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Adam’s Preview Of The Steelers Game

When the Vikings won their first four games nobody was all that impressed.  Afterall, they started out by beating the Browns and the Lions.  Then they got “lucky” on a miracle throw against the Niners.  Then they beat up on the Packer’s “Baby Swiss” offensive line in a game where the Vikes almost let them back in it.

Now that the Steelers have won three in a row, everybody is ready to anoint them as one of the hottest teams in football.  Two of those teams were none-other than the Browns and the Lions.  They also beat the struggling Chargers.  This comes after losing to the Bengals and Bears, in addition to only beating the lowly Titans by a measly three points.

So everyone is saying that this is our toughest challenge yet, and it just might be, but I’m not ready to close the books on this one and say we’re going to see our first loss this Sunday.  Last time I checked, a 4-2 football team is not as good as a 6-0 football team.

Let’s break this down a little bit:

The Vikings Offense

The Steelers will be the toughest defense we have faced to date, especially with Troy Polamalu back on the field.  However, even with their star safety, I think the Vikings playmakers through the air outmatch the Steelers secondary. 

Favre has proven his skeptics (anybody know one?) wrong thus far in the season and should be able to spread the ball around on a defense that is ranked a modest 12th against the pass.  Sidney Rice is playing outstanding football while Bernard Berrian continues to draw the most coverage.  Visanthe Shiancoe seems to be impossible to cover and is an option every time he is on the field.  If Percy Harvin can play (shoulder injury) then that is one more threat to give the Steelers a major migraine.  Not to mention, as we all know, Favre is very willing to check the ball down to Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, and as we all know they are capable of making big things happen every time they touch the ball.  Favre needs to be wary of throwing towards Polamalu, and take care of the football.  If he can refrain from turning it over, then the Vikings will find success through the air.

Aside from turning over the ball, the biggest challenge for the Vikings passing game will be seen on the offensive line.  James Harrison has been an absolute monster this year with 6 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.  Bryant McKinnie will finally need to step up and earn his paycheck this week against Harrison, by allowing Favre time to find those open receivers and prevent turnovers.  Also, John Sullivan has his work cut out for him against Casey Hampton.  In short, a failure to pass the ball on Sunday will be the result of failure on the line… let’s hope they can pull it together and that Kleinsasser will be able to provide McKinnie with adequate help.  He will need it.

People are starting to wonder about our run game.  Not me.  Teams are still stacking the box and we still have the league’s leading rusher.  What’s wrong with that?  The key on Sunday will be for the Vikings to stick with the run, control the game clock, and force the Steelers to keep their pass rush and blitzes in check.  The offensive line and Adrian Peterson will play a major role in preventing the Steelers from being able to impose their will.  However, if there was ever a game where Peterson needs to “just go down” to avoid getting the ball stripped this is that game.

Overall, I think our offense that ranks 2nd in points scored will slightly outmatch a defense that ranks 11th in points allowed.

Player To Watch:  Favre tends to zero in on certain receivers for stretches of weeks at a time, so watch for Sidney Rice to have another big game.  I don’t necessarily mean that he’ll put up 150+ yards again, but I think he’ll be the go-to guy on important downs.

The Vikings Defense

So here’s the million dollar question right?  Can the Vikings 24th ranked pass defense do anything to stop the Steelers 2nd ranked pass offense even with their best cornerback out with an injury?

I think so and here is how I think it’ll go down.

I often hear folks complain that Jared Allen tends to burst off the line and “over shoot.”  Sometimes this looks like a wasted effort when he is only moving vertically and still ends up 5 yards away from the passer.  This week though, this should play to our advantage.

Big Ben is a great scrambler.  No doubt.  However, Allen’s pursuit is going to essentially shut down half of the field for Big Ben, and force Ben to roll to his right on nearly every play.  So now the defense knows where he is going to be… in the pocket or on the right side.  With Kevin Williams absolutely dominating in the middle, Kemoeatu will be no match and even the pocket will collapse more often than not, meaning now Ben will be forced to his right on almost every play.  Let’s just say I expect this to be a VERY big game for Ray Edwards as he matches up against Willie Colon. 

So now the big question will be if a combination of Karl Paymah, Benny Sapp, Ben Leber, and Tyrell Johnson can hold their own against the receivers on the right side of the field.  If either Holmes or Ward are over there, then the Vikings need to add double coverage.  As far as Heath Miller goes, I think he’ll be our biggest threat in this game.  The Vikings are terrible in covering tight ends, so the best way to make Miller a non-factor will be to provide a relentless pass rush.  This will force the Steelers to keep Miller on the line to help block.

As far as the run goes, Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall do not scare me against this Vikings defense.  We will dominate this offensive line on both passing and running downs. 

Who does worry me, however, is former Viking Mewelde Moore.  The Vikings have shown a great amount of inability in stopping screen plays and Moore has shown a great amount of ability in running screen plays.

The combination of Moore and Miller means that our linebackers and safeties playing well will be the key to our success.  I think it is inevitable that our defense gives up two to four big plays to the Steelers wide outs no matter what we do, but the most important thing will be for our defense to hold on third downs by shutting down Moore and Miller and thus getting the Steelers offense off the field. 

Our linebackers are almost always playing decent football and our safeties should be ready to make a statement after the boat load of criticism they’ve seen this week.  I think they can do it.

Player To Watch:  E.J. Henderson could possibly be the most important factor in how this game turns out.  I expect to see him assigned almost exclusively to Big Ben, whether that be in the form of a spy or an extra pass rusher.  Henderson is our best tackler, and I have a hard time seeing Ben just toss him around like he does to so many defenders.  Also, per usual, Henderson will be a major factor in stopping the run.

The Vikings Special Teams

The Vikings special teams is simply superior to that of the Steelers. 

The Steelers have only mustered an average of 6.4 yards per punt return with no touchdowns, while giving up an average of 7.7 yards per punt return.  The Vikings are averaging 13.1 yards per punt return while only giving up 7.8 yards per return, which includes the one they gave up for a touchdown.

Kick returns are not quite as lopsided, though.  The Steelers are averaging 25.1 yards per return while giving up only 22.9 yards per return which includes one touchdown.  The Vikings are slightly better.  They average 25.9 yards per return which includes one touchdown.  They are allowing only 21.3 yards per return. 

A key factor in the Vikings return game will be whether or not Percy Harvin is available to do the duties.  His shoulder injury may not sideline him for the game, but Brad Childress may choose to relieve him of his return duties for at least this week regardless.

Chris Kluwe and Steeler’s punter Daniel Sepulveda have very similar stats and are essentially a wash when it comes to giving an advantage to their respective teams.

Jeff Reed has missed on three of eight field goal attempts from 30 yards or longer.  His recent legal troubles came to a head this week, and I think it is safe to assume that the Vikings have the better kicker.  Longwell is 11 of 12 this season, with his one miss coming from a blocked attempt after Steve Hutchison and Phil Loadholt decided to take a nap instead of, you know… play football.

Player To Watch:  Ryan Longwell has been on fire this year.  However, with this game likely to be a close one and with undesirable field conditions almost certain to play a factor, Longwell will need to be ready to kick in some high-pressure moments.  Luckily for us he’s played on a crap field before (Green Bay) and knows how to put one through the uprights when it matters most.  Longwell could very well end up as the hero of this game.

Predicting The Outcome

This won’t be easy, but I do think that the Vikings defense shows up on Sunday and that our offense continues to do what they’ve been doing.  Big Ben will turn over the ball and Favre will take care of it.  Adrian Peterson will have a solid 80+ yards while the Steelers abandon the run very early. 

It’ll be hard fought and high scoring, but in the end I think the Vikes prevail (I have to think that, right?) by a score of 33 to 30.


Go Vikes!

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4 Responses to “Adam’s Preview Of The Steelers Game”

  1. bigjohnny84 says:

    Mostly agree Adam. But I think they will run a little better against us because I think we will be trying to stop their passing game. But I pray everything you said comes true.

  2. JT says:

    Lets keep in mind here…. The Steelers have only beaten 4 teams with a combined record of 4-19 AND lost to the BEARS of all teams! I’m not going to underestimate the Steelers and their capabilities for one second, but they have yet to impress me with a solid win vs. a promising team. I think it will be another nail-biting game determined by a field goal with the Vikes coming out on top. Maybe the vikes will finally get the respect they deserve after Sunday. Every week I hear… “The real challenge is the _________.”

    Go Vikes!

  3. olderthandirt says:

    The game is now over ……… so I will say ……… “No comment”.

  4. Adam Warwas says:

    lol, I got a lot right here… but got the big thing wrong 🙂

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