It took every last second of the 60 minutes for the Pittsburgh Steelers to secure their first victory of the season without Ben Roethlisberger under center. It took his replacement, Mike Vick, about 52 minutes into the game before finally playing well enough for the Steelers to move the ball and finish on offense, at least through the air.
The 15-year veteran led the Steelers on two touchdown drives of 72 and 80 yards in the final eight minutes and two seconds of the game, coming from behind multiple times to secure a 24-20 victory.
Prior to the start of that first drive, Vick had just 84 passing yards on 17 passing attempts, and had been brought down for a sack three times, having failed to add any rushing yards, which is obviously a rarity for the most successful scrambling quarterback in the history of the position.
But things certainly turned around in that eight-minute span, and it began like a lightning strike. Building off a kick return out to the 28-yard line by Dri Archer, Vick ran the play that Roethlisberger called, a deep shot to Markus Wheaton off a double move to get past the cornerback.
The pair hooked up for the first and only time of the night as the third-year receiver raced through the secondary for a 72-yard touchdown, his first score of the season and the longest play of his career by a good margin.
Earlier in the game, Wheaton had been the recipient of two targets, both of them off the mark, and the latter turning the receiver into a defensive back to break up a potential interception, one of about three or four that the Chargers defense failed to convert on.
But with that touchdown, the Steelers drew even after the defense had given up a six-minute touchdown drive, and the tenor of the game changed. The defense held the Chargers to a field goal on their final possession, giving Vick about two and a half minutes with two timeouts to make something happen.
In truth, the Steelers largely turned to their best player, running back Le’Veon Bell, to make things happen, whose one-yard touchdown on a direct snap out of the wildcat won the game. But it was on Vick’s arm, and his legs, that the team largely got down the field to set that opportunity up.
Making key throws to Darrius Heyward-Bey for 15 yards on third and one and then to Heath Miller down to the one-yard line for 16 yards on third and 10, Vick stepped up as a quarterback when he had to, but he also used his legs, for the first and only time of the game, when given the chance.
The Steelers were facing a critical down on third and six from the 41-yard line when the Chargers defense failed to contain the pocket. Vick took the opportunity to race up the middle of the field for a 24-yard gain. Three plays later, he hit Miller to set up the game-winning run, turning over a horrendous quarterbacking display through most of the game into a storybook ending, and a much-needed victory.