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Steelers Can Tread Water Without Big Ben


If there is such a thing as an empty victory in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers earnt one on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. The 12-6 final score – which consisted of only one touchdown scored between both teams – improved the Steelers to 2-1, but at a price.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stayed down after a Mark Barron sack, heavily favouring his left knee and appearing in great pain. Backup Michael Vick entered the game in relief of the fan favourite, going 5/6 for 38 yards and just hanging on for the victory.

Now, MRI scans have confirmed that Big Ben has avoided any damage to his ACL and will instead be out approximately 4-6 weeks. Where does this leave the Steelers? In a surprisingly strong position, actually.

Pittsburgh will start Vick in their next four games – against the Ravens, Chargers, Cardinals and Chiefs – but they do not have to lean on him.

Today, Le’Veon Bell made his long-awaited return, and picked up right where he left off as an every-down threat last season. His 19 carries for 62 yards didn’t exactly trouble the Rams’ excellent front seven, but he did run for the game’s only touchdown and snag 7 receptions for 70 yards, not least of which a slick one-handed grab that turned a third-and-long into a first down.

Of course, a quarterback’s best friend is a strong defense, and through just three games this season, Keith Butler’s unit is already displaying more tenacity and aggressiveness than through all of 2014 under Dick LeBeau.

The pass rush is slowly returning care of an improving defensive line and the turnovers are coming with it. Even without defensive team MVP Ryan Shazier, the Steelers stuffed the Rams’ running backs and kept Nick Foles to under 200 yards.

Meanwhile, Antonio Brown came through with his mandatory monster performance, making 11 catches for 108 yards.

Miller, Wheaton and Heyward-Bey all made cameo appearances too, and with Martavis Bryant returning in week 5, Vick will have no shortage of weapons to dump the ball off to. His mission? Simply put it in their hands and watch the rest.

But a caretaker quarterback Vick is not. At 35, he still possesses ample mobility in the pocket, and can sling the ball downfield with just a flick of the wrist. He won’t be expected to go undefeated as the starter until Roethlisberger returns, but he can keep the Steelers in the thick of the division race until business begins to pick up.

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