Vick Has Had Success Against Steelers, Steelers Lite Had Success Against Vick

Vick Has Had Success Against Steelers, Steelers Lite Had Success Against Vick

As new friend of the Level and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Alan Robinson pointed out on Wednesday, Michael Vick has experienced some success in two career meetings against the Steelers. Then again, the Eagles quarterback's struggles in Arizona might be telling us something completely different about this Sunday's matchup.

After two meetings with Pittsburgh when he was still an Atlanta Falcon, Vick is surprisingly undefeated. In 2002, a 22-year-old Vick fought the Steelers to a 34-34 tie during his first full season as starter, throwing for 294 yards and a touchdown, running for 38 and another score, and refusing to yield a turnover. Four years later, Vick actually got the best of the black and gold in a 41-38 shootout, tossing four TD passes en route to the victory.

Of course, this was a much less polished version of Vick we're talking about. It's hard to say many of the things he did in those years carries a lot of weight today. That said, little has changed about the Steelers defense in the same timeframe -- only the names, really.

Perhaps a more telling example of what to expect from Vick and the Eagles offense was seen as recently as Week 3.

The Arizona Cardinals coaching staff, led by head coach Ken Whisenhunt, was essentially transplanted from Pittsburgh. Whisenhunt was formerly the Steelers offensive coordinator, but more to the point, defensive coordinator Ray Horton served as a defensive backs coach under Dick LeBeau from 2004 through 2010.

Beings that it happened only two weeks ago, we should all be able to remember how that went down. Under constant pressure throughout the afternoon, Vick played one of his worst games in midnight green, completing less than 50% of his passes and losing two fumbles -- the second of which was returned over 90 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles' offense could not get into the end zone, and Philly lost 27-6.

Like many teams before, the Cards were able to rush Vick with the blitz, which not coincidentally has always been the signature of LeBeau's defenses in Pittsburgh as well. Chances are we'll be seeing a lot of the same concepts at work this week, if not some of the exact same schemes.

Then again, there is at least some doubt as to whether the Steelers will have as much success. While many might choose to think of Arizona as Pittsburgh Lite, the reality is their defense may have surpassed the Steelers in terms of pure talent.

Pitt's star power on the defensive side of the field has dwindled in recent years, and the truly great players that remain -- James Harrison and Troy Polamalu -- are on the wrong side of their thirties, not to mention dealing with injuries. The Cardinals have some elder statesmen out there in Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson, but guys like Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, and Patrick Peterson are right in the middle of their primes.

So it's entirely possible the Arizona game can be used as a learning experience, and things will slow down for Vick this time around. He may even be able to draw on his past success against the storied Pittsburgh franchise.

Then again, the book on Vick is out there, and we've seen him struggle to move the ball before. The chess match between Vick and LeBeau should be very interesting to say the least.

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Brett Brown says Ben Simmons will return in January

Ben Simmons is on track to return to the Sixers in January, Brett Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday. 

Previous reports indicated that Simmons, who suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in the Sixers' final training camp scrimmage on Sept. 30, would be out three months. Friday's news jives with that, but this is the first time the Sixers have given a timetable.

"It's not doom and gloom," Brown said. "Ben is coming back in January. We are still trying to find information on Jerryd (Bayless). Jahlil (Okafor) is still trying to touch the court in his first preseason game."

With long-term ramifications in mind, there had been some speculation that Simmons' camp wanted him to sit all season. 

This is rather encouraging news and it means the Sixers may avoid watching another of their top picks miss his entire first year.

Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

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Union offering great deals on field level seats ahead of MLS Cup Playoffs

Playoff soccer is returning to Chester for the first time in five years, and while fans prep for the Union’s first postseason games since 2011, there is no shortage of seating options for Union tickets on the primary market.

Perhaps most importantly, fans won’t have to break the bank to be on hand as the Union compete for their first MLS Cup in franchise history. Union field level seats are available for both the team’s final home regular season game against the New York Red Bulls and the Eastern Conference Semifinal on October 30 should they advance past the knockout round.

The team’s official website lists feet-on-the-pitch seating starting from $155 per ticket for this weekend’s game against the Red Bulls. The first-place Red Bulls head to Talen Energy Stadium with a first-round bye secured, but Union head coach Jim Curtin expects them to bring the pressure with them on Sunday. Fans can look on up close – and for relatively cheap - as the Union look to hand the Eastern Conference leaders their final loss of the regular season.

The Union will take on either New York City FC or Toronto FC in the knockout round either next Wednesday or Thursday. Pending a victory on the road, they’ll return to Talen Energy Stadium to host an Eastern Conference Semifinal game on October 30. Field level seating is still widely available for the team’s first home playoff game since 2011 and start from $178 per ticket.

2016 marks the franchise’s second MLS Cup Playoffs berth in its seven-year existence. They clinched a first-round bye in 2011 but fell to the Houston Dynamo by a 3-1 aggregate in the Conference Semifinals. The Union bring a much different vibe into the playoffs this season, however, after a formidable stretch from September on nearly drowned their postseason hopes. The team won its last game on August 27 against Sporting Kansas City, losing four games and drawing in two others since. 

Despite the team’s recent struggles, there is a sense of renewment that will carry them into the MLS Cup Playoffs. Records are cast aside and the slate is wiped clean, beginning a new path on the long and often tumultuous road to a national championship.