Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.
I can imagine there are few who would really consider him ‘missing’, or that anybody misses seeing him in a Steelers uniform, but quarterback Mike Vick, who started three games last season, is yet another player from the team’s roster last season who played a meaningful role and is now absent heading into 2016.
A former first-overall draft selection, Vick, in his mid-30s, is certainly a long way from what he once was, which is why he was available to be signed in August when the Steelers came calling. It had become necessary to find a quarterback when the team’s backup, Bruce Gradkowski, suffered thumb and shoulder injuries that landed him on injured reserve and finished off his season in the preseason.
Vick was installed as the backup, but he was likely called into action far earlier than he was prepared for. Having only had a couple of preseason games under his belt, Ben Roethlisberger went down in the third game of the season, and suddenly was trying to take command of an offense with elite potential and only a month or so into the playbook.
The left-handed slinger often, frankly, looked out of place running the offense, and his judgement was off. While he had a high completion percentage, that was the product of taking on short passes that failed to convert more than a few yards—balls that should never have been thrown.
A number of his incompletions could have been intercepted, but instead he had just one, on a hail mary. By far his best experience in the lineup came against the Chargers. He hit Markus Wheaton on a 70-plus-yard stop-and-go score, and scrambled for a nice gain on a game-winning drive.
He was dreadful, however, in the game in which he suffered a hamstring injury and never played again. By halftime, he had less than 10 yards passing, if memory serves. Landry Jones produced a comeback victory replacing him and maintained the backup position from that point on. Gradkowski was re-signed in the offseason and he and Jones will constitute the team’s backup quarterbacks, no matter the pecking order, as they had been meant to for the past three years.