Below is a transcription of an interview with Merrill Hoge on the Stan & Guy Show on ESPN Radio 1250 in Pittsburgh Wednesday morning. There's some good stuff in there, and based on the nearly hour long conversation myself and 5020 had with Hoge earlier this offseason, Hoge's comments are consistent with what he had to say to us before training camp or the preseason even commenced. In that interview (which you can read here and here in case you missed it), Hoge actually talks about Batch first when we asked him about who he thought would win the quarterbacking duties while Ben was out. I actually regret this now, but Hoge went on for a bit about his thoughts on the QB situation without really ever talking about Leftwich. Andrew (5020) and I assumed he had just forgotten about the fact that Leftwich was in the mix, so we opted to not include his full thoughts on the subject thinking that he had just had a lapse of memory. Wrong. He has thought and continues to think he's the right guy for the job. Kind of makes RickVa's post last night seem a touch more prescient, if you're one to believe that Hoge is sound with his analysis more often than not.
Anyway, read on or listen (link below).
On the performance of the offensive line against Denver:
"There's a lot of things that jump out when you really have an opportunity to watch the tape. Trai Essex, the right guard, I mean, gosh, I mean, he had such a bad day...this offensive line had such a bad day. The played so high, they got blown off the ball. Your rookie at center, it looks like he's your best football player. When Pouncey, a rookie, is playing in a position and he's most active, most energetic, and plays the best - you've got issues right there. That offensive line has got to...you can't lay on people, I thought they laid on people all game. Trai Essex played high, got blown off the ball. That's just where it starts."
On Dennis Dixon's performance against the Broncos and why he feels he's not ready to lead the Steelers, even for a four game stretch, and on why Charlie Batch is still his choice as the best bet while Roethlisberger serves his suspension:
"When you look at Dennis Dixon, this is the two things that you've got to be consistent if you're going to play in the NFL at that position...really any position, but this one specifically. You better be a good decision maker, and you better be accurate. Now if you use that baseline for this game, he was atrocious. Absolutely atrocious. Can you put the team in his hands based on what you saw? Absolutely not. I mean, he looked as green and as raw as I've seen any quarterback look. And you're very limited when he's on the field from a football perspective. I still believe - and I thought this from the very beginning - I really thought Charlie Batch gives you your best option to execute what you need to do. Do you have some deficiencies up front? You sure do. That's why some people though, 'well use Dixon'. Well, at the end of the day, I've never been in a meeting where we talked about 'listen, let's snap it to our quarterback and now you run around and just make something happen'. This game is about structure, discipline and fundamentals. That's what every play is about. And once you break that, and you get outside those realms, usually bad things happen.
Now, that's what makes Ben so special. He can create and make something happen when a play breaks down. But it's not a design. You don't just sit there and hope and think 'well listen, on this one we'll just see if he runs around and makes a play.' No offensive coordinator, no offensive coaching staff EVER goes into a game trusting that. Now, you know you've got that in the back pocket if things break down. But still, at the end of the day there has to be structure and discipline, and you have to function with that. Obviously Dennis showed none of that"
On Leftwich as the possible starter for the Steelers:
"Leftwich, he still has...there's a reason they got rid of him in Jacksonville. Can he throw the ball? Is he a pure passer? I love the guy from that perspective. But when you look at the half-a-second longer that he holds the ball with the problems you're having up front, he may not make it a month. And your passing game is going to struggle because of it. He's an easy target to blitz."
More on why he thinks Batch is the right guy for the job:
"Now, you look at Charlie Batch, he's the mix of both. The media people go 'well, he doesn't stay healthy'. You need him for four games. I believe it's going to be four games; you're going to need him for four games. And I think Charlie is the guy who is best suited to do that, to calm you down. And I believe the players believe in him the most too. I think you have to have that temperature of your team. I really sense that Mike Tomlin has a good sense of that. So I would not be surprised if it was Charlie Batch. I believe watching what I've seen, if you need some stability, that's where you would find it in Charlie Batch."