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October 02, 2015

Rooting for an aging Michael Vick in Pittsburgh

We now have a large enough sample to understand that Thursday Night Football is, by definition, poorly played football. “Bad ball,” as my dad succinctly calls it. So while last night’s Steelers-Ravens game went to overtime, the product wasn’t so hot.

Part of the reason for that was the quarterback play. Joe Flacco, South Jersey’s own, went a very un-elite 20-33 for 189 yards, one touchdown, and one pick. Flacco isn’t interesting mostly because he’s Joe Flacco, but he has also been a central character in these physical AFC North games for a long time. His opposite number, on the other hand, was both a fresh face and the reason I was watching.

When Michael Vick initially joined the Steelers as Big Ben’s backup, many Pittsburgh fans protested his signing. I had seen this movie before. The reaction was reminiscent of August 2009, when a large group of Philadelphians felt similarly about the Eagles taking a chance on Vick after he was released from prison. No matter how much he makes of his second chance, Vick’s very public past will always follow him. Personally, I came away extremely impressed with the way the 35-year-old quarterback handled himself off the field during his four years in Philly.

Vick made countless appearances for the Humane Society. He donated to charity. He reacted to getting Wally Pipp’d by Nick Foles as well as one could imagine. There were other things, too, but those stand out at the moment.

After submitting a storybook 2010 season, Vick’s two fatal flaws began to pop up more frequently on the field: 1. He never particularly cared about protecting his body. 2. He had just as much trouble taking care of the football. Yet in a city that supposedly appreciates max effort (even if said effort isn’t necessarily smart), Vick always put his body on the line. Check out his willingness to block on Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown run:

It was strange to see Vick play the role of game manager on Thursday. He’s not the reason that the Steelers fell 23-20 in overtime; Pittsburgh’s coaching staff and kicker were more at fault. Still, Vick missed an easy thrown to an open Antonio Brown on a crucial fourth-down play in the extra period. He’s not the player that he used to be.

After the game ended, I felt a little sad. Considering how much I dislike the Pittsburgh Steelers, that probably says a lot about my feelings toward Michael Vick.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann