Steelers quarterback Vick getting more acquainted with offense
Mike Vick had one practice — a glorified no-shoulder pad, no-helmet walkthrough — to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens.
With Ben Roethlisberger hurt on a Sunday and the Steelers having a quick turnaround with a Thursday game against the Ravens last week, Vick didn’t have much time to get up to speed, and it was noticeable in the 23-20 overtime loss.
“It was a tough deal for a guy who hasn’t had a lot of reps at all — actual, meaningful, Pittsburgh Steelers reps,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said.
That shouldn’t be an issue this week because Vick is getting his share of meaningful snaps.
A quirk in a schedule that gave the Steelers 11 days off before Monday’s game against San Diego has given Vick plenty of time to work out some of the issues he faced against the Ravens, most notably the verbiage associated with a complex offense like Haley’s.
Three practices into the week, and it’s so far, so good for Vick.
“The way he delivers the plays now are getting more fluid,” guard Ramon Foster said. “He delivered a play today, and it was smooth. It was good to see it flow and got to the line with it.”
Getting Vick more versed in the operation standpoint of the playbook is what interests Haley more than anything. Being able to make calls in the huddle, having a comfort level of what those calls mean and what they mean to him is what Haley is concerned with more than anything.
“The biggest thing to me is some of the fundamental operational things that you take for granted, then all of a sudden, you have a new guy who hasn’t been around much that is having to spit out words, formations and plays and do it in a timely fashion,” Haley said. “I thought he did a great job.”
Vick said he is getting a lot more comfortable with being able to relay and process the play in his mind mostly because of the two to three hours extra a day he said he puts in with the playbook before heading onto the practice field.
“I feel so much better just having more time to practice, more time to build chemistry and learn the offense,” Vick said. “I don’t have anything else to do. The family is back in Florida, and it’s just football. I kind of like it like this. It is chance for me to get everything in order and do everything to help the team and serve my purpose.”
But then there’s being able to translate that onto the field.
The Steelers offense managed only 263 yards. Vick’s longest completion was 18 yards. His 124 passing yards were the fewest by the Steelers in a game since Sept. 19, 2010, a span of 87 games.
Haley was forced to minimize the playbook to suit Vick’s lack of familiarity. Vick was signed by the Steelers on Aug. 25 after backup Bruce Gradkowski was lost for the year with a hand injury.
“Last week was an extreme situation in my opinion,” Haley said. “We really had be smart about what he was comfortable with, with what we liked against what they were doing defensively.”
Foster added: “We still kept a lot of stuff on the table.”
Still, Antonio Brown and Vick weren’t able to be on the same page as Brown’s streak of 35 consecutive games with at least five receptions and 50 yards was snapped. Brown dropped a touchdown pass from Vick, and the two couldn’t connect on a critical fourth-down pass in overtime that led to Baltimore’s game-winning field goal.
“Last week, it just wasn’t (Vick’s) fault,” Brown said. “There is a lot of blame on me. I left a lot of plays out there. All of us are getting more comfortable, not just him. I am more confident and comfortable this week with him.”
That goes with the simplest of things like catching a football.
Brown admits it has been an adjustment to catch passes from a left-handed quarterback. Vick said in his experience it usually takes two weeks before a receiver feels comfortable.
Haley said it is definitely different catching a ball spinning the other way.
“The spin, the tilt of the football, there are a lot of little things that are different,” Haley said. “It takes time and repetition, and that’s another thing about having an extra day. You get to spend extra time in between periods and have a couple more individuals together. All of those things are just priceless.”