Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Ryan Clark scouted Michael Vick’s most recent game and didn’t like what he saw.
Shades of the old Michael Vick.
Vick enjoyed his best rushing performance since midway through last season when he gained 49 yards on six scrambles on Sunday night during Philadelphia’s 19-17 victory over the New York Giants. If this is a sign of things to come, the Steelers (1-2) will have more to worry about more than Vick’s passing acumen in this Sunday’s matchup at Heinz Field (1 p.m. ET, FOX) against the 3-1 Eagles.
“He doesn’t turn it up-field as much as he used to, but especially in the Giants game, he realized that’s part of who he is and what made him great,” Clark told FOXSports.com.
“To take Michael Vick and tell him not to run is to take Blake Griffin and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want you to dunk.’ ”
Without those power moves to the basket, Griffin wouldn’t even be an average NBA forward for the Los Angeles Clippers. The same can be argued about Vick’s quarterbacking prowess without scrambling.
While playing for the Atlanta Falcons from 2001 to 2007, Vick wasn’t as good a passer but compensated with his speed and elusiveness. That led to Vick setting the NFL’s single-season and career rushing records for quarterbacks.
Vick has tried to rely more on his arm since becoming Philadelphia’s starter in 2010, but generally isn’t as effective as a pocket passer, especially when faced with blitzes. He also has taken a beating in 2012 playing behind an injury-plagued offensive line.
Although he leaves himself exposed for hits when on the move, doing so may be what Vick needs to regain his mojo.
“Sometimes I think guys don’t want to get labeled as a running quarterback,” Clark said. “If it works for you, it works for you. Against New York, he was able to break contain. Once he does that, he’s hard to stop.”
While not as dominant as in previous seasons through the first three games, the Steelers did limit the first three quarterbacks they’ve faced (Peyton Manning, Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer) to an average of 190.3 passing yards. The return of free safety Troy Polamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison should help Pittsburgh better a pass rush that has notched only five sacks.
“You go all the way back to last year, I think we only had James Harrison and (outside linebacker) LaMarr Woodley together for six games or something like that,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said of the team’s customary sack leaders. “It’s been a while. I think we’re a little better when they’re in there together.”
Just like Vick is better when he’s on the move.
“The problem he presents is unique because of his set of skills,” said Clark, one of the NFL’s hardest hitters.
“He has vision like a running back and speed like a receiver. When you have a guy like that, you have to try and not so much make a play on him as you’re trying not to allow him to make plays on you.”