The Baltimore Ravens get the favor of going up against Michael Vick instead of Ben Roethlisberger which has changed the outlook of how the 2-1 Steelers matchup with the 0-3 Ravens.
Very few fans would have predicted the Ravens to start the season at 0-3 and many experts even considered them as a possible Super Bowl bid, but their defense has not lived up to the reputation of the tough Baltimore style that the NFL is accustomed to seeing.
Their pass defense has allowed for plenty of big plays from both Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders and Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals; neither are considered to be top-end quarterbacks in today's NFL. Vick will have opportunities to make plays or at least give his teammates the best chance to make plays of their own, considering he has Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, two of the best playmakers in the league.
We have seen that Vick still can throw the ball deep when he hit Martavis Bryant with a long pass in the preseason. Brown and Bell with have one-on-one opportunities like this to make plays.
Here AJ Green simply runs up the sideline and Dalton makes a very standard throw to give him a chance to make a play. The cornerback fails to make his own play as Green gains 31 yards. Vick does not have to be a surgeon to make plays against Baltimore, he just needs to be able to place the ball in a decent enough window that allows Brown, Bell, Heath Miller and others to make the reception.
Similarly, Vick made a sideline pass to Bell against the Rams where Bell was able to make a reception down the field. Attacking Baltimore vertically could be a solution to creating splash plays for Pittsburgh to establish an early lead.
Dalton here makes a one-on-one play against the Ravens 1st round draft pick of 2014, and arguably their best defender, CJ Mosley. While the Steelers probably won't want Vick to try to make too many plays with his feet and endanger himself to big hits, this could be a vulnerability that Pittsburgh seeks to exploit. If Dalton can out-maneuver Mosley and make plays in the red zone, Vick should have similar opportunities against Baltimore.
This is the go-ahead touchdown Derek Carr threw against Baltimore in week 2 to gain the Raiders' first victory of the season. Here the Ravens sit into a prevent zone and fail to generate a strong pass rush, opening a huge window in the middle of the field for Carr to make a play. Carr does not make a very accurate throw and even misses the mark a bit, but it's good enough in this zone to get the job done.
The point of this film room session is to remind those who may think that all is doomed with Vick at quarterback, that it will not take an elite performance for him to put up points with Pittsburgh's personnel on offense.
Some believe that with the absence of Ben Roethlisberger that the Steelers should abandon the air attack and solely rely on the ground game for the offense to produce in the weeks to come. Everyone has probably heard the statistic that Vick had the lowest passer rating of all quarterbacks who made 100 passes in the 2014 season several times over now, but that ignores a major factor.
The Steelers still have plenty of weapons at their disposal when it comes to the passing attack. Taking those players out of consideration on key plays will allow for defenses to key on Vick, Bell and the limited amount of playmakers that aren't available when the Steelers steer away from spread sets with more receivers and running backs lined up in positions where defenses have to consider if they will be a receiving threat.
Instead of taking the approach of trying to limit Vick from mistakes he may make, the offense should look to maximize opportunities for their stars to make the plays for him. Instead of just calling a simple bubble screen, still have receivers who will wheel out of the bubble screen appearance to fool defenses that might be keying on Vick taking the first simple read made available to him.
The Ravens' defense will present opportunities for simple throws to be made. Even if the looks their defense do not provide easy windows for Vick to convert on passes, Vick can easily benefit from Bell's ability to be a receiver out of the backfield just as Roethlisberger since last season. Simple dump down passes can spring for big plays and a balanced attack could still keep a Ravens' defense off-balance.