The Pittsburgh Steelers addressed the injury to their backup quarterback with a somewhat controversial signing. After learning that Bruce Gradkowski would require surgery to repair his dislocated finger, the team gave Michael Vick a one-year contract to play behind Ben Roethlisberger.
"There's not a throw on the field he can't make from an arm strength standpoint," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's a very experienced guy at what he does at this point in his career and the mobility is still unique even at 35."
Vick has played at least seven games in each of the last six seasons, and Pittsburgh is hoping their backup doesn’t have to take the field at all this season. Roethlisberger has played all 32 regular season games in the last two years, though his style of play has forced him to miss some time throughout his career. Roethlisberger missed one game in 2011, and he sat out three more games in 2012.
Vick remained unsigned through the first two weeks of the preseason, having spent last year with the New York Jets. He played in 10 games and made three starts, posting a 68.3 passer rating, which was the worst of his career. Vick completed 52.9 percent of his passes for 604 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran the ball 26 times for 153 yards.
As a starter, Vick went 1-2 with the Jets last year. In 2012 and 2013, he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 5-11 record.
Pittsburgh might have preferred to go a different route, but with so many teams carrying three or four quarterbacks on their roster during training, Vick seems to be Pittsburgh’s best option. The most recent quarterback to be signed was Pat Devlin, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has never even taken a snap in the NFL.
The Steelers also have quarterback Landry Jones on the roster. He’s received he majority of time under center for Pittsburgh in the preseason, throwing three touchdown passes and two interceptions. But despite the 96.8 passer rating he posted in Pittsburgh’s recent win over the Green Bay Packers, he isn’t a proven commodity against opposing first-team defenses. Since being drafted in the fourth round three years ago, he hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game
Having played 138 games in his career, Vick has more experience than almost any other backup quarterback in football. His biggest issue has been durability, but it’s highly unlikely that the Steelers will need to give him extended playing time this year, considering Roethlisberger hasn’t missed more than four games in any of his 11 NFL seasons.
Many of the Steelers’ fans are not happy with the signing, and it has nothing to do with Vick’s ability to help Pittsburgh on the field. A large number of fans don't want Vick in the league because of his criminal history, and the signing drew protesters outside of the Steelers’ practice facility on Wednesday.
Over 15,000 people have already signed a petition for Pittsburgh to release Vick.