Contrary to popular belief, the season is not over.
Has the landscape shifted? Oh boy, yes it has.
But over? Not quite.
Hopefully, the “sky is falling” feeling has dissipated now that is seems certain Ben Roethlisberger will only miss 4-6 weeks, not the entire season as originally feared. But that’s still a quarter of a season. Ask the Baltimore Ravens how important a couple weeks are. They’re 0-3, a season potentially lost before it ever had much chance to begin.
Until Roethlisberger returns, it’ll be Michael Vick under center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. We can talk about adding another quarterback all we want. Sure, maybe they will. But that doesn’t matter. Until #7 comes back out of the tunnel, this is Vick’s offense to run.
The goal is not just for Vick to “manage” the offense. He’s not Ben, not even close, but Vick has talent. His arm is as live as it ever was. His ability to create and extend plays is still on a level most quarterbacks can’t touch. He looked bad yesterday but it’s an ugly spot to try and look good in. On the road against one of the best pass rushes in the NFL? Oof.
Knowing he’ll be the starter, even on a short week, provides a world of comfort for him. In his first two starts last year, Vick threw three touchdowns, no interceptions, and went 1-1. The third, against Buffalo, turned into an ugly blowout.
Vick changes the offense. He isn’t the crisp, efficient passer Roethisberger is. He’s from the go-for-broke mold, chucking it downfield and producing big plays. That might not be the core of a Steelers’ offense but it’s certainly in the wheelhouse – look no further than last week’s win over the San Francisco 49ers. Martavis Bryant hopefully comes back in two weeks. You know he’ll fit in well.
Roethlisberger’s absence makes things one hundred times tougher on the Steelers. There’s no debate about that. Unless the 2008 defense finds a wormhole and teleports in, you can’t expect this group to allow under ten per game like they did Sunday. These games will no longer be won pretty. Todd Haley have to be masterful. There will be instances of failed third down conversions, turnovers and miscommunication where you’ll curse out Vick and want to give up Primanti’s for life to see #7 take the snap.
But this team is talented. Vick isn’t a schlub either. He’ll make plays. His teammates, the with the best running back and wide receiver in the league among them, will rise to the occasion.
The Steelers can win Thursday. They’ve beaten Baltimore with a fill-in for Ben before. That gets them to 3-1 in an underwhelming AFC North where the Cincinnati Bengals seem to be the only other threat.
It’s easy to count this team out. Presume all is lost. That the Steelers have no chance.
That’s when they play their best.