In this business, sometimes it sucks to be right. Unless you are a pandering homer (and there are quite a few who populate the sports radio dials across the country) you have to say critical things about the hometown teams. Or you occasionally have to make predictions you believe in, even if you don’t want them to come true.
Enter Mike Vick. On the day of his signing, I assured Steeler fans that Vick would play meaningful minutes for the Steelers at some point this year. I was hoping those games would be fewer in number &/or later in the season. But with Ben Roethlisberger’s long history of absorbing injury and missing just a game here or there, it should have been considered a miracle that he he was able to play in all of Pittsburgh’s games the last two seasons. Even though the pass protection has improved the last few seasons, and Roethlisberger has cut down on his time holding the football, he was overdue for a knee problem, or a shoulder issue, or ankle sprain of some sort
And with Vick being the lightning rod for attention that he is, this was destined to happen. Vick will now likely be the starting QB in Pittsburgh for the next 4-6 weeks after Roethlisberger suffered an apparent MCL injury during the team’s 12-6 win over the Rams Sunday.
Yuck. It even looks ugly to read in print.
For those Steeler fans who weren’t already turned off by Vick’s presence on the roster, now you have to make the decision if you actually want to root for him as your quarterback for the next month or so. It was easier to rationalize when he was tucked away on the bench behind Roethlisberger. I’m not judging either way. I’m not here to tell you what standards you should have for your team or your personal level of tolerance. That’s up to you. I just know I can’t go waving a Terrible Towel around town for this guy.
I think I made my opinions on Vick pretty clear http://insidepittsburghsports.com/story/benz-michael-vick-paying-his-debt-to-society-doesnt-mean-that-youve-paid-your-debt-to-humanity/ I was against the Steelers signing him. His actions involving that dog fighting ring were too depraved for me to ever forgive. He’s got a rotten history before that too (that Ron Mexico nickname was funny, but the story sure wasn’t). And I think he should still be in jail.
But from a football standpoint I understood it. He was the best back-up QB available on the market and they were in need after Bruce Gradkowski’s season ending injury. So I get the decision from a purely X&O standpoint.
Or at least I thought I did. Yeah, Vick was 5-of-6 in St. Louis. But he threw for just 38 yards. He almost fumbled away a possession. He nearly threw a pick. And that potent Steelers offense became meek the moment Ben went out. Suddenly all the weapons Pittsburgh has collected didn’t feel as explosive when the wrong guy was pulling the trigger.
To be fair, “the wrong guy” could be pretty much anyone else on the planet whose name isn’t Roethlisberger, Brady, or Rodgers. But the pressing question in reality for Mike Tomlin and company is-”Can Vick be good enough” so that the Steelers don’t fall out of the AFC playoff race over the next 4-6 weeks.
Sure Vick can still run a little. And he still has a strong arm. But can he command the no huddle and run Todd Haley’s offensive structure with the same precision and accuracy that Roethlisberger has the last two years? Will he nimbly involve all of Pittsburgh’s receiving options the way Big Ben did?
And despite two solid performances in a row, are we ready to believe the Steeler defense has evolved to the point that it can carry the team to multiple victories holding opponents to under twenty points or so?
I’m not. That unit seems to be improving. But as coach Tomlin so adeptly pointed out before the Rams game: “Foles is Foles.” Yes, coach. Unfortunately for St. Louis he is. And in San Francisco they are also likely saying “Kaepernick is Kaepernick.”
Well, come to think of it, no. Niner fans are probably saying worse than that after this weekend.
With the way the NFL has gone recently, the Steelers will probably go 2-2 or 3-3 during Ben’s absence. It doesn’t appear that any team aside from New England is going to be good enough to rattle off a long win streak. And apparently no one is bad enough to bottom out and lose 5-or-6 in row.
So who knows? Maybe splitting the games Roethlisberger misses will be good enough. But we all asked when Vick was signed “would he be worth the trouble” as a back up QB.
I guaranteed that you’d have a chance to find out. I’m far less willing to guarantee a positive result.