PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' mantra throughout the Mike Tomlin years has been plain and to the point:
Next man up.
It's served them well, but it can't possibly hold for the quarterback position.
"Ahhhh," offensive coordinator Todd Haley said as he mulled over the question. "It's still our mentality. But that being said, this is the quarterback who touches the ball every single play. Just like any other player out there we work hard as a coaching staff and in what we take pride in is playing to each player's strengths. And when you're talking about the quarterback, you're going to do the same thing."
The Steelers will find out soon enough. They're replacing Big Ben Roethlisberger with Fast Michael Vick, and they're doing so in only one full practice before hosting the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.
Roethlisberger, of course, sprained the MCL in his left knee Sunday in St. Louis and also suffered a bone bruise that doctors say can impede the healing process of the MCL. He's expected to miss four to six weeks, but Roethlisberger, who showed up Tuesday on crutches, told reporters he's not sure if it will be closer to four weeks or six.
"Trying to drink my milk and get back as fast as I can," he said. "We'll take it week by week. I know I'm out this week. We'll re-evaluate next week and go from there. There's no way to put a timetable on it."
Roethlisberger didn't appear to be in pain at the time, but admitted the injury's a more difficult one than he's used to.
"You guys know me," he said. "I can go deal with a lot of pain. But this is pretty painful."
Roethlisberger is petitioning Tomlin to stand on the sideline during the game in order to consult with anyone -- particularly Vick -- who may wish to take advantage of his experience. But Tomlin told Roethlisberger he has a "no crutch" rule on the sideline. "So if I can get rid of these, we'll see what happens," Roethlisberger said.
"I'm here. I'm in meetings," he added. "I don't want to overwhelm (Vick) because I'm sure he's already going to be overwhelmed with a lot of stuff. I'll do whatever I can to help him, communicate with him. I'll lay back unless he really needs something, but if I see something I'll speak up."
Roethlisberger believes Vick has a good grasp of the offense, but that the offense will likely change.
"We'll tweak some things and do some stuff that utilizes his strengths," Roethlisberger said. "He's a way better runner than I am, so maybe you'll see some of that."
Roethlisberger believes the Steelers have the kind of offensive line that can adapt to Vick's mobility.
"Absolutely," Roethlisberger said. "Very athletic. I don't know how much we'll do of it. I think that if there was a group that could do it, it's this one."
The Steelers installed whatever changes and practiced Tuesday without pads. "He did a good job," Haley of Vick. "Obviously it was the first time getting a lot of reps for us. Getting a grasp of the entire game plan, that's a big job. But he obviously had prepared and for the most part I was happy with what he did."
"Yeah, it felt good," said Vick. "Just being out there having a chance to work with the guys I'm going to be out there with on Thursday, just trying to build some chemistry, get on the same page in all facets, I think we had a pretty good practice. Still some things to learn from. Can't wait to go watch the film and get some good studying tonight."
Tuesday marked the end of the fifth week that Vick has been with the Steelers. He worked briefly in the preseason, but his most important task before last Sunday was imitating mobile quarterbacks as a member of the "look" team. After Roethlisberger was hurt early in the third quarter in St. Louis, Vick came in and completed five of six passes, but he appeared to lack confidence. Perhaps that was the reason Tomlin walked off the field with Vick in such celebratory animation.
Was Tomlin trying to pump Vick up for the coming stretch as starting quarterback?
"I think he was more so just kind of congratulating me for getting us out with a win," Vick said. "It's hard to win in this league, so I understood coach's excitement. The only thing on my mind was how I can get better and what I could've done better. That's just how hard I am on myself. I feel bad that I didn't really celebrate with coach, but hopefully we can do that this week."
NOTES -- The Steelers signed G/C B.J. Finney to their practice squad and released Barrett Jones. Finney was signed by the Steelers immediately after the draft and stuck around until the final cut.