There is a small—perhaps not so small—and certainly vocal segment of the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base that has expressed varying degrees of rage over the team’s decision to sign quarterback Michael Vick to serve as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger this season due to injury.
There are a number of concerns relating to Vick for his off-field past, which includes a very serious conviction for financing and participating in a dog fighting ring, actions that included the killing of dogs. But the Steelers as a football team must concern themselves with what he can do on the field.
For this week, his signing has been fortuitous, as he has been an ideal option for the defense in practice to prepare for this afternoon’s game, as they will have to wrangle with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Vick has been serving as the scout team quarterback this week, simulating Kaepernick’s running style to give the defense a feel for what to expect going up against him in the game.
The former first overall pick, Vick is arguably the greatest running quarterback the game has ever seen, becoming the first, and so far only, quarterback to rush for over 1000 yards in a single season, so having him at your disposal to serve in that capacity on your scout team to prepare for your next opponent is certainly a plus.
Of course, his name would never have even been spoken of had it not been for the injury to Bruce Gradkowski during the preseason. Gradkowski had served as Roethlisberger’s backup quarterback for the past two seasons, though he only had to play a total of 10 snaps during the course of those two years.
Vick is not likely to see the field at all for the Steelers, barring a blowout in either direction, or of course if Roethlisberger is to get injured. But his mobility will be an asset this week in the defense’s preparation to deal with Kaepernick.
The Steelers will also have to contend with Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck in back to back weeks later in the year, two other young, mobile quarterbacks who have given other defenses issues when they cannot keep them contained in the pocket. Having Vick on the roster will serve them well then, as well.
Had Gradkowski never been injured, it figures that rookie wide receiver Tyler Murphy would be serving in Vick’s role when the Steelers are coming up against mobile quarterbacks. Murphy, of course, was a quarterback in college who gradually made the transition to wide receiver during training camp before making the 53-man roster.
Whether or not he stays on the roster for much longer is another question, though he would likely be re-signed to the practice squad if unclaimed. The Steelers will be getting back Martavis Bryant in three more games, so Murphy figures to be the one cut at that time. Besides, Vick has the professional experience and resume to get the job done.