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Which Quarterback Will Start for the Steelers Next Week?

It’s a good thing that the Steelers have it together as a team, because at one position, things are really a mess. The Steelers have been dealing with a less-than-optimal situation at quarterback ever since Week 3, when a tough hit courtesy of the St. Louis Rams defense sidelined star Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger suffered a sprained MCL on the play, and the Steelers were forced to turn to backup QB Michael Vick.

Vick lost his first start to the hated Baltimore Ravens, but he helped revive the Steelers in a tough Monday Night Football game against the San Diego Chargers. Despite the big win, the Steelers offense didn’t look that great in either game, and that trend continued when the Steelers hosted an excellent Arizona Cardinals game this past week.

Then Vick had to leave the game because of a hamstring issue, and the Steelers were down to their last quarterback. But all was not lost: third-stringer Landry Jones came into the game and promptly threw two touchdowns, leading the Steelers to victory.

So with Vick and Roethlisberger injured and Landry Jones proving himself a suitable replacement, the Steelers will surely start Jones in next week’s game – right?

Well, not so fast. Rumors are swirling that either one or both of Vick and Roethlisberger could be healthy enough to make a start next Sunday. Now the Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with the most improbable quarterback controversy in the NFL. Who will start? Here are our thoughts.

Ben Roethlisberger

If Ben Roethlisberger is fully healthy, he should start for the Pittsburgh Steelers – that’s a no-brainer. But is Big Ben likely to be fully healthy by Sunday? It’s nice to hear that Roethlisberger is confident about his recovery, but the Steelers and their staff will need to be 100% sure of his health before they throw him out there in a game that, frankly, they will probably be able to win without him (the Chiefs are 1-5 and look lost this season).

Roethlisberger is an incredibly tough human, but this is very, very early to be coming back from an MCL sprain. We think it’s moderately likely that Ben claims to be ready, and very unlikely that the Steelers training staff agrees.

Will he start? Doubtful. We don’t think Roethlisberger will be healthy enough to start, and we’re convinced that the Steelers will be too careful to rush him back for this week’s game.

Michael Vick

The Steelers signing of Vick was a bit controversial because of Vick’s criminal past, but it was almost universally lauded from a football perspective. Vick was sure to be one of the best backups in the league, we were told. And maybe he is, but backup quarterbacks just can’t replace elite starters, and Vick’s Steelers have looked a lot more sluggish and beatable than Roethlisberger’s up-tempo, hurry-up offense version. The fact that Jones was able to do so much more against a defense that had Vick baffled hurts Vick’s stock quite a bit. Vick seems likely to be ready to start again next Sunday, but will the Steelers want him to?

Is Vick really worse than Jones? Well, it’s not clear. Yes, Jones outperformed Vick last week, but Vick was the one that the Cardinals game-planned against in practice all week long. The Cardinals have never seen Jones before, and that’s an advantage. Besides, Vick has been the backup rather than the third-stringer all year long for a reason.

Will he start? No. Jones has earned consideration, and Vick’s health questions make it easy for the coaches to give him a shot if necessary. We don’t think Vick will start.

Landry Jones

We’ve already told you how impressive Landry Jones looked in last week’s gutsy win over the Arizona Cardinals. Does that mean he would be just as good against the Kansas City Chiefs next week? Normally we’d be reluctant to bank on a relatively unproven quarterback, but the Arizona Cardinals have a top-ten pass defense while the Kansas City squad is bottom-ten in that category. It’s easy to imagine that Jones would do at least as well against the Chiefs.

Jones also has the advantage of being the quarterback that the Steelers are practicing with at the time of this writing. He’s healthy enough to get plenty of reps with the first team in practice before Sunday’s game, and the Steelers are being forced to proceed with the assumption that he’ll start, as he’s the only one guaranteed to be healthy.

Will he start? Jones is the most likely of these quarterbacks to start, but the biggest question at hand is Roethlisberger’s potential to recover in time.

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