NFL Wire News

Vick must get on same page as Steelers receivers

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The Sports Xchange

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have to find a way to push the ball down the field with the passing game.

In their 23-20 overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night, Steelers quarterback Mike Vick, subbing for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, passed for only 124 yards.

Vick had only two days to prepare for his first start for the Steelers, which might have contributed some to the problems in the passing game.

He will have a full 10 days to prepare before facing the San Diego Chargers on Monday, Oct. 11.

That should help with Vick getting on the same page as his receivers, most notably the NFL’s leading receiver, Antonio Brown.

Brown had his NFL-record streak of at least five receptions for 50 yards broken against the Ravens.

Brown had five receptions for 42 yards and he said Vick must make some adjustments within his game if the passing offense is going to click when Roethlisberger is out.

Brown said Roethlisberger gets the ball out sooner and hits his receivers in stride while Vick releases the ball deeper in routes.

“I think they just come out a little bit later than Ben’s,” Brown said of Vick’s passes. “I don’t think Mike Vick has yet adjusted to the timing of how we run things.

“His balls come later in the routes, at the top of your route. We just have to get the timing down and make sure we’re on the same page.”

Vick will be helped by the return of receiver Martavis Bryant, who missed the first four games while serving a suspension. Bryant, who had 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games as a rookie last season, is a deep threat and will make it harder to opposing defense to double cover Brown.

Bryant and Vick developed some chemistry in the preseason. In the fourth preseason game at Buffalo, Vick threw three passes to Bryant for 138 yards and a touchdown. Vick’s first pass as a Steeler was a 63-yard deep ball to Bryant.

The Steelers face a Chargers defense that is giving up 7.7 yards per pass (23rd in the league). It will be up to offensive coordinator Todd Haley to put Vick in positions to take advantage of the Chargers’ secondary.

“I was generally pleased with the performance of Mike Vick,” coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday. “I am excited about having a full week’s physical preparation with him, in-helmet perspective practice, full-speed practice, and I think he is only going to get better in terms of managing our offense and doing what is required for us to win in that area.”

SERIES HISTORY: 29th regular-season meeting. The Steelers lead the series, 21-7, and have won eight of the last 10 games. This is the first meeting in San Diego since 2006. The Steelers own a 7-6 record in San Diego.

GAME PLAN

–With quarterback Michael Vick still easing into his role as the starting quarterback, the Steelers are going to want to lean on running back Le’Veon Bell in this game. The Chargers are susceptible against the run (29th among 32 teams), and the Steelers are averaging 111.8 yards rushing per game. With the return of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who was suspended for the first four games, Vick has a viable deep threat to make the Steelers offense more dangerous. On defense, the Steelers must find a way to slow quarterback Philip Rivers, who also has a weapon returning for this game in the form of tight end Antonio Gates. Blitzing could be the answer. The Steelers used the blitz to sack the immobile Joe Flacco five times last week and could use the same formula against Rivers. The only problem for the Steelers was blitzing left them susceptible to some big plays versus the Ravens, who gained 191 yards on the ground and popped some big runs against the blitz.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell vs. Chargers defense.

Bell, who has 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns in his first two games of the season, could have a big day against a San Diego defense that is ranked 29th against the run at 126.8 yards per game. Bell is a threat in the passing game, too. In 31 career games, Bell has reached 150 yards from scrimmage 19 times.

–Chargers QB Phillip Rivers vs. the Steelers’ pass defense.

Rivers leads the NFL in passing (1,248 yards) and opposing quarterbacks have completed 69.5 percent of their passes against the Steelers. Only four other teams rank lower than that.


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