The Steelers Signing Vick Is Far More Than a Rumor

Jonathan Cyprowski@@JCyprowskiCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2009

RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 27:  Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick makes a statement to reporters at the Omni Richmond Hotel after agreeing to a guilty plea on charges stemming from his involvement in a dogfighting ring August 27, 2007, in Richmond, Virginia.  (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

There have been more rumors buzzing around about Michael Vick coming to Pittsburgh in recent weeks than anyone would have given thought to a month ago.

It’s simple math in the minds of most Steeler fans. The franchise has never been one for signing free agents. They have especially never brought in big name free agents. Let alone a big name free agent that is carrying an albatross of controversy and public scrutiny around his neck. 

Yet Vick to Pittsburgh is still hanging around the national rumor mill. Even though it has been nothing more than speculation up to this point there’s no chance any of this could happen right?  It’s just not the Steeler way.

Or is it?

Lets take a closer look at the situation for just a minute, cue the NFL Films music for me if you would.

There are few teams in the NFL more respected from a front office and ownership standpoint than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s been a family run organization from its inception over seventy 75 years ago. Since then the Rooneys have become the elite family in the NFL. They speak softly, but their words have always carried weight because of the character-bred credibility they have accumulated.

They are tough on the rules and they forge new ones when the old ones aren’t working for the benefit of everyone concerned. Dan Rooney is a front-runner in making sure the game is being run beyond the barriers of economic, social and racial lines. He has been instrumental in the salary cap, tougher penalties for those who violate league policies and the implementation of the Rooney Rule, which demands racial equality in the hiring of Head Coaches and front office positions.

The Steelers have always stood by their players and coaches. The second chance and in special cases the third chance has been given to players that show true remorse for their actions or words. There have also been times when those same players have been shown the door when they failed to change their ways. Make no mistake about it the Rooneys are no man’s doormat. They are fair, but rarely questioned when it comes to swift judgment.

Many of the great qualities synonymous with the Steelers organization come from the fact that they are loyal to those that have grown within their organization. It is not an overstatement when the term “Steelers family” is used with regards to those who have been a part of the organization. From players to coaches and scouts, wayward sons always come home to Pittsburgh and are typically if not atypically received with open arms and a smile. Something the Patriots have never been accused of. Just ask Eric Mangini.

Now that I have painted a background portrait for you lets cut the chitchat and get down to the business at hand.

There are several things at play when looking at the Michael Vick situation. All of them are more favorable for Pittsburgh than any other team in the NFL.

It all starts with the franchise. Teams like the Patriots have been accused of doing anything including cheating to win. The public outcry and negative attention that a Boston based team would get would be exacerbated by the questionable integrity of a franchise recently under fire.

The Steelers franchise on the other hand, has done enough and shown enough in the character department to sign Vick with little to no social backlash in the media at all. Because of their impeccable track record, the Steelers are one of the few franchises in the NFL that could actually get a positive spin from being involved with a young man two years removed from funding a dog-fighting ring.  

The truth is the Steelers do not need Michael Vick in order to win football games. Ben Roethlisberger is a lock as the starting Quarterback. There are able and ready replacements behind him in Charlie Batch and the “Vick-like” Dennis Dixon. Bringing Vick to the Burgh can be seen as the Rooneys allowing a young man that made a mistake to get on with his life and make something of himself. Call it a rehabilitation project of sorts for the patriarchs of the league. Just the Rooneys living up to the standards they have set for others. It’s great press.

So why is this more relevant today than it was last week?

I know there have been rumors floating around about Michael Vick being on the sidelines at Latrobe, but all of that is meaningless to me unless someone can confirm its validity. If you heard what Mike Tomlin said in the last 24 hours you might have also picked up on something with enough substance to stick to the wall.

Tomlin when asked about the possibility of signing Michael Vick would not deny that they were taking a serious look at signing him. Instead he said, “We will continue to look at anyone that can throw, catch, run or tackle and will help this football team win games.”  

That doesn’t sound like a no, does it?

In fact, the no nonsense Tomlin has refused to squash what he would normally nip in the bud. He is on the record multiple times saying Vick deserves another chance to compete in the NFL.

Tomlin’s Hampton Roads roots are close to those of Vick. He knows Vick and where he comes from, and he most assuredly knows the potential he possesses. Not only as a football player but also as a human being.

Tomlin’s friend and coaching mentor Tony Dungy agreed to begin mentoring Michael Vick while he was still in home confinement in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The process has been ongoing even after Vick was released, and Dungy has been impressed with Vick’s progress.

Dungy started his career in Pittsburgh, where he began as a player under Chuck Knoll and then eventually as a coach under the same man he played for. Dungy has always been close with the Rooneys and was a great reference when the Steelers were interviewing Tomlin for their Head Coaching vacancy two years ago. 

His words have meaning for many of the same reasons the Rooney’s do, and they have not turned a deaf ear to him in the past.

With the interest in Vick as a person so high between both Tomlin and Dungy it is easy to see how the Steelers organization would take a hard look at the opportunity to sign him.

The question remains what would they do with him if they did sign him?

There would be some very interesting roster implications should they choose to go ahead with what they are obviously considering.

They clearly don’t need a Quarterback, but Vick’s agent has made it clear that he wants to be a Quarterback.  Obviously the Steelers are not going to make him the starter in Pittsburgh. So what is the plan and who is the odd man out?

It is possible that if the Steelers brought Vick in as a Quarterback Charlie Batch would likely be let go at the end of camp. Leaving Vick in a position to play a slash type role. I could see this working under Bill Cowher and Ken Whisenhunt, but the offensive system as is, is far different under Tomlin and Arians.

Gadget plays to the tune of reverse passes and flea flickers have not been seen since “the chin” vacated his office at the UPMC Center.  There would obviously be some philosophy changes in order to utilize their newest weapon, but we are talking about adding a whole new chapter in the playbook of a Super Bowl team.  

While a wildcat offense could very well be a great asset especially when it comes to rectifying the abysmal effort the Steelers made in goal-line situations, it would involve taking their leader and captain off the field in order to do it.

Also waiting in the wings is the young Dennis Dixon. A younger, unproven Quarterback with a similar skill set to the one Vick brings to the table. The Steelers were obviously grooming him to become the number two guy. It is also quite possible they were planning on utilizing him in a similar way. Which would explain the lack of concern should the Steelers have already implemented the new offense in the off-season for Dixon.

Having Vick in town will either stunt Dixon’s growth or help him by letting him watch the master for a season. Assuming the most Vick will sign for is one or two years. Dixon would then step in when Vick gets ready for his eventual payday.  

Whether or not all of this will come to fruition still remains to be seen, but the possibilities are far more than a rumor. 



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