Ben Roethlisberger’s crazy night in Georgia could create an opening at quarterback for the Steelers. If he is charged with sexual assault, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no choice but to suspend him.

Mike Vick was suspended for being CHARGED with animal abuse.

So, who plays quarterback if Ben can’t?

The heir apparent is Dennis Dixon, who has started one game at quarterback since November of 2007.

He’s an intriguing guy who had a lot of success in college and was, at one time, considered a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but, as of right now, with Charlie Batch a free agent, he’s the third best QB on the roster.

Antwaan Randle El is number two.

That’s right. All five foot nine of him. He was a much better college quarterback than Dixon and he’s only started one less game in the NFL.

During his first go around with the Steelers, I had a lot of conversations with Randle El about his desire to prove that he could be a successful NFL quarterback. He wasn’t shy about telling me that he could do everything that Michael Vick could do only better.

Vick was just beginning to emerge as a star.

Right up until the time he left, Randle El belived that he would eventually get a chance at quarterback.

Obviously, Randle El’s height works against him. Not necessarily on the field but definitely in the minds of the coaches.

Doug Flutie almost singlehandedly beat a lot of NFL coaches who said he was too short to play in the NFL.

The level of confidence in Dixon expressed by talk show callers and blog posters is pretty amazing when you consider that he played one game and that game ended with an overtime field goal by the Ravens that was set up by an interception.

Dixon may end up being a good NFL quarterback and Randle El may be too short, but it says here that right now, Randle El, if given the chance, would give the Steelers a better chance to win.

Maybe it’s because I’m 5’6″‘, but I’ll never understand the height issue. Flutie had to go to Canada because every time he threw an incomplete pass it was blamed on his height..

When he finally came back to the NFL, all he did was lead NFL quarterbacks in winning percentage for a couple of years.

Randle El played at Indiana. That’s the Big Ten. There are a lot of really tall linemen in the Big Ten and lots of them go to the NFL.

He left Indiana, according to the 2002 Steelers media guide, as the “most statistically productive dual threat quarterback in NCAA history.”

He passed for more than 6,000 yards.

How did he get the ball over all of those big lineman?

Tom Bradley, Penn State’s widely acclaimed defensive coordinator said he gave up trying to figure out ways to stop him.

But, for some reason, there’s not an NFL offensive coordinator who can figure out how to make that translate to NFL success.

It may be crazy to suggest that the Steelers even consider trying to make Randle El a quarterback, but it’s no crazier than suggesting that Dixon would do any better.

If Ben is gone from the roster tomorrow, Randle El instantly becomes the best quarterback on the team.

What all of this means, of course, is that, if the Steelers aren’t looking around for an experienced quarterback right now, they sure should be.

  • Rob H.

    Why not bring back Byron Leftwhich? He played well in his limited chances with the Steelers in 2008. I also think it’s time to part ways with Charlie Batch, who is never healthy when the Steelers actually need him. Also Derek Anderson might be able to produce in offense that has as many weapons as Pittsburgh does.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      If Roethlisberger can’t play, all bets are off.

  • Jason C


    I know Batch is injury prone, but why not give him a shot at Q.B.?

  • HolyMolySchmoly

    There are three things here that need pointing out.
    1) Doug Flutie played in the NFL many years ago. Todays NFL cant tolerate a small QB, everyone is bigger, faster, stronger. The game has simply evolved.
    2) Randel El has 9 years of NFL practice mainly at reciever/special teams. Dennis Dixon has 3 years of NFL practice mainly at QB. Ill take the 3 year guy any day of the week, it just makes more sense.
    3)I get that this is your blog and your most certainly entitled to your opinion and such, but dude, your throwing out some controversy just in your first couple posts. Im just saying, i was born and raised in pittsburgh, and wrong is wrong no matter who you, sports athlete or not. But man your just strait up bashing people. I used to respect you as a reporter but your changing my opinion of you. Im not saying you shouldnt speak your mind. Im just saying bashing guys for no particular reason (wrong deeds or no wrong deeds) is just not cool.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      No. Not morons but he proved every one of them wrong. Have any stats from Eli Manning’s first couple of years or any number of other successful quaerterbacks who weren’t labeled suspect before they threw a pass?

    • JohnSteigerwald

      I bashed Ben. There’s not a more deserving guy out there.

  • TONY D

    If Dennis D or Randle El (just play along with me here) has to play QB for any extended period of time, we’d be in trouble for many reasons, but the biggest one might be the fact that Bruce A and Mike T would be the ones creating a game plan for them.

    Saw the Baltimore game with the less-than-vanilla offense, and heard the excuses that they didn’t want to get Dennis D hurt. If Dennis Dixon got hurt, then we probably would’ve lost that game. So they didn’t design roll-outs and naked bootlegs for him, etc. Dixon’s passing got more erratic as that game went on, and even though it was clear his confidence was wavering, the genius coaches kept making him drop back and read arguably the most complicated defensive schemes in the NFL.

    Oh yeah, we lost the game any way.

    “You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game.” — Herm E.

  • Kravon

    Good stuff on this blog. Keep it going.

  • DavidMcGwire

    This should put the Doug Flutie talk to rest.

    I’m going to compare two players careers…..

    Player A was traded on draft day to one of the top teams in the league with a noted franchise QB….after spending two years with that team he was traded and played poorly as a backup before being released after 5 years in the league. He plays in a lower class league and is legendary…his play there earns him a spot back in the NFL. He shines in relief of the starting quarterback and earns his rightful chance to start. He went on to play 2 very strong statistical seasons before being traded one last time and handing the reigns over to a young future Superbowl winning QB. He was 5’10”

    Player B was drafted by one of the top teams in the league with a noted franchise QB…After spending two years with that team and played poorly as a backup before being released after 5 years in the league. He catches on with a lower class league and thrives…earning a spot with a playoff caliber NFL team. He shines in relief of the starting quarterback and earns his rightful chance to start. He went on to play 2 very strong statistical seasons before handing the reigns over to a young future Superbowl winning QB. He was 6’4″

    Player A = Doug Flutie
    Player B = Tommy Maddox

    Very similar careers….neither of which has anything to do with Antwaan Randle El. So why are we talking about Doug Flutie as a reason for why Randle El deserves a chance?

    • JohnSteigerwald

      My point was that a quarterback who’s not at least 6 feet tall can succeed in the league if given as many chances to fail as guys who are not labeled non-prospects because of their height. Flutie is a glaring example.

  • VinceL

    If ARE is the best QB on the team after Ben,the Steelers are in deep trouble.What else is he going to tell you?”No way I can play QB in the NFL John”? Flutie was OK in his brief opportunity.Going back 50 years, name a successful starting QB who was 5-9.Maybe Fran Tarkenton but I always thought he was overrated.Ben is 6-5 and he still has many passes batted down.I don’t care how mant yards El had in college.The NFL is a different game.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      I said that, if Ben can’t play, I think Randle El is their best quarterback right now. I didn’t say that was good news. I just think he would be better than Dixon. Just an opinion. It will never happen. I realize that.

  • CV

    What did Flutie do to prove anyone in the NFL wrong? He never won a playoff game and never really held down a starting job. I may be wrong but I believe he left the NFL because they wanted him to hold a clip board. Regardless, it doesn’t make your Randle El assertion any less absurd. He’s not their fourth best wr much less their second best qb. He’s lost a step, still runs sloppy routes and yes, he’s still short. Steelers took a step back this week IMO…

  • OneEyedBlindMan

    If Ben is gone tomorrow I’d rather see Bill Stull from Pitt play QB than Randle El, and I can’t see.

  • CV

    Flutie had plenty of opportunity in the NFL from 1986-89 and threw 15 Tds and 16 ints…you’re right …all those coaches that passed on him were morons…

  • CV

    Seriously are you drinking this afternoon or is there some other substance you’re on…if Randle El is the next Flutie, then by all means trade him to Cleveland… Flutie completed 54% of his passes and had a 76 passer rating in the NFL…strip away his one good year in buffalo and those numbers diminish greatly…and Randle El is no Doug Flutie…if Tomlin named Randle El the back up he’d be run out of town and rightly so…enjoy your scotch or whatever it was that prompted you to post this shite

    • JohnSteigerwald

      Flutie was 36 when he got his chance. For the two and a half years that he was a starter after that, he had the highest winning percentage among NFL qbs. I’m not saying El is the next anything. I’m simply saying that the NFL geniuses have been wrong. Kent Graham being a perfect example. Not to mention a long list of #1 picks like Ryan Leaf, who by the way, was really, really tall

  • NuttingHostage

    I don’t see Randle El getting even a millisecond of thought as a potential QB for the Steelers outside of gimmick plays.

    My guess is if it appears Ben will be lost for part or all of the upcoming season they will look to add an additional veteran QB to the mix. Possibly reacquiring Leftwich from Tampa.

    But never in a million years will Randle El be given any consideration.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      I agree. Maybe Kent Graham is still out there.

      • Siggy

        Kent Graham got 5 starts as a Steelers QB. How many did Kordell get again?

        Please John, enough of the re-writing of history. Your hero Kordell failed. Period.

        • JohnSteigerwald

          I made no mention of Kordell Stewart. But since you mentioned him. He started for four full seasons and went to two AFC Championshiop games and a pro Bowl and was named his team’s MVP and finished with the most votes for MVP in the AFC in 2001. Just for the record.

  • Siggy

    Randle El is over the hill. He was a flop in Washington and he’s now in his 9th season. And you expect him to be able to play QB when by all accounts in Washington his quickness has started to decline?

    Logic John, start using it.

    Kordell-Lite isn’t going to happen.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      I’m just sayng that right now, I think he’d be better thsn Dixon. I know it’s not going to happen.

      • NuttingHostage


        I will bet you $1 million that Dixon is a better QB now than Randle El.

        It’s not even close buddy.

        Hey, please consider some content on TIWRB. – I’d love to discuss that along with the bravest man in sports along with the best management team in baseball if not all of sports with you.

        • JohnSteigerwald

          You basing that on the game he played against the Ravens or his college career. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not predicting that El is going to be the Steelers QB, or by any means suggesting that he should be. I’m just saying that I think El would have been better than a lot of guys who got chance after chance in the NFL. We’ll have lots of time to talk about the Idiots Who Run Baseball

          • NuttingHostage

            Ahh. I see what you are getting at. Had Randle El been given a chance to develop as a QB right out of college….who knows what might have happened. OK, I’m good with that. But right now, I’d take Dixon over Randle El everyday of the week and twice on Sunday. – And who knows, maybe Dixon could be a productive NFL QB. – I have a feeling we may find out soon.

            Looking forward to TIWRB talk.

      • saneman

        If it gets down to any of these QBs, say goodbye to the SB. I do say height can be overrated at times. Randle El is one of my favorite Steelers, and I would be open to giving him a chance to be a slash and maybe some preseason game experience at QB. But Dixon would get my nod over Randle El as #2.

        here is my wishlist:
        1) Steelers put the fear of whatever into Ben’s head and use this incident as leverage to start ordering him around to prove himself. Make him come to camp in shape and make sure he develops good study habits. I guarantee he will have an even better season.
        2) If Ben is charged, but is not convicted, hope that Oakland cuts JaMarcus and will be tempted to give multip0le first rounders for Big Ben.

        As much as I am not liking Big Ben right now, I sure hope they cna find a way to fix Ben’s attitude.

  • Duke76

    “Ben Roethlisberger’s crazy night in Georgia could create an opening at quarterback for the Steelers. If he is charged with sexual assault, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no choice but to suspend him.

    Mike Vick was suspended for being CHARGED with animal abuse.”

    Not exactly – Roger Goodell suspended Vick after Vick entered intoi a plea agreement with the federal prosecutors

    “Goodell suspended the Atlanta Falcons quarterback indefinitely without pay Friday, just hours after Vick filed a plea agreement that portrayed him as less involved than three co-defendants and guilty mainly of poor judgment for associating with them.”

    Whether or not it is proper to toss out questions as to whether Mr. Roethlisberger was on drugs last week is matter of opinion – some of us have different opinions on that, but it’s your blog

    However, although you are “new at this blogging thing” is it too much to expect you to get undisputed facts straight?

    • Siggy

      Graham began his NFL career with the Giants in 1992, and was thrust into the starting lineup during the season after Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler both went down to injuries. Although Graham also was injured during the year, he managed to start three games for the Giants that year and play in three others. He stayed with the team for two more years, only getting one more start, before leaving to play with the Detroit Lions in 1995. After not seeing any action, he signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 1996, where he eventually became the team’s starting quarterback. In two separate stints as Cardinals quarterback, Graham threw for a combined 3,032 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

      Graham returned to the Giants in 1998 to serve as backup to Danny Kanell, who had led the team to the NFC East title the previous year. After Week 11, with the Giants sitting at 3-7, Graham was elevated to the starter’s job over Kanell. He made an immediate impact by winning two of his first three starts, then led the Giants to a major upset over the then-undefeated Denver Broncos in Week 15 by throwing a late touchdown pass to Amani Toomer to clinch the victory. Graham led the Giants to a 5-1 record in the last 6 games, and led them to within one win of the playoffs at 8-8.

      Graham started the 1999 season as the starter, but was replaced by offseason acquisition Kerry Collins after his ninth start. He would never play another down for the Giants, as he was released after the season.

      That was Kent Graham prior to Pittsburgh John.

      I don’t see many legitimate chances to start there, certainly nothing compared to what your hero was given from 1997-2002.

      • JohnSteigerwald

        He never came close to having the kind of seasons Stewart had in 97 and 01…..That’s old news. The pointis that he was given multiple chances. Flutie had to go to Canada and wait until he was 36 to get a chance.

  • DavidMcGwire

    John, I’m not saying your wrong, but I’m having a hard time believing you’re right about this one.

    Here’s why….with the quarterback fiasco Washington had in his first year (and since to a lesser extent) and management realizing that, though skilled, they had heavily overpaid for the difference he was making to the overall team’s success; with that, don’t you think they would have looked into getting him time at QB if he was capable?

    At Indiana he was magnificent, but alot of it was due to speed…Speed that wouldn’t translate at the NFL level. We’ve seen countless QB’s that dominated college in the same way find no success in the NFL….Andre Ware, Chris Leak, Charlie Ward, Tommie Frazier (possibly Tim Tebow) to name a few.

    At this point I can’t see any evidence that would back up saying Randle El would be a better option. From all accounts, Coach Tomlin ioves Dixon’s progression and he played well in his one start. On the contrary, it has been 8 years since Randle El played a game at the position….Never has anyone had that kind of layoff and found any type of success.

    I honestly believe there are teams in the NFL that Dennis Dixon could start for….I can’t say the same about Antwaan.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      I can’t argue with what you said about Randle El’s NFL experience. My point is that he shouldn’t have been dismissed as a QB. There was a time when a guy like Vince Young wouldn’t have been given a chance. Not because he’s black but because he doesn’t fit the mold of an NFL quarterback. For every small guy you can give me who failed, I can give you 10 six foot-four busts. I would also say that El is much more about quickness than speed and his quickness more than translates. At least it did when he came out of college. There is no evidence whatsoever to back up your contention that Dixon could start for some teams in the NFL. He’s played one more game at the position than El, you and I have. Believe me. I realize it’s never going to happen. All I know is that guys like Kent Graham were given chance after chance to fail. I just think a guy like Randle El deserved at least one.

      • DavidMcGwire

        I agree with most of what you’re saying….I just know that for every quarterback that busts…there are even more that lose their jobs for taking a chance on a quarterback that busts. Something is evidently keeping coaches from wanting to go there with Randle El…and I’m not sure it’s height alone. Drew Brees has shown us that you don’t have to be a giant to succeed at that position.

        I guess the point I’m getting at is that in my opinion, most people that don’t get a chance in today’s NFL don’t deserve one.

        • JohnSteigerwald

          Do you think Kent Graham deserved all the chances he got?

  • Chad

    Wow..New England quarterback AND Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Brady????

    • JohnSteigerwald

      Whoops. Bradley, of course. I’m so ashamed.

  • Doug

    You are in the deep end and taking on water fast, my friend.

    I know its a blog, but to mention Randle El and NFL QB in the same sentence, shoot, my 4 year old son could right a better blog.

    If this is any indication of what your book will be like…I am not buying.

    • JohnSteigerwald

      That’s what they said about Doug Flutie, while guys like Kent Graham were starting at QB in the NFL. You don’t think Randle El could do as well as Brady Quinn? Are you sure your four year old son didn’t RIGHT this post?

      • JohnSteigerwald

        All of those smart NFL coaches decided Flutie was too small and he should have played in the NFL for 16 or 17 years.

        • DavidMcGwire

          1.) Doug Flutie was never more than average in the NFL.

          2.) It’s a reach to assume that Randle El didn’t get an opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL simply because of his height.

          3.) Under your reasoning, every late round QB taken deserves a chance….because hey…look at Tom Brady….#199 overall….

          • JohnSteigerwald

            Doug Flutie had to leave the NFL for 9 years and didn’t get a chance to play until he was 36. In his first two years back in the league the Bills went 22-6 with him as their starter. He had a 3,000 yards passing and 270 yards rushing when he was 38 years old. How many 6’3″ QBs came and went in those nine years and got chance after chance before they were finally bounced out of the league? If he was able to do what he did at 38, imagine what he could have done at 28. It’s not a reach to suggest that El’s height held him back. It’s the ONLY thing that could have held him back. Call me crazy, but I think the most prolific QB in NCAA history deserved a look. Someone pointed out that EL was in Washington and they never saw fit to try him. I wouldn’t expect anybody to give him a shot now. And what indication is there that anybody in Washington had a clue? I’m just saying that if Ben’s not on the roster, as of right now, EL is their best QB because I do think he would be better than Dixon. I can’t prove it and he’ll never get the chance. Just an opinion.

          • DavidMcGwire

            I can probably tell you what Doug Flutie could have done when he was 28….probably something similar to what he did when he was 27….Play in 11 games for the New England Patriots…throw 8 TD’s and 10 Int’s.

            Doug Flutie’s career is VERY comparable to Tommy Maddox’s…so if that is going to be your justification for giving Randle El a chance….that’s a serious reach.

          • saneman

            Even though I am skeptical of Randle El becoming a replacement QB at this stage, I agre it is puzzlin why the Redskins never considered it consid4ering the awful play they got at QB over the last few years.

          • JohnSteigerwald

            Too small.

          • Brad

            Dixon played against a pretty good Ravens team and atleast got us to overtime. If I remember correctly he threw for a TD and also ran one in. Didn’t Flacco throw for almost 300 on our D? How is that Dixon’s fault? I give the guy credit. He played a Great game.

          • JohnSteigerwald

            He did well, all things considered. Not well enough for people to get carried away and think that he’s ready to be a good NFL starting QB.

          • Matt

            Dixon is not the answer. In the so called great game that he had as a starter, he only completed 46% of his passes despite not once dropping back and reading the defense. If those are fans expectations of a starting QB, Randle El can go out and do at least that any day of the week, even if he was 5’2. I know everyone loves the back up QB, but to say Dixon had a good game is asinine.

          • DG

            I’m really glad you said this, because I was reading this post and the comments remembering I thought Dixon looked actually pretty good during this game, and that the D just couldn’t shut down Flacco, letting them convert on what, 4th and 18?, 21?

          • Mike

            Watching Keny Graham play was like watching a bad saturday night live skit. Thanks John for reminding people of what we could have,or should i say did have,behind center. He was awful.

      • JohnSteigerwald

        The same things were being said about Flutie while he was playing in Canada and the NFL was giving chances to a bunch of guys named Kent Graham