The Pittsburgh Steelers lost while winning on Sunday, or at least that's how the fan base reacted after watching their favorite team win 12-6, but lose their star quarterback in the process. Ben Roethlisberger's diagnosis, as well as the fact that the Steelers are 2-1, didn't do much to pick up fans' spirits. Thus, when I announced that I was taking questions for the weekly BTSC Mailbag article, many were questions about the quarterback situation and whether there was any hope in the future.
I tried to answer all of the questions but, if I didn't get to yours, or if you'd like to enter a question in the future, simply follow BTSC on Twitter (@btsteelcurtain) and send us your questions. Here we go...
From: Pittsburgh Sports (@PittsburghSports)
Question: What type of offensive game plan and plays best suit Vick's particular skill set?
Answer: This would be a totally different discussion if Vick had been entrenched as the team's backup from Day 1, but with his late start it's doubtful he has a full grasp on the entire Todd Haley offense. With that said, it's up to Haley to put together a game plan which will not only play to Vick's strengths, but also make him feel comfortable within the system.
That offensive game plan should include a lot of the shotgun formation with simple reads. Don't be shocked to see them roll Vick out of the pocket to allow him to only have to read half of the field. This is something offensive coordinators have done for years with Vick at quarterback, and they've been successful. Those quick-hitting passes to Antonio Brown and company should also be commonplace in the game plan for Thursday night.
The biggest factor is the running game. The Steelers need to run the football efficiently enough to keep them balanced. This will not only take the burden off of Vick's shoulders to win the game with his arm, but will also keep the Ravens' defense from pinning their ears back and getting after the quarterback. This is difficult with a new quarterback on a short week, but if Vick has one thing that he lacked with the New York Jets, it's playmakers on offense. Vick shouldn't feel that he must win the game by himself but, rather, he can lean on the talent surrounding him to get another 'W' for the Black-and-Gold.
From: WakeUpBerry! (@BBibler1970)
Question: When Coach Tomlin talks of "Vick's comfort zone", is he meaning the 10 to 20 plays he runs best and rotating these plays as needed?
Answer: Vick's comfort zone would be plays which he's the most comfortable with, but it goes beyond strictly plays. This refers to formations, the specifics of down-and-distance and so on. The Steelers, along with Ben Roethlisberger who said he's helping Vick get acclimated for the upcoming game, will have to find out what Vick is comfortable running in 3rd-and-5 situations for example. Which formations does he like and what plays will he be comfortable with?
Once they have those answers, the rest of the playbook should remain open, but sticking with what Vick is comfortable with, especially on a short week leading to his first start, will be the primary offensive packages used in this game. You can't guess the playbook, but you can highlight some of its pages and packages as your basic material heading into Thursday night.
From: Ryan Progin (@RyProj)
Question: How many wins is acceptable for the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger out of the lineup? Also, how short of a leash will Vick be on? Is there a scenario where he gets benched?
Answer: What is acceptable depends on who you're talking to. If you abide by Mike Tomlin's "next man up" philosophy, then the Steelers shouldn't lose a game while Roethlisberger is gone, but let's take a look at the upcoming schedule:
Assuming that Roethlisberger is going to sit out four weeks, I'd say if the Steelers could come away 2-2 in their next four games, fans should be extremely happy. Which of those games will be wins and losses? Tough to say considering that the defense appears to be rounding into shape but the offense is an unknown commodity with Vick under center. Nonetheless, I'd say wins over the Chargers and Ravens seem like the safest bets, as Arizona looks extremely stout, and Arrowhead Stadium is a very difficult place to play.
If Ben is going to miss six weeks, let's take a look there:
Again, I think 3-3 would be something Steelers fans should be happy with. If the Steelers were to go 3-3 in their next six games, it would have them at 5-4 heading into a meeting with the Browns and then a bye-week before the barrage which is their last quarter of the season. That murderer's row of games will be quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger.
Vick needs to simply keep the ship afloat in Roethlisberger's absence. Could they fall flat on their face? Possibly, but the Steelers' offensive line should be good enough to give Vick time and open up holes for the running game. If Vick simply protects the ball and stays clean, the offense should still be able to move the ball. Only time will tell what the immediate future has in store for the 2015 Steelers.
From: John Woo (@jwoo9635)
Question: Why isn't Brandon Boykin getting more snaps?
Answer: The Steelers and Mike Tomlin seem to be very pleased with Ross Cockrell. When they acquired Boykin, Cockrell was on the Buffalo Bills roster but, when he was released, the Steelers jumped at the chance to sign the former fourth-round draft pick from Duke. It seems as if Cockrell and Boykin are in a "training camp style" positional battle for the team's third CB position, and Cockrell is winning. Fans might get upset about this, but the truth of the matter is that the coaches at practice, in meeting rooms and in film study know far more than the casual fan does. Sometimes it simply boils down to one guy playing better than another.
That's all for this week! Thanks to those who offered questions and, for those I didn't get to, I apologize! Remember to follow BTSC on Twitter (@btsteelcurtain) to get your question in the next BTSC mailbag.