The Steelers’ schedule is about to get interesting. On Sunday, they face the undefeated Minnesota Vikings. Then after a bye week, they must face the currently undefeated Denver Broncos.
Steelers fans have been longing for a true measure of how good their team is. They’re about to get it.
The last time the Steelers faced two undefeated teams in back-to-back games was in 2004. The Steelers defeated the undefeated Patriots, ending their 21 game winning streak, and then defeated the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles the following week. They were the only NFL team in history to ever achieve that feat so late in the season.
Getting a win this week won’t be easy. The Vikings are a team that is very similar to the Steelers. In recent years, the Vikings have been a team that primarily depended on a strong running game and strong defense to win games. However, this year they find themselves with a suddenly potent passing attack led by a brash, gunslinger quarterback. Sound familiar?
The Vikings’ potent running attack is led by Adrian Peterson, one of the best running backs in the NFL. Peterson leads the NFL in rushing, and he torched the Baltimore Ravens’ defense for 143 yards last week. Peterson’s combination of size and speed will pose a daunting task for the Steelers’ defense.
After struggling in the passing game with QB Tavaris Jackson for the last several years, the Vikings’ passing attack is suddenly revived after the addition of legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
Steelers fans know how great a season Ben Roethlisberger has been having so far. Yet Favre has a higher passer rating and has thrown for more touchdowns than Roethlisberger. Think about that for a moment.
The Vikings defense was the only defense in the NFL that allowed fewer rushing yards than the Steelers last year. The Vikings’ run defense ended the 2008 season ranked #1 in the NFL, while the Steelers were ranked #2.
Are you starting to see the similarities between these two teams?
Fortunately, the Steelers are starting to come into their own. The offense is on fire behind the arm of QB Ben Roethlisberger. More importantly, the Steelers’ running game is finally starting to show signs of life.
Since inserting Rashard Mendenhall into the starting lineup, the Steelers’ running attack has been noticeably better. Mendenhall seems to be more capable of getting the tough, short yardage that Willie Parker often struggled to get.
Based on Mendenhall’s performance the past 2 weeks, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has decided to name Mendenhall as the starter for the foreseeable future. “Rashard has earned the right to take the majority of the snaps as we move forward”, said Tomlin. This is welcome news to many Steelers fans who had been calling for Mendenhall to replace Parker in the starting lineup.
While both teams have potent offenses, the real difference in the game should be the Steelers’ defense. The Steelers defense is among the best in the league. They are strong against the run and the pass. Contrarily, while the Vikings defense is stout against the run, they have proven to be vulnerable to the pass. The Vikings are ranked #24 against the pass. That’s not a good thing when you are about to face the NFL’s leading passer (I still can’t get used to saying that about a Steelers’ quarterback).
I predict that the Steelers will bring the Vikings winning streak to an end by a score of 24-17.
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