run Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, and to count on their front four to pressure Peyton.
Time: 7 a.m. (KHON)
Line: Cowboys by 7 1/2
No team was sloppier than the Cowboys were in their loss at Washington, where a fumble was returned for the Redskins' only touchdown and penalties damaged them on both sides of the ball. The Bears benefited from Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson's major mistake and somehow held on.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Falcons by 6 1/2
The Cardinals hope to get back RB Beanie Wells, sidelined with a knee injury. Safety Adrian Wilson had two interceptions, blocked a field goal and came up with a sack last week against the Rams. His matchup with Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who will be honored for making his 1,000th career catch, could be intriguing.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Browns by 2
Rookies Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas keyed the Chiefs' Monday night upset of San Diego. McCluster ran back a punt 100 yards for a TD and Arenas averaged 30 yards on his returns. Last year, the Browns' Joshua Cribbs had two TD kickoff returns of 100 and 103 yards. Anyone think special teams will matter in this one?
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Ravens by 2 1/2
Even though they scored only 10 points in their victory at the Meadowlands, the Ravens showed signs of a balanced offense as key offseason acquisition Anquan Boldin toyed with the Jets' secondary. Cincinnati rushed for only 87 yards against the Patriots and it won't be any easier this week.
Time: 7 a.m.
Line: Eagles by 6
The Lions are without quarterback Matt Stafford, whose right shoulder was hurt in the loss at Chicago. Shaun Hill, a reliable backup, will start. Philly has its own quarterback woes with Kevin Kolb coming off a concussion. Michael Vick was superb in nearly leading a comeback against Green Bay.
Time: 10:15 a.m.
Line: Texans by 3
Both teams need another win to validate strong starts. Houston has won a franchise-high five straight, and if its defense is improved, could be a factor in the stacked AFC South. Washington safety LaRon Landry had 17 tackles in the win over Dallas and CB DeAngelo Hall scored the only touchdown on a fumble return.
Time: 2:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN)
Line: Saints by 5 1/2
The 49ers will retire Jerry Rice's jersey at halftime. If they don't clamp down on turnovers, limit penalties and get more accuracy from QB Alex Smith, this one could be decided by then. The Saints didn't look like Super Bowl champs on offense in the season opener against Minnesota. Does anyone expect that to continue?