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.

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

This time, Steve Mason bailed out by Flyers' teammates

Steve Mason was not his sharpest Thursday night and he's the first to admit it.

"There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to," Mason said. "This is a situation the guys in front never quit. They earned the two points for sure."

Mason yielded five goals for the third time this season, but made enough saves to secure the Flyers' seventh straight win, a 6-5 victory over the Oilers at the Wells Fargo Center.

The win streak is the longest the Flyers have had since Dec. 2-15, 2011, when "Mr. Universe" Ilya Bryzgalov was their goaltender. Mason finished with 28 saves.

"The guys bailed me out," Mason said, "When your goalie is not making the saves that you need, but the guys keep battling in front, from a personal standpoint, it's huge to see."

Making his 16th start in the Flyers' last 17 games, Mason appeared to show signs of fatigue against Edmonton. He's started the last six games, winning all six.

His current six-game win streak is a career-high, and the five goals allowed Thursday is the first time he's allowed more than two goals during this current streak. 

Entering Thursday, Mason was 5-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in his previous five starts, and 8-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and .930 save percentage since Nov. 12. So Thursday is just a small blemish on Mason's impressive résumé of late.

"I didn't think he looked tired," Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. "This win's a little bit indicative of the type of team we have. A couple nights ago, Mason was the best player. He picked up a lot of guys around him and tonight maybe wasn't his best.

"But it was pretty good. The guys battled hard. They picked up some of the slack. That's what it takes. Every guy's not going to be at their best every night.

"You'd like them to be, and I know the guys want to be at that level, but when one piece isn't working, the other part has to pick it up."

The Flyers' offensive outburst came two days after Mason stole two points against the Florida Panthers, and nine days after the goalie stole another two points against Boston.

Twice on Thursday the Flyers faced two-goal deficits, and both times they found a way to erase them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time in Flyers' history they were able to win a game in which they were down two goals twice.

"Once we got it to 5-4," Mason said, "I tried to lock it down as best I could. There's nights where you're not feeling as sharp as you'd like to.  … Coming back in a couple of days, from a personal standpoint, I got to be more sharp."

After going falling behind 2-0, the Flyers tied it, 2-2, with three goals in 72 seconds in the second period, the quickest three-goal burst since Feb. 14, 2009, vs. the Islanders. 

Then, the Flyers fell behind 5-3 before Voracek sparked a three-goal third period with his 10th of the year at 6:31. Claude Giroux tallied his second of the game, and Michael Raffl pushed the Flyers to victory with his sixth of the season at 18:31 of the final stanza.

"It's a great feeling to come back from behind," Flyers rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov said. "You never want to be in that position, but that's the way it sometimes go. We stuck with it and came from behind and won the game. It's a great effort."

Of the five goals allowed Thursday, the first goal Mason allowed was the only one that can be pinned on the netminder. It was not a great goal to give up, on the second shot of the game, too. Afterward, he said the read was the backdoor play, but Leon Draisaitl slipped it through Mason's five-hole for his fifth goal in as many games.

"Some nights you can be better than the other nights," Provorov said. "And that's what the team's all about. We play for each other. If someone has a mistake, we all help him out and play for each other. That's why we win games."

"That's how you become a great team," Voracek, who tied a career-high with four points, said. "Mase playing the last six games the way he did, it wasn't his night.

"We came big for him. It's how you get into the playoffs, and it's how you have success in the playoffs. It's a good thing we won the game and get rolling now."