With Ben Roethlisberger expected to miss four to six weeks because of an MCL sprain and a bone bruise, the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have the most inspiring options at quarterback. Michael Vick finished Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams after Roethlisberger went down, and the Steelers hope to remain in the AFC North race with their backup at the helm.
"They are operating this morning as if six weeks would be the amount of time that he would miss, and while he's out, Michael Vick will be the quarterback they will turn to," ESPN’s insider Adam Schefter said on SportsCenter.
Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl winner, has proven to be among the NFL’s top quarterbacks, and Pittsburgh will be fortunate if his replacement can come anywhere near matching his production. No quarterback threw for more yards than Roethlisberger last season, and he registered a 113.1 passer rating before getting hurt this year.
The 33-year-old has been rather durable, considering how many hits he’s taken throughout his career. The Steelers have been forced to use their backup quarterback sparingly over the last decade, and their record is much worse when Roethlisberger is not on the field. Roethlisberger has accumulated a 108-53 record as a starter, and Pittsburgh has gone 8-7 in the last 10 years in games he’s missed.
Vick, who spent six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, was signed during training camp to be the team’s No.2 quarterback. He completed five of his six pass attempts for 38 yards on Sunday afternoon, getting sacked twice and helping Pittsburgh close out the 12-6 victory. The 35-year-old might be one of the most capable backup quarterbacks in the league, though he hasn’t had much success when called upon in recent years.
Since 2012, Vick has gone 6-13 as a starting quarterback. He got three starts for the New York Jets in 2014, losing two of three games and posting a 68.3 passer rating. Vick had a 2-4 record with the Eagles in 2013, and his seven touchdowns were matched by his seven turnovers.
If Vick struggles, the Steelers have the option of replacing him with Landry Jones. The 26-year-old, who starred at Oklahoma, has never played in a regular-season game, but he saw more time under center this preseason than any Pittsburgh quarterback. Jones had mixed results, completing just 15-of-32 passes for 128 yards when he played the entire Hall of Fame Game, though he posted a 118.8 passer rating in the preseason finale.
The Steelers originally had journeyman Bruce Gradkowski as the No. 2, but the 32-year-old sustained a season-ending injury in August. Without a quarterback on the practice squad, Vick and Jones are head coach Mike Tomlin's only healthy signal callers.
Vick does have some of the NFL’s best offensive weapons at his disposal. Antonio Brown is second in the league with 436 receiving yards, and running back Le’Veon Bell totaled 132 yards from scrimmage in his return from a two-game suspension.
Pittsburgh lost Roethlisberger to injury at a very inopportune time. The Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday in their first divisional game of 2015. Roethlisberger could potentially miss games against a few of the NFL’s best teams, as the Steelers host the undefeated Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals in two of their next five contests.
Missing six starts would put Roethlisberger on track to return against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 15.