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Steelers mask interest in quarterback Vick

| Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009

It's not so much what Mike Tomlin said but rather what the Steelers coach didn't say on the subject of Michael Vick.

Tomlin reiterated Tuesday that the Steelers are doing their "due diligence" on all free agents, and that includes the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who served nearly two years in prison for his part in running an illegal dog-fighting ring.

In short, Tomlin didn't rule out the Steelers having interest in Vick despite being given a second chance to do so since training camp start.

"If people are capable of helping us win, we're going to have a level of interest in those guys," Tomlin said yesterday at a news conference at St. Vincent. "I'm never going to discuss free agents individually. I don't think that's appropriate. I think that that conversation could be endless. We do our due diligence on guys that have a professional skill level and of course (Vick) is one of them."

The Steelers appear to be set at quarterback, with starter Ben Roethlisberger and reserves Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon.

But the Steelers know how quickly the situation could change because of an injury.

A little more than a year ago, Batch broke his collarbone in the preseason opener and the Steelers were forced to scramble for a replacement with Dixon not ready to become the No. 2 quarterback.

They signed veteran Byron Leftwich, and he gave the Steelers a solid backup behind Roethlisberger.

Vick, 29, has not played in the NFL since 2006 because of his legal problems. The three-time Pro Bowler was recently reinstated to the NFL on a contingent basis by commissioner Roger Goodell, and the Washington Post has reported that at least five teams are interested in signing him.

While erratic as a passer in the six seasons he played for Atlanta, Vick was the top running quarterback in the league and perhaps of all time.

"I hope whatever team he goes to we don't have to play them, because he's a problem," Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said, "and I think whatever team that gets him would be lucky to have him."

The Steelers have been linked to Vick for multiple reasons.

He and Tomlin hail from the Tidewater region in Virginia, and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy has been serving as an adviser to Vick.

Dungy gave Tomlin his first NFL coaching job, and he has ties to the Steelers as both a player and a coach. Joel Segal, Vick's agent, did not respond to an e-mail asking if the Steelers are interested in Vick.

Said Tomlin, "If I start commenting on Michael Vick, then I'll be commenting on Plaxico Burress and everybody else that turns up on the (waiver) wire."

Clark echoed a sentiment that a lot of Steelers voiced when they reported to camp July 31 and were asked about Vick.

Vick, Clark said, has paid his debt to society and "without question" deserves a second chance.

"He seems very sincere in his apology. He seems sincere in wanting to change, so you definitely want something good to happen for him," Clark said. "I think people so often forget about their faults. I think people tend to judge on the things they don't do very quickly and very swiftly, and I think it's unfair and it's sad."

The Steelers have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Vick because of the stability of their organization.

"I think he would fit well here, not just because of what he can do on the field but personality wise," Clark said. "With the leaders we have, we welcome anyone that wants to be a part of what we want to do and comes in with the right attitude."

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