Steelers know limiting Vick will be tough task
By Alan Robinson
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012, 7:48 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Michael Vick is one of the NFL's scariest players, so much so that the will-he-run-or-will-he-pass quarterback sometimes causes as much stress to the Eagles as he does their opponents.
Vick is having trouble standing up to a heavy pass rush, as reflected by his 11 sacks, five fumbles and six interceptions. He has been knocked down 44 times, by far the most in the league. Yet his distinctive skills — no NFL quarterback with his arm strength has run as effectively as he does — always create extra preparation time for the team he's about to play.
“He's a great athlete and makes a lot of plays with his feet, which is always tough on the defense,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. “I think he has become a much more efficient passer as he's matured. He can get the ball in some amazing places. He's always had plenty of arm strength, but now he's got touch to go with it. He's a handful.”
Vick was the last time he played in Pittsburgh 10 years ago, rallying the Falcons from a 17-point deficit to a 34-34 tie with the Steelers — the only such time a team came back like that against a Bill Cowher-coached team. He followed up four years later by throwing four touchdown passes against them in Atlanta.
Defensive end Brett Keisel, who was around for those games, knows how Vick can tear down a defense.
“He can do all kinds of things, make you look foolish when he runs the ball, and he's got quite a zip when he passes the ball,” Keisel said. “He just flicks it, and it goes like 60 yards. He's a big reason why those guys are winning.”
Even if they're not winning easily. The Eagles (3-1) trailed in the final two minutes of every game yet rallied to win three times behind Vick-led drives. He scored on a 1-yard run with 1:55 remaining to beat the Ravens, 24-23, and threw a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Clay Harbour with 1:23 to go to edge Cleveland, 17-16.
The Steelers had considerable trouble slowing two far less-mobile quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer, so the obvious key for them is to make sure Vick doesn't get rolling.
And, most of all, doesn't get running. His 5,349 rushing yards are an NFL quarterback record.
“Like any other quarterback, you want to keep him in the pocket,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “What makes the big difference in him from other quarterbacks is him getting out of the pocket, what he can do.”
The Steelers want to wear down Vick before he can do it to them, given they have been outscored, 30-13, in the fourth quarter.
“We have to start playing tough the whole game, making a team one-dimensional,” Woodley said. “The last two games we lost (to the Broncos and Raiders), we didn't make the team one-dimensional. We gave up a lot of rushing yards and let the team run and pass on us.”
The Steelers, winners of nine of their last 10 at Heinz Field, are hoping the return of former Defensive Players of the Year James Harrison and Troy Polamalu plus running back Rashard Mendenhall help right their season.
Mendenhall tore an ACL during the final regular-season game in Cleveland in January. Without the two-time 1,000-yard rusher, the Steelers are 31st in rushing with 195 yards.
If they lose Sunday, a 1-3 record could leave them vulnerable in the AFC North, where the Ravens and Bengals are 3-1.
“It's a game we feel like we need to win here at home,” Clark said.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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