With veteran southpaw Michael Vick now taking over at quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers while starter Ben Roethlisberger is out, offensive coordinator Todd Haley has to change a lot of things and that includes the passing machines used before and after practice.
“We switched all the JUGS machines. We spun them the opposite direction,” Haley said Tuesday.
Due to Roethlisberger being unable to start Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens thanks to a left MCL sprain suffered in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams, Vick will become the first left-handed quarterback to take a regular season snap for Steelers since Allie Sherman in 1943. That was the year that the Steelers merged with the Philadelphia Eagles and they were known as the Steagles.
“I think you become a little more left handed formationally,” Haley said Tuesday about working a game plan up for a left-handed Vick. “Like I said, when I call plays, everything is based off of the left hash mark when you have a right-handed quarterback, because generally you want your three-receiver side out to the field. So, when a lefty is in there, I think it kind of flips in your brain. We had a game plan one day that was funny. We kept writing three to the right instead of three to the left, but we felt comfortable today.”
Even the roles of the Steelers offensive linemen will change this week with Vick under center as right tackle Marcus Gilbert now becomes the quarterback’s blindside protector. Haley was asked to talk about that facet of the offense changing as it relates to having a left-handed quarterback.
“Everybody has to adjust a little bit. We’ve been in enough left formations with Ben under center that I think Marcus understands when he is the open tackle and when he’s not,” Haley said. “Again, do your job to the best of your ability and you should be alright.”
Gilbert has indeed done his job for the Steelers through the team’s first three games as he’s yet to give up a sack and only allowed six pressures. Thursday night, however, Gilbert will be facing his kryptonite in Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Through the first three games of the season, Dumervil has recorded just one sack and with the Ravens entering Thursday night winless, you can bet he will be looking to forward to facing Gilbert.
With the righty-lefty changes now likely all in place, the team will practice once more on Wednesday before playing Thursday night. Haley talked Tuesday about what will take place over the course of the forthcoming 48 hours when it comes to making sure Vick is totally prepared for the game.
“We will just sit down tomorrow. That will be the biggest thing,” said Haley. “We will kind of go through everything that we practiced. It’s nice in that way that it’s a short week. We’ve kept things pretty streamlined. If there is anything that he loves or anything that he hates, those are the big things to me.”
While Haley and the Steelers have likely been all business on this short week, I hope they didn’t forget to have the ball boys search feverishly for the left-handed footballs after the JUGS machines were set to spin the opposite direction.