Steelers' AFC hopes in trouble without Big Ben
Ben Roethlisberger, the current top-graded quarterback this season for Pro Football Focus (+13.0), left Sunday’s game in St. Louis with an apparent knee injury.
Big Ben is critical to the franchise’s AFC North title hopes, but coordinator Todd Haley may have to find a new way to win with the Steelers’ backup signal-caller, Michael Vick, if Roethlisberger is forced to miss significant time.
Vick’s best days are behind him, as witnessed by his starting performances last year with the Jets. In three games as New York’s starter (Weeks 9, 10, and 12), Vick had a cumulative overall grade of -11.6. His last solid season as a true starter was 2011 with the Eagles, when graded out at +13.0.
What will help Vick is the chance to play while surrounded by some outstanding skill position players, a luxury he didn’t have in New York.
Vick’s greatest source of help may come from returning RB Le’Veon Bell just returned from his two game suspension today and must be counted on to be the Steelers primary weapon. He graded out as the top-ranked PFF player at his position last season (+23.8) because of his combination of top running (+12.6) and receiving skills (+9.6).
Also in the mix is the top-graded wide receiver for PFF last season, Antonio Brown (+23.4). If you throw out the -0.5 blocking grade this season, Brown is once again PFF’s top-rated wide receiver (+9.6).
The Steelers offensive line is also an asset grading in the top 10 last season as both a run blocking unit (+5.2) and pass protection unit (+10.3). They’re already off to a good start in the pass protection department after two games ranking second and grading at +6.9.
The offensive tools are in place for Vick to give the Steelers a shot, but sooner or later Pittsburgh will miss the presence of Roethlisberger, especially with a below average defense that ranked 17th last season for PFF at -10.3, and ranks 26th after two games this season at -11.1.
We’ve said it countless times, and you’ve heard it over and over again. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and unless you have the league’s best defense (i.e. Tampa Bay in 2003) you won’t likely be considered for the top prize in Santa Clara this February.