By Christina Rivers
Monday Night Football will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Both teams enter the week five game with a 2-2 win/loss record. Both teams had a handful of injured players they were hoping to see return to the lineup, giving them a better shot at a win that moves them into better contention in their divisions.
The Steelers will once again enter a regular season game without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The veteran is rehabbing his left knee and has been working toward strengthening it before he is ready to make a return to the field. Michael Vick has stepped in behind Roethlisberger and, despite a non-spectacular showing against the Baltimore Ravens, he has had plenty of time to work with the offense leading up to this game.
“I feel so much better just having more time to practice, more time to build chemistry and learn the offense,” Vick said earlier this week. “I am trying to take advantage of (the extra days) from start to finish.” Vick had one thing on his mind: football. Learning Todd Haley’s terminology was one thing that Vick needed more exposure to. “It’s nothing I have ever heard before. It’s all different,” admitted Vick. “I still have to learn the concepts, the hots and the protections. It’s constant work…definitely a mental challenge.”
Vick should have an extra tool against San Diego as wide receiver Markus Wheaton returns from an ankle injury and both Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams step into the backfield. Against the Ravens, the Steelers receivers had issues adjusting to the left-handed delivery of Vick, including the unique spin he puts on the ball. The focus at practice was to get comfortable and create an effective plan for play against the Chargers.
“Last week was an extreme situation, in my opinion,” Haley said. “This week…it’s more about continuing to build on what we were able to do last week, obviously, tailored to the San Diego Chargers.” It isn’t clear whether Williams will get more touches in week five, but Haley said, “I’d like to see him carrying it more. It is difficult though when you have Le’Veon. Do you give it to him? Do you take him off the field. All of those things factor in. We have to balance and have a feel within the game.”
The Steelers defense had dealt with the majority of the injury issues as it continues to improve week to week. The good news was that cornerback Cortez Allen, defensive tackle Dan McCullers, linebacker Ryan Shazier and safety Ross Ventrone were all full participants in practice on Friday. With a healthy team, Pittsburgh looks to improve as they face Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates on Monday. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler has liked the level of intensity and improvement his squad has shown, but told the media this week that there is always room for more.
“Sometimes, you have to rely on your defense. Sometimes you have to rely on your offense,” said Butler. “That’s how you win games in the NFL. You don’t win strictly because of offense or defense or special teams. Every once in a while during the season somebody has to stand up, whether it be offense or defense and win the game for you.”
Safety Mike Mitchell echoed what many of his teammates were saying about playing on Monday Night Football. “That is the pinnacle. Besides playoffs and Super Bowl games, that is the biggest it gets,” Mitchell said of the game. “You are the only game that day. Anyone that remotely likes football is watching. It’s a game as a kid you always wanted to play in. I think that is why everyone gets so excited.”
Newly signed placekicker Chris Boswell looks to boost the Steelers’ special teams play in his first game with the team.
QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee)
CB Cortez Allen (knee)
DT Daniel McCullers (knee)
LB Ryan Shazier (shoulder)
TE Matt Spaeth (hand)
S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)
WR Markus Wheaton (ankle)
Christina Rivers has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers and National Football League professionally as a journalist and photographer for over a decade. Rivers studied Exercise Physiology and Sports Psychology at Brigham Young University as a student-athlete. Christina is a freelance writer covering all things NFL as well as a published author. Her work can be found on