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At this point in their respective careers, how big is the drop-off from Roethlisberger as your QB to Vick? (Side note: Is there any chance Ben plays on Monday?)
I'll answer your second question first, and it is a resounding 'No'. Roethlisberger has already been ruled out of the game Monday, and has just started riding a bike as part of his rehab process. As for the drop-off, it is significant. Not that Vick can't play, but because this offense was built around Roethlisberger's skill set. If it weren't for the knee injury, Roethlisberger very well could be leading the NFL in passing yards heading into Week 5, and most likely would have lit up a suspect Ravens secondary on Thursday Night Football.
Vick brings a unique skill set to the table, which is what he has done since he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons. He is still a threat to run the football, and combine his athleticism with dual threat Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant you have yourself a formidable foe. The question is how, and how accurate, Vick can be as a passer in Todd Haley's system. There were signs of life in Week 4, but expect a heavy dose of Bell in this game.
How will the Steelers attempt to slow-down a passing attack that spreads the ball around to multiple RBs, TEs, and WRs?
There is a famous clip of Bill Cowher talking to Greg Lloyd in the early 90s where he is saying, "Rush. The. Quarterback." That is exactly what the Steelers are going to do against Rivers on Monday night. The Steelers pass rush has generated 14 sacks (4th in the NFL after 4 weeks) and is coming off a performance where they blitzed Joe Flacco 20 out of 38 times. The Steelers see the injuries along the Chargers' offensive line as a huge weakness, and will look to exploit it.
However, to counteract the blitz, look for Pittsburgh to try and get pressure with just 4 or 5 rushers to not leave a mediocre secondary hanging out to dry on the back end.
It looks like Le'Veon Bell has picked up right where he left off last year. How good is the offensive line that is blocking for him?
This offensive line is easily the best of the Ben Roethlisberger era; however, without All Pro center Maurkice Pouncey there is a clear weakness in the unit. That weakness's name is Cody Wallace, the backup for Pouncey. Wallace struggles in run blocking, and has been abused by athletic defensive linemen this year in pass protection. With that said, this unit continues to be a strong point for the Steelers. When Roethlisberger was healthy, he was rarely touched until he injured his knee in Week 3. The offensive line is strong in pass protection, and certainly can open up lanes for Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Look for the Steelers to try and run the football early and often to maintain time of possession and minimize any potential Vick mistakes in the passing game.
The Steelers are getting a lot of rest, playing a Monday game after a Thursday game. Do they typically play better or worse after resting more than the normal amount of time?
To be honest the Steelers haven't had this long of a break, outside of the traditional bye week, in a long time. The Steelers are a team who plays well coming off an extended break. Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff do a tremendous job of preparing them for their next opponent, but the re-worked offense around Vick will make winning any regular season game a challenge. The extended break will certainly help the Steelers become acclimated to the offense with Vick at the helm, but throw in the cross-country trek and I would say the playing field is pretty even for these two teams.
What's your prediction for the game?
The Steelers haven't won a game in the state of California since their 2005 24-22 victory over the Chargers on Monday Night Football. They have some serious dragons to slay within the Golden State, and I think the Steelers will be able to do just that this week in prime time. Vick will make enough plays to win, but the Steelers defense harassing Rivers very well might be the story of this game. I think it will be a close game, but I'll take the Steelers 28, Chargers 20 to advance their record to 3-2.