VIKINGS (1-0) VS. STEELERS (1-0)
SUNDAY, 1 P.M. ET, HEINZ FIELD, PITTSBURGH uTV: FOX, DIRECTV 710
Announcers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber, Kristina Pink
About the Vikings: They have revamped offense that features RB and is still finding a rhythm with new faces on the offensive line and new roles for the receiving corps. That line will be tested by a Steelers defensive front that was dominant in the season opener, but the Vikings believe Cook (127 yards rushing in Week 1) can keep the Steelers honest. QB will see how the Browns used their tight ends last week against the Steelers and try to attack with TE
who caught a touchdown in Week 1. On the defensive side, the Vikings need their talented and experienced front seven to limit the run game and try to make the Steelers one-dimensional. The Steelers will create big plays, but if the Vikings can win the turnover battle and limit those big plays, they’ll be in the game in the fourth quarter.
About the Steelers: The running game never got rolling in the season opener, but QB
and WR were on their games and rookie OLB
was dominant in his debut. The Steelers think they have the pieces to be a Super Bowl team and remain confident that RB will only improve after he sat out of training camp and the entire preseason. WR is back from suspension, too, which means that as talented as Brown is, he’s far from a one-man show. The defense is more experienced and more talented than it was last year, too, but DE
was injured early in last week’s game, just a couple of days after he signed a long-term contract extension. Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was on his game in the opener.
The Vikings gave Rhodes a megabucks extension because they trust him to cover the top receivers on their schedule. No one is better than Brown right now, and his performance last week not only sealed the Steelers’ win but should keep future opponents on alert. Roethlisberger will throw it in Brown’s general direction in just about any situation, and Rhodes will need help.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Steelers weren’t the same defense in the second half of last season after Heyward tore a chest muscle. He’s back and was at times dominant in the opener. With Tuitt likely to miss some time if not the rest of the season, Heyward becomes even more important in a revamped front seven.
It had been 19 years since the Steelers blocked a punt for a touchdown before they did it on the opening series last week. When an offense with that much firepower gets bonus points, the Steelers become difficult to beat.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Let it rip: Brown caught a deep one to help the Steelers preserve their win last week and drew a pass interference on another long ball during a crucial second-half drive. Especially with Bryant getting back to full speed, look for Roethlisberger to continue to try stretch opposing defenses.
2. Encore performance: Heyward and Watt were especially active in the Browns’ backfield. The Vikings have a rookie center and three new offensive linemen, and the Steelers want to take full advantage.
3. On alert: The Vikings have a talented and experienced secondary across the board, a group good enough to get physical with the Steelers’ receivers and challenge them.
4. Shorten the game: Especially because they’re on a short week, the Vikings need to help their defense by establishing the run and winning the time-of-possession battle.