Three Steelers to watch tonight vs. Panthers Beaver County Times
Thursday September 2, 2010 08:32 AM


8th-year quarterback

There’s a good chance that in the final preseason game, Leftwich will be back in the starting lineup for the first time since the first exhibition game. If indeed Leftwich is to be the starting QB on opening day, it makes sense that he’d get some reps with the first-team offense.

Leftwich, however, said that regardless of how he’s used tonight, that won’t affect his readiness for Sept. 12 when Atlanta comes to town.

“No, I don’t need to start (tonight),” he said. “I would love to start. I would love to play the whole game. All players feel that way. But to say I need to start so that I'll be successful on Sept. 12, I’m not buying that. I’ll get enough reps (tonight), and I’ll be ready on Sept. 12”

Leftwich, a back-up on the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII team, returned to Pittsburgh in April just before Ben Roethlisberger was suspended four-to-six games. Even though Dennis Dixon was given a chance to compete for the starting job for games Roethlisberger will miss, it’s been Leftwich who’s always been considered the front-runner. He's donme nothing to suggest otherwise.


Rookie running back

Dwyer was clearly one of the biggest disappointments during the first three weeks of the preseason. But he righted himself by rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Broncos. One of his carries went for 40 yards, the longest run by a Steelers back this summer.

Dwyer’s performance in Denver was what the Steelers expected of the former Georgia Tech star who looked so good in the off-season workouts during the spring. But he disappointed the coaching staff by reporting to training camp a few pounds overweight and slightly out of shape. Then once camp started, Dwyer suffered two injuries_ a pulled hamstring in week one and a bruised shoulder in week two _ that stunted his progress.

Before the Denver game, it appeared that Dwyer, a sixth-round draft pick, would be cut. But if he plays well again tonight, he may have a chance to make the final 53-man roster.

Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman are locks. If the Steelers keep four running backs, it will come down to Dwyer or second-year fullback Frank “The Tank” Summers.


3rd-year outside linebacker

Would the Steelers be willing to cut their 2008 Rookie of the Year?

It could happen if the Steelers believe two rookie linebackers have more long-range potential than Bailey, a former Duke star who made the team as an undrafted free agent two years ago.

Bailey has earned his keep with the Steelers the past two seasons strictly as a special teams player. Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t appear that the Steelers’ coaches and scouts have much faith in him when he’s on the field playing linebacker on defense.

Bailey is being pushed for a roster spot by outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, a fourth-round pick out of Ohio State, and inside linebacker Stevenson Sylvester, a fifth-round pick out of Utah. In fact, Sylvester leads the team in tackles through the first three preseason games.

But perhaps Bailey can make a case for himself tonight by doing something special, even if it’s only a big play or two on special teams.