Pittsburgh Steelers Week Two Preview: Minnesota Vikings

Vikings vs Steelers
Vikings vs Steelers. Image from http://www.espn.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers come home to face the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday in their 2017 home opener. They escaped Cleveland with a close win in week one, incidentally, and look to bounce back with a more complete performance. The Steelers play their best football at Heinz Field and are facing the perfect team to make an early statement. They are in for a fight and are looking to throw the first punch. The Steelers have won 13 out of their last 14 home openers in much the same fashion, using an explosive offense and a smothering defense. Pittsburgh Steelers week two preview takes a look behind the game, breaking down some of the key matchups.

Pittsburgh Steelers Week Two Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Steelers have a stiff test this Sunday when they face the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are coming off of an impressive victory over the New Orleans Saints, showing off an impressive defense. The Steelers, however, are a whole different beast with a multitude of weapons. The offense never quite found its rhythm in week one, but has always come alive with a little home cooking. Ben Roethlisberger‘s  two 500 yard passing days, in addition to both of his six touchdown passing games  have come at Heinz Field. The defense plays extremely well at home, feeding of the energy of the most rabid fans in the NFL.

When the Steelers Have the Ball

Le’Veon Bell is coming off of a performance that resembled the rest of the offense, similarly, neither one found any rhythm. The success of the offense begins up front, where the line must set the tone early. They did a good job of protecting Roethlisberger last week, but failed to open any running lanes for Bell. The Vikings defensive front provides a much bigger challenge this week, which Mike Munchak‘s unit is capable of handling. Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, and David DeCastro need to control the interior line if they want to run the ball. The Vikings defensive line is tough on the run. Led by Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph, they held the top three Saints running backs to 53 yards on 19 carries. The offensive line needs to fire off the snap, smack them in the mouth and set the tone early.

Roethlisberger needs to get into a rhythm early by involving Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown. He needs to utilize the no-huddle and spread the defense out, giving them some space to move around. The Viking defense feeds off predictability, which Todd Haley must avoid. Bell gives Haley the perfect weapon to deploy in the backfield or on the outside. The Steelers are good at softening up stout defensive fronts with the use of fullback Roosevelt Nix. They have another option in that department with Terrell Watson, who Haley could line up in the backfield, with Bell in the slot. The Steelers will be in for a fight with the Vikings defense for sure, but in front of the home crowd, Look for them to open things up.

When the Vikings Have the Ball

Sam Bradford  is the key to the Vikings offense, but he is still who he always was. Bradford gets rattled easily with pressure in his face and is vulnerable to turnovers. The weak link of their offense is the line. Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Tyson Alualu are more than capable of exploiting that weakness. They need to make sure to play the run on the way to the quarterback, maintaining their gap discipline. Defending against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook proved to be difficult for the saints, who couldn’t wrap him up. Linebackers Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams will be there to back up the line and help finish him off.

When Bradford airs it out, he’ll be looking for Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who combined for 16 receptions and 250 yards in week one. Kyle Rudolph has been his chief security blanket, much like Heath Miller was for Roethlisberger. Artie Burns and Joe Haden should be able to provide the coverage necessary to buy time for T.J. Watt and Co. to get to Bradford. The Vikings can’t win if they struggle to put points on the board. The Steelers defense can’t afford to help the vikings offense by committing senseless penalties to extend drives. they need to play clean and get off the field on third downs.  They need to shut down the run and go get Bradford.

Prognosis For Week Two

The Steelers have the talent to run the Vikings of the field, but they’re likely in for a fight. If the offensive line returns to looking like the top five unit they are, this could be a fun one. The Vikings front four is capable of shutting the run game down, unless the line can open up some running lanes. The Saints, who lack the Steelers weapons,  only managed to convert 36.4% of their third against the Vikings. If the offense gets it going early, they will put points on the board. The Vikings have enough weapons to keep it interesting, but not quite enough to win at Heinz. 28-24 Steelers.

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