The Philadelphia Eagles are forever paranoid about the health of Michael Vick. Eagles fans like myself have been trained to hold our breath every time Vick goes down, since his history indicates that he eventually won't get up. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers are trained to fear the worst for their quarterback as well.
Ben Roethlisberger has his own long history of injuries, which often makes it look like he is held together by duct tape. So while one hard hit from the Steelers on Vick on Oct. 7 could destroy the Eagles, Philadelphia can do the same to Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger as well.
Like Vick, Roethlisberger has only played 16 games in one season for his entire career. Some kind of injury or hard hit usually knocks them both out for some period of time, leaving the Eagles and Steelers scrambling to contain the damage. Of course, one Pennsylvania team has done this better than the other.
The Steelers may have to worry about Roethlisberger's health all the time, but they also know he can rise back up and take them to Super Bowls - which he has done three times. Meanwhile, Vick's ability to play through pain hasn't yielded that kind of end result.
While the Steelers can survive without Roethlisberger for a week or two, the Eagles are far more questionable without Vick - and are still questionable even with him. Roethlisberger has risen back time and again and has at least been healthy enough to win in January. Meanwhile, Vick and the Eagles have not shown that kind of resiliency when it has counted.
This season, Vick has somehow been strong enough to endure hard hits and endless turnovers, as the Eagles managed to start 3-1 anyway. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has taken fewer hits and has thrown eight touchdowns with just one interception - yet the Steelers are only 1-2.
The Pittsburgh defense hasn't been healthy enough to give Roethlisberger much support, leaving him to carry the load like Vick often does in most weeks. Eventually, that may catch up to him like it usually does.
Since Philadelphia's defense has been much stronger, perhaps it can get to Roethlisberger and knock him out before Pittsburgh knocks out Vick. But with their luck, they could both get hurt at the same time - as they are about due to miss some time by now anyway. Yet the Steelers could endure that, assuming it isn't for weeks at a time - although the Eagles would be a different story.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have made a tradition out of fearing for their quarterback's fragile health. It's only a question of when Vick and Roethlisberger eventually can't get up, when they can come back - and how much they can do for the Eagles and Steelers before then.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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