PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Steelers’ starting quarterback Sunday at Tampa Bay will be a player who was cut last weekend or another who was all but ignored during training camp.
The Steelers’ once quarterback-heavy roster thinned out even more Tuesday when Dennis Dixon was lost indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Dixon is expected to have surgery Wednesday and could go on the injured reserve list, which would end his season after two starts _ and two victories.
Dixon was hurt while scrambling for 21 yards late in the first quarter. He stayed in for two more plays, including an 8-yard run, then was lifted on the next possession and didn’t return.
“He planted his leg in the ground and cut inside, and said it felt a little unstable at that point,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “Adrenaline and things of that nature, particularly when it’s a nonimpact injury, it takes a while before you realize that something’s amiss.”
The fear of exposing Dixon to injury while running was one reason he was limited him to only a couple of carries in the season-opening 15-9 victory over Atlanta.
Because Leftwich still was recovering from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee _ he was cut Saturday to free up a roster spot, then returned on Monday _ Batch played the final three quarters at Tennessee. It was Batch’s first extensive game action since 2007.
Batch was the No. 4 quarterback during voluntary workouts and training camp and received almost no work with the starters before playing against Tennessee. If Leftwich hadn’t gotten hurt in the final exhibition game Sept. 2, Batch might have been cut.
“He’s been able to comfortably get through some workouts,” Tomlin said. “Workouts are different from practice, of course, and games, particularly the unanticipated movements that come with football, but we feel comfortable with where he is. We’re going to proceed through the week and see how this thing sorts out.”
Leftwich was the backup when the Steelers won the Super Bowl two seasons ago and has an extensive knowledge of the playbook. He also throws the deep pass better than Batch, and starting him would increase the chances of involving deep threat receiver Mike Wallace in an offense that has yet to score a touchdown in regulation.
The Steelers beat Atlanta 15-9 on Rashard Mendenhall’s 50-yard touchdown run in overtime, and their only scoring in Tennessee came on four field goals by Jeff Reed and an Antonio Brown kickoff return.
The Steelers also may be without right guard Trai Essex (ankle) against Tampa Bay (2-0). If he can’t start, undrafted free agent Doug Legursky would start.