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Vick’s Ball Control Key to Steelers’ Week 4 Win vs. Ravens

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This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will start veteran quarterback Michael Vick in the first of a series of games without injured starter Ben Roethlisberger.

The franchise and (most of) its fans are under no delusions about exactly how limited the team will be without its elite quarterback, but the first step to securing a win under Vick’s temporary regime will be ball control on offense.

Last week, Vick stepped in under shaky circumstances, completing 5/6 for 38 yards. What didn’t appear on the stat sheet, though, was his lone incompletion that almost went for six points the other way, and a fumble care of careless ball handling which was pounced on by Le’Veon Bell, potentially saving the victory.

On a short week of preparation, Vick cannot afford to make those same mistakes against a desperate and hungry Ravens outfit essentially playing for its season.

Vick must recognise his role on this team quickly, and understand that it will be the skill players on offense – not the quarterback – that will win this game. Expect to see offensive coordinator Todd Haley run Bell ragged after a productive 130-yards-from-scrimmage performance from the fresh tailback last week.

A disproportionate rushing-to-passing play sheet should be the order of the day, putting the game in the capable hands of Bell and his improved offensive line. With blocking tight end Matt Spaeth officially ruled out with a hand injury, expect most of the damage to be done between the tackles with a few early traps and pulls thrown in to test to edge-setting abilities of Baltimore’s front seven.

As for the passing game, Vick won’t have to think twice about getting the ball to the best receiver in football, Antonio Brown, early and often. Brown has typically done his best work against the Ravens, and a home crowd baying for blood shouldn’t hurt, either.

Barring Brown, Heath Miller remains an excellent pass catching safety net, and don’t be surprised to see both Bell and DeAngelo Williams lining up out of the shotgun, with Bell fanning out into the slot to create mismatches in coverage, giving Vick to option to read the defense and decide on an inside give to the efficient Williams instead.

Finally at 35, Vick still possesses a cannon of an arm powered by just a flick of the wrist. If he can’t make Baltimore respect his ability to take the top off the defense, the Ravens safeties will crowd the box all night long, making life hard on offense no matter what the play call is.

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