Steelers can survive with Michael Vick
Through three weeks of the season, Ben Roethlisberger (+16.0) is PFF’s top-graded quarterback, owning a league-best +15.7 pass grade. After suffering an unfortunate MCL sprain in Week 3 against St. Louis, however, the Steelers turn to backup Michael Vick for the next few weeks.
Through Week 3, Ben’s 75.3 completion rate and 10.2 yards per attempt are best among QBs who have played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. It’s not like he’s throwing checkdown routes either—his 68.1 yards in air rate (YIA) is second only to Jameis Winston (68.3 percent). Furthermore, he’s the second-most accurate QB when throwing without, and while under, pressure, at 82.6 percent and 68.8 percent, respectively.
It’s tough to use Vick’s 2014 numbers with the Jets as an accurate measuring stick, so let’s first look at how he did in the preseason with the Steelers. He did have a 100 percent accuracy rate on 16 dropbacks, and connected on his only pass traveling more than 20 yards in the air. While he was 100 percent accurate when under pressure, he saw the third-most preseason pressure at 62.5 percent, and tied for the eighth-highest sack rate (40 percent).
During his time with the Eagles (2009-2013), his sack rate hovered around 15.0 percent. On 154 dropbacks last year with the Jets, that jumped to 30.6 percent.
Steelers’ offensive coordinator Todd Haley will have to walk a fine line when calling plays for his new QB. While he’d be well-served to call mainly quick plays, Haley also doesn’t want to eliminate the explosive downfield shots from the Steelers offense.
Vick does have the potential to move the Steelers down the field with chunk plays—each year with the Eagles, Vick graded +1.0 or above on throws traveling more than 10 yards. However, last year with the Jets, things really bottomed out. He racked up a -8.4 rating on only 35 attempts. Even though the Jets’ offense struggled, there’s no justification to grade that poorly on such a small sample size.
It will be interesting to see how the absence of Roethlisberger affects Antonio Brown. He currently leads all receivers at 4.32 yards per route run. As is sometimes the case, second-string WRs have more chemistry with the backup QB; so, Darrius Heyward-Bey, or even Dri Archer, could be poised to put up decent numbers with Vick.
Baltimore (Pittsburgh’s Week 4 opponent) ranks No. 22 in pass coverage and No. 15 in pass rushing, so Vick might be able to take advantage of a floundering 0-3 team on Thursday.
While the Steelers will certainly miss Big Ben the next three-to-four weeks, Vick has the potential to keep Pittsburgh afloat until his return.