After Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Michael Vick had executed the final victory formation to end Sunday's contest against the St. Louis Rams and extend his team's record to 2-1, the first person greeting Vick as he walked off of the gridiron was Mike Tomlin, who offered hearty congratulations for a job well done. Later, in his post-game press conference, the Steelers' head coach remarked about Vick's success in finishing the one task that matters most of all. To paraphrase legendary Steeler head coach Chuck Noll, Vick enabled his team to win this game precisely by not losing it.
As Ben was being carted off to the locker room, scores of fans in Steelers Nation jockeyed for the best possible leaping platforms atop the nearest building ledges. And because his initial efforts in relief of Big Ben were somewhat less than stellar, the ground was fertile for any number of snap-judgments regarding Vick's capabilities, chiefly from many of the same people who had condemned Coach Tomlin for bringing Vick to the Steel City in the first place. Such instant-analysis, of course, conveniently ignores the fact that Vick has been a Pittsburgh Steeler for exactly four weeks and has had precious little preparation for leading Pittsburgh's first-team offense.
We heard mournful pronouncements that the Black-and-Gold's season is now officially over, amid forecasts that Vick surely would fumble away any chance the Steelers might have to reach the playoffs by year's end. This despite the fact that, during his past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, Vick coughed up an average of exactly two fumbles per season while playing in a total of 64 games (an average of 10.6 games per season). This relatively low number of fumbles despite the well-known fact that, even at age 35, Vick remains one of the most accomplished ball carriers among NFL quarterbacks in history, with a career mark of 6,010 rushing yards.
With all due respect to those horrified either by Vick's troubled past or his allegedly careless ball-handling, I'll defer to the proven judgment of Coach Tomlin and his staff in this matter. The indispensable nature of Big Ben's contributions to the Pittsburgh Steelers is undeniable and well documented. Mike Vick knows better than anyone that he's stepping in for one of pro football's top quarterbacks playing in the prime of his career. This was evident in Vick's post-game comments which expressed respect and concern for Ben, while noting that he fully intends to discharge exactly the role which the Steelers brought him to Pittsburgh to fulfill. Vick's humble-yet-confident posture was admirable, particularly because, during the early stage of his career, Vick was one of the highest-paid figures in professional sports and his name was a household word for every football fan in the country.
Vick is the first to admit the mistakes he's made, and he has done hard time while learning tough lessons along the way. But of one thing, there's little doubt. Michael Vick is a seasoned, professional quarterback who knows how to lead an offense. Obviously, we may be looking at a temporary drop in the team's offensive production during the period while Vick acclimates himself to his new teammates and their tendencies. The storied impatience of the Steelers' fan base notwithstanding, this transition won't happen overnight, nor immediately upon No. 2's insertion into the starting lineup, as some apparently expected in St. Louis during the heat of a tightly-contested game.
Furthermore, it's important to point out that, prior to Vick's debut in this game, the Steelers clung to a narrow, 6-point lead and Ben's offense wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard. In many ways, this game resembled any number of previous, underachieving efforts by the Steelers when they've faced various NFL bottom-feeders on the road. For their part, the St. Louis Rams' defense played an excellent game and adjusted capably to thwart the Steelers' offense after its initial flurry of success in building a 9-0 lead.
Regardless of the length of time that Ben will be sidelined, there's no doubt that adversity has now come to call at the Steelers' front door. But if you had to choose one guy who absolutely has proven his ability to overcome adversity during his life and pro football career, Michael Vick surely ought to be included on your "A-list." Is it asking too much of Steelers Nation to give Vick the benefit of our doubts, realizing that he's just been handed an extremely difficult task, burdened immensely by the weight of Steeler fans' stratospheric and often unrealistic expectations? Call me crazy but, in the wake of Ben's unforeseen setback, I'm looking forward to seeing what Mike Vick can accomplish this season in a Steelers uniform.