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Not too long ago, it wasn't too bold to predict a top-tier defensive performance from the Vikings, but after allowing over 400 yards of offense to a team that started its third-string quarterback and traded away its best offensive skill player, it's not easy to have faith in what an underperforming unit can do.
The high-flying offenses of the Lions and Bears did even more to the Vikings and it should stand to reason that a historically strong franchise like the Steelers can do the same.
But despite the news that second-round pick Le'Veon Bell could play significant snaps after missing the season to a Lisfranc injury, the Vikings do have a chance to limit Ben Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense.
Injuries to tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth, center Maurkice Pouncey, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, and running back LaRod Stephens-Howling as well as an underperforming offensive line could mean the Vikings bottle up a once-potent Steelers attack.
Football Outsiders ranks the Steelers as having the 28th-best offense in the NFL after adjusting for opponent strength. Some of this can be attributed to a poor offensive line, and the Steelers don't seem comfortable or on the same page.
At the same time, impressive performances from Desmond Bishop, Harrison Smith and even Marcus Sherels could signal a turnaround for the Vikings. Despite having a poor showing against Cleveland, the Minnesota defense isn't in the same tier, ranked 20th overall.
The Vikings match up well to the Steelers. Bell is a bruiser, not a scatback, and that plays to the Vikings relative strength in limiting plodders instead of more versatile "space" backs. With that, the leaky offensive line will allow a traditionally strong defensive line to get pressure on Roethlisberger and limit the passing game.
The Steelers have also not been passing as well downfield as they have in the past, and haven't been precise in attacking zone coverages. Instead, they've had more success playing what the defense gives them underneath coverage, which is how the unsuccessfully attempted to move the chains on the Bears. The Vikings prefer that, and might be able to use that to limit the offense.