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Michael Vick orchestrates game-winning touchdown drive to save Steelers season

Quarterback Michael Vick led the Pittsburgh Steelers offense on an 80 yard, season-saving touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in Week 5.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2) defeated the San Diego Chargers (2-3) 24-20 on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The victory likely saved the Steelers season, keeping the team's playoff hopes alive while buying a little more time for the return of injured star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Through three quarters, it appeared the Chargers would be the team leaving Qualcomm Stadium with a win. Working with a patchwork offensive line, Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers led two impressive touchdown drives in which he utilized tight end Antonio Gates to shred the Steelers' secondary.

Rivers second touchdown pass of the night put San Diego in front 17-10 with 8:02 remaining in the final quarter. Pittsburgh's lone touchdown to that point in the game came via an Antwon Blake pick six, and the seven-point deficit seemed insurmountable for a Steelers offense unable to consistently move the chains.

Steelers backup quarterback Michael Vick was under siege from a fierce Chargers pass rush all night, and struggled to make routine throws to his wide receivers. It looked like another strong performance by the Pittsburgh defense was about to go to waste.

Then, miraculously, Vick threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Markus Wheaton to tie the score at 17-17. Wheaton's touchdown was the response the Steelers desperately needed with the season on the line, but there was still much work to be done.

With 2:56 remaining, Chargers kicker Josh Lambo kicked a 54-yard field goal to bring San Diego back in front 20-17.

But Vick wouldn't be denied.

The 35-year-old veteran led his team back yet again, orchestrating a gutsy 80-yard touchdown drive to win the game and save the Steelers' season. Vick made three crucial third-down conversions on the drive that put the Steelers in position for Le'Veon Bell's one-yard touchdown run.

Facing a third-and-one from his own 40-yard line, Vick rolled to his left and completed a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey to keep the drive alive.

On third-and-six from San Diego's 41-yard line, Vick scrambled for 24 yards to move the Steelers into field goal range.

Then, facing another critical third down, Vick threw a beautiful 16-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller to set up Bell's winning touchdown with no time remaining.

Vick deserves to be questioned and criticized for his poor play through the first three quarters, but he also deserves a lot of credit for making big plays down the stretch.

"I knew that last drive it meant so much to Steeler Nation," Vick told Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We couldn't fail.

"I'm just thankful I had the guts to do it. I'm just thankful [offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley] had to confidence in me to call the game down the stretch the way he would call it for Ben. And I'm thankful I have such a great supporting cast."

Vick's late-game heroics helped seal the victory over the Chargers, and may have ultimately saved the Steelers season. With a tough game against the Arizona Cardinals looming, Pittsburgh would likely have been staring down a 2-4 record heading into its matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7.

The win may have also bought a little extra time for Roethlisberger to heal. The more wins the Steelers can get with Vick under center, the less urgency the team will feel to bring Roethlisberger back before he's fully healthy.