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Wednesday Practice Report: Dixon the center of attention as Pittsburgh prepares for Baltimore

By Inside Pittsburgh Sports
Dennis Dixon had a busy practice in his first day as the Steelers’ backup quarterback. With Ben Roethlisberger practicing on a limited basis due to his latest concussion and Charlie Batch recovering from broken wrist surgery, Dixon took the majority of snaps at Wednesday’s workout.
Dixon even took snaps with the scout team because the Steelers did not sign a practice squad quarterback until after practice.

“I feel good,” Dixon said after practice.
Dixon got plenty of media attention Wednesday because there’s a remote chance he’ll start Sunday night when the Steelers (6-4) play the Ravens (5-5) at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
The Steelers fully expect Roethlisberger to play even though he sustained his fourth known concussion since 2006. But in the remote chance Roethlisberger isn’t cleared to play in this crucial AFC North showdown, Dixon will start.
“Basically, I haven’t been in a real live game,” said Dixon, a second-year pro whose only NFL appearance came in a mop-up role in the last game of the 2008 regular season, a 31-0 win over the Cleveland Browns.
“So I’m looking at this as a challenge. I see it like life. It’s a test. You have to be ready for all your tests in life. So if someone wants to make me take that test Sunday, I have to be willing to answer the questions.”
IVY GETS A FEEL FOR BOTH SIDES OF RIVALRY
In his first game as a Steeler, cornerback Corey Ivy will play in one of the NFL’s most heated rivalries. But Ivy already knows all about the Pittsburgh-Baltimore feud because he played for the Ravens the past three seasons.
A journeyman who’s now been on five teams in his nine-year career, Ivy was signed Tuesday by the Steelers, along with journeyman linebacker Rocky Boiman, primarily to play on special teams.
“Going against the Ravens, it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Ivy said. “It probably won’t sink in until Sunday when we get to the stadium and I walk into the visitor’s locker room.
“It’s going to be strange, because there are lot of guys on that team who are my friends. But we won’t be friends during the game.”
DID DEFENSE HAVE A COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN?
They key play in overtime this past Sunday when the Steelers lost 27-24 in Kansas City was the 61-yard completion from quarterback Matt Cassel to wide receiver Chris Chamber. That big play moved the ball to the Steelers’ 4-yard line.
On the next snap, the Chiefs kicked the game-winning field goal.
Immediately after the game, some of the Steeler defenders said they didn’t get the defensive call and subsequently were caught off guard.
But according to coach Mike Tomlin, there wasn’t a communication problem.
“(Defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau told those guys what we were going to call on third down before we even took the field that series,” Tomlin said. “So as far as I’m concerned, knowledge of the call was not an issue in that circumstance. They were given that call before the defense took the field to start that series.”
LeBeau, however, says there was some confusion.
“I believe there was some,” LeBeau said. “And that’s something we have to do better. That can happen in games when there’s a hurry huddle.”
On that play, the Chiefs didn’t huddle.
“We work on that every practice. Our guys have done a good job (against that),” LeBeau said. “But I do believe we had some confusion on that snap.”
THE LATEST ON THE INJURY FRONT
The Steelers got some good news Wednesday when defensive end Travis Kirschke returned to practice, even though it was on a limited basis. Kirschke has missed the last three games with a strained calf muscle.
There’s a good chance Kirschke will play against the Ravens.
However, strong safety Troy Polamalu and left guard Chris Kemoeatu missed practice as they recover from sprained knees. It’s very doubtful that Polamalu will play in Baltimore. Kemoeatu definitely will not.
Over in Baltimore, coach John Harbaugh is hoping to have star linebacker Terrell Suggs back. Suggs missed Sunday’s home loss to the Indianapolis Colts with a knee injury.
“We are hoping he can play,” Harbaugh said of Suggs. “He’s got the kind of knee that (the Steelers) have had some experience with as well (with Polamalu). We are hoping he can do it and he is preparing like crazy, both with the mental stuff and with the physical stuff to try and do it.”
Polamalu missed four games earlier this year with a sprained medial collateral ligament. He’s now out with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament.
Suggs’ injury is a sprained MCL.
PALKO SIGNED TO PRACTICE SQUAD
As expected, the Steelers signed quarterback Tyler Palko to their practice squad. Palko signed late Wednesday afternoon after the Steelers’ practiced.
Palko, a former Pitt star, was in training camp with the Arizona Cardinals this summer before being released prior to the regular season. He originally signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007.
Palko spent four games on the Saints’ active roster as the third quarterback and the remainder of the season on New Orleans’ practice squad. He did not play in 2008 after being released by the Saints in training camp.
The Steelers made room for Palko on their practice squad by releasing rookie defensive tackle Steve McLendon.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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