What was billed as a showdown between 2 of the leagues best quarterbacks, ended up being a battle of defenses. The Steelers defense returned two turnovers by Vikings quarterback Brett Favre for touchdowns in route to 27-17 victory Sunday at Heinz Field.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had a very pedestrian performance as he was 14 for 26 passing for 175 yards on the day. The offense never was able to consistently attack the Vikings secondary that was without starting cornerback Antoine Winfield. Winfield sat out with an injured foot and was replaced by a rotation of Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah and Asher Allen. The three combined to hold wide receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes to just three catches combined on the day. Only rookie receiver Mike Wallace was able to split the secondary for a 40 yard touchdown late in the 1st half. Wallace split the middle of the field and broke tackles on the way to the endzone. He finished with 3 catches on the day for 72 yards. Tight end Heath Miller chipped in 6 catches for 38 yards.
The Steelers running game had it\’s highs and lows as Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 69 yards on just 10 carries, but had a key fumble deep in Vikings territory early in the 4th quarter. It was the last time he would touch the ball for the day as Mewelde Moore got the rest of the carries on the day. In the end the Steelers rushed for 106 yards on 20 official carries.
The Steelers defense gave up huge chunks of yardage on the day, but made plays when their backs were against the wall. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre thew the ball 51 times completing 34 passes for 334 yards. Sidney Rice led all receivers with 11 catches for 136 yards as the Steelers gave up over 400 yards of offense on the day. Defensively, the Steelers held the leagues leading rusher, Adrian Peterson, to just 69 yards on the ground for a 3.83 yards per carry average, but could not get off the field on key 3rd down situations.
The big plays came in the 4th quarter as Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel knocked the ball out of the hand of Favre and linebacker LaMarr Woodley scooped it up and ran 77 yards for a score. The fumble came as the Vikings were in the midst of a 15 play drive that started at their own 3 yard line following the Mendenhall fumble. What seemed like a huge turning point in the game, quickly vanished as Vikings rookie Percy Harvin took the subsequent kickoff and returned it 88 yards for an answering touchdown to keep it a 3 point game. After the next Steelers drive stalled, Favre quickly marched the Vikings back down field when on 2nd and 3 from the Steelers 19, a short Favre pass bounced of the hands of running back Chester Taylor and into the hands of backup linebacker Keyaron Fox. Fox rumbled 82 yards for the game-clinching touchdown and was only in the game because Lawrence Timmons injured his recently healed ankle early in the 4th quarter.
The Steelers move to 5-2 on the season and now have their bye next week. Folowing the bye, they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. Injuries reported on Sunday were a strained calf by Travis Kirschke and the ankle injury to Timmons. Both players will reportedly be ready after the bye.