Vikings, Steelers square off after opening wins (Sep 17, 2017)
The Pittsburgh Steelers followed tradition by going into Cleveland and beating the Browns in the season opener.
On Monday night, the Minnesota Vikings might have provided one of the week's bigger revelations with an all-around effort in a convincing home win over the New Orleans Saints.
Week 2 will provide a glimpse into whether more of the same can be expected this season when Pittsburgh hosts Minnesota on Sunday.
The Steelers took notice of the Vikings' win over New Orleans. The Minnesota offense erupted for 470 yards and the defense held its own against Drew Brees and the Saints.
"We know going in how good their defense is," Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If you slow down that offense that they did, it's pretty impressive."
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer knows Pittsburgh well from his days in Cincinnati. He knows the potential of Roethlisberger, receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, and running back Le'Veon Bell.
"Well, they win, number one," Zimmer said of the Steelers. "They're physical, they're tough. They play physical, aggressive defense. They've always been able to be really physical in the running game as well. The physicality, they've got huge guys up front on the offensive line.
"Especially with Roethlisberger, he's always been able to take those shots down the field and scramble, move around in the pocket and hold the ball. He's a tough guy that is going to stand in there and take his shots."
Roethlisberger and the offense will face Zimmer's defense after totaling just 290 yards against Cleveland in a 21-18 win. Roethlisberger threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, but most of the success was simply because of Brown's excellence. Brown caught 11 passes for 182 yards.
Meanwhile, in his first game after a holdout, Bell was limited by the Browns -- and the Steelers. He had just 10 carries for 32 yards. He also caught three passes for 15 yards.
"Cleveland did a good job as far as attacking them, a lot of different looks," Zimmer said. "(Bell is) probably trying to get his timing down a little bit, I don't know."
Pittsburgh said one reason for Bell's usage -- he played 43 of the team's 60 offensive snaps -- was the number of penalties. The Steelers had 13 for 144 yards.
"I thought Ben and AB delivered what they are capable of delivering in those moments," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "We were faced with a lot of those moments because we put ourselves in some circumstances, but they were able to get us out of them.
"Convert third downs, flip the field in some instances. We were able to flip the field with a big play in the four-minute offense that preserved a victory for us. We were able to flip the field before halftime with a big play that allowed us to put seven points on the board via those two men working."
Zimmer knows the Steelers, but he believes any advantage might belong to Pittsburgh, which sees a similar defense twice a year in Cincinnati.
"I think they probably have an edge that way," Zimmer said. "I don't know, a lot of the guys I know their personnel, they've been there for a while, but that's about it."
The Steelers' defense had seven sacks and one interception against Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. The "Steel Curtain" will show whether Minnesota's offensive exploits in Week 1 can be believed.
Bradford, with plenty of protection from his new-look offensive line, shredded the Saints with 27-of-32 passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
"I think there's been a lot of talk outside this building about that group and about those guys, but inside this building, I know we've got nothing but confidence in them," Bradford said of the offensive line. "We've seen it during OTAs. We've seen it during training camp.
"Those guys have the ability to play well and to be a really good offensive line, and they showed it the other night."
Showing it against Pittsburgh will add to the credibility.
The Steelers could be without defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who was held out of practice on Wednesday with a biceps injury.
Tuitt suffered the injury in last week's game and had an MRI that ruled out a season-ending biceps tear. The team is holding out hope he might be ready for Sunday's game.
"We'll leave the light on," Tomlin told ESPN about Tuitt's availability.
Minnesota held out linebacker Anthony Barr from Wednesday's practice because of a hamstring injury, but Zimmer didn't offer any insight into the injury. Bradford was limited with a knee injury.