The Steelers defense will face a tough test this week in trying to stop Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who has the ability to hurt a team in more ways than one.
"He has a skill set that is unique," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He's extremely quick and fast. He can get out of tough spots. He's got a quick release. He's also got a strong arm.
"The full field remains an option to him. He can work down field later in the down. He's just got an awesome skill set that lends itself to a well-rounded game – one that you need to account for from a defensive perspective. All 11 men on the field have to be cognizant of what he is capable of. He has that level of skill."
Many defenses have used a "spy" on Vick, keeping a close eye on him as he can run with the ball just as easily as he can throw a bomb down field. Tomlin had to prepare for Vick when he was defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Vick was the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, so he knows it's an option teams have used. But Tomlin didn't indicate if that is something the Steelers would do on Sunday or not.
"I've been facing Mike since he came into the league and that's always one of the many ways that you address him," said Tomlin. "But the reality is that when you're talking about a guy as talented as he is, it's a four-man rush, it's a five-man rush, it's a six-man rush and combinations of those with people who are search lights for when he breaks contain, even in the midst of what I described. He is that caliber of a talent and we're going to have to use all the tools at our disposal to minimize what he does to us."
The Steelers had their bye week last week, an opportunity for Tomlin to take a look at the team in general and work on areas where he feels improvement is needed.
"I use bye weeks in a similar manner every year," said Tomlin. "It's an opportunity to self-evaluate, see where we are and work on some areas of needed improvement for us. It's also [an opportunity] to take a step back and watch others perform and get a spectators view, if you will, of ball. But more than anything, it's a catch-all. You do some housekeeping, if you will. Guys that need to get healthy have an opportunity to do that. Guys that need to focus on specific areas of their game get an opportunity to do that. Hopefully, as we come out of this thing we show the fruits of that labor."
The Steelers bye week came after just three games, one of the earliest ones they have had. That doesn't bother Tomlin, though.
"I don't care about the schedule," said Tomlin. "Whatever schedule they send, we'll play. I don't care. I haven't run across a bye week that didn't seem to come in a timely manner, whether it's in Week 4 or Week 13. I've always liked them."
Tomlin did say the biggest difference in having one earlier versus late is how you go about evaluating yourself, as there is less to look at early on.
"I talked to the team about this (Monday)," said Tomlin. "About the only difference between an early bye week and a late bye week, I think we had a late bye week last year, is the self-evaluation process that you go through. When it's late in the year, you've got more of a body of work and what you're looking at is more of a personality. We don't need to read too much into where we are at this juncture because we've only played three football games. So, the self-evaluation element, you do it with the understanding that you don't have a big body of work and that we're very much a team in development, as is everyone else in football.
"So, there's less of a self-scout or self-analysis or position analysis, in terms of where we are, than if it occurred later in the year."