Pittsburgh Steelers: Week Seven Will Be a Stiffer Challenge

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Week Seven Will Be a Stiffer Challenge
(Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

Nov. 19, 1995, Quarterback Neil O’Donnell and the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated quarterback Jeff Blake and the Cincinnati Bengals 49-31.

The Steelers generated 556 yards of offense.

Neil O’Donnell threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns; while running back Bam Morris ran 191 yards and scored three touchdowns.

Sunday, the Steelers out-gained Cleveland Browns 543-197 with the final score of 27-14.

But they scored two passing and one rushing touchdown.

A win is a win in the NFL and the Steelers found a way to get it done.

But last Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns should have been a blowout and it wasn’t.

You can make a point that the Steelers should have won every game so far this season hands down.

What’s the use of generating all of this offense it all we are going to see is two passing touchdowns?

That’s not being efficient

The past couple of weeks the Steelers have played inferior teams, and for whatever reason they have let their opposition hang around late in the second half, to come dangerously close to win.

Although this win was by dominance, the offense turned the ball over four times, with an interception and three fumbles each by Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, and Willie Parker.

The Steelers will need to focus more on ball security and do a better job of maintaining possession of the football going into next Sunday’s game.

Sunday, the Steelers will compete against one of the better teams in the NFL: the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings' only other visit to Heinz Field came in the stadium's first year, 2001, when they lost 21-16 in December.

The Vikings are 6-0 lead by the arm of a 40-year old gunslinger by the name of Brett Favre.

The Vikings are currently ranked 17th in passing overall.

Favre has some nice weapons in receivers Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Although Favre has played well through his first six games, he will be tested by the third-ranked Steeler defense.

Favre managed to avoid being intercepted by Ravens safety Ed Reed but will he be able to avoid strong safety Troy Polamalu?

The spark to the Steeler defense, Polamalu will have his second start since his knee injury early in the season.

The litmus tests for the defense Sunday will be stopping running back Adrian Peterson, who thus far has had some success rushing for more than 100 yards against AFC North teams this season.

Peterson gained 180 yards against the Cleveland Browns and 143 yards against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in their past 24 regular season games.

Ex-Jacksonville Jaguar running back Fred Taylor was the last to run for 147 yards that led to a loss for the Steelers in December, 2007.

However, against NFC teams, Peterson has rushed for less than 100 yards per game.

The question will be how the rush defense will hold up without defensive end Aaron Smith.

Smith is such a good run stuffer as he eats up those blocks for the linebackers.

Currently, the Steelers have manned in his absence defensive ends Travis Kirschke, Nick Eason, and rookie Evander “Ziggy” Hood.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin said he feels they did a good job last week even though it was against the Browns.

Kirschke was quoted he did not feel that much pressure from the Browns last week.

All of that could change on Sunday.

Offense needs to put up more points—because they need to support the defense.

The offense has become a pass first/run later team.

Pass to generate a lead and run later to protect it.

In the passing game, it all starts with the leading receiver in the NFL, Hines Ward, with 41 receptions for 599 yards.

In seventh place overall is Santonio Holmes with 28 receptions for 438 yards.

At 30th is rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace, 18 receptions for 296 yards, and is on target for 50 catches this season, as the No. 4 receiver.

At tight end is sixth-ranked Heath Miller who has 34 receptions for 315 yards.

Roethlisberger has been throwing the ball at will, fitting it into any slot he wants and basically marching this team downfield.

He is being protected by an offensive line that has improved leaps and bounds in the passing game.

The line is protecting Roethlisberger much better this year and the result has been an incredible productive start for him in the passing game.

Left tackle Max Starks will face his stiffest challenge to date against the best pass-rushing defensive end in the NFL, Jared Allen.

A combination of strength, speed, and intelligence, Allen can run over offensive linesman or beat them on the outside to get at the quarterback.

Allen has 22 solo tackles, 7.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles for the Vikings.

Another pivotal matchup for both guards and center will be overcoming Vikings defensive tackles Kevin and Pat Williams.

The Williams duo are beasts up the middle, clogging up running lanes and collapsing the pocket up the middle so that Jared Allen can do his thing on the perimeter.

So the question will be, will the Steelers be able to get the run game going against this formidable front line of the Minnesota Vikings?

The Vikings will probably be short on cornerback as Antoine Winfield suffered a sprained right foot against Baltimore last Sunday and is in a walking boot on Monday.

One of the league's best tackling cornerbacks, Winfield managed to hold the edge against the Ravens running backs and kept receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton under wraps.

When he went down in the second quarter, Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco erased a 17-point deficit by picking apart the Vikings’ secondary, completing three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to close in for a win.

Unfortunately, it was the Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka who missed the 44-yard field goal that could have given the Vikings their first loss.

It appears unlikely Winfield will be able to play Sunday.

The Vikings replaced Winfield last week with Karl Paymah who, during the fourth quarter against the Ravens, let wide receiver Mark Clayton caught 32-yard touchdowns pass on him.

This will be the 15th regular-season meeting between the two teams.

Vikings leads series 8-6, since 1962.

The Steelers have won the past two games against the Vikings, most recently Dec. 18, 2005 in Minnesota, 18-13.

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