Below are seven matchups or things to look for on Sunday as the Steelers take on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Max Starks vs Jared Allen – If this was on a fight card, it would likely be the main event. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has not only a nose the for the quarterback, but for the football as well. Plain and simple he is a play-maker on the defensive side of the ball. Going into the season Steeler Nation had their doubts about Starks getting the franchise tag. He has earned every penny in my opinion thus far and will really get tested on Sunday. I do not expect him to have to battle Allen all day alone however as he will likely get help from a chipping running back or a tight end. However it is accomplished, he must be kept away from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Brett Favre vs Dick LeBeau – In 4 games versus Dick LeBeau as a defensive coordinator, Brett Favre has a 98.5 quarterback rating. It should be noted that LeBeau has done better against Favre each time he has faced him. The last time being in 2005 in which Favre was 20 of 35 passing for 214 yards and 1 interception. In that game, Favre\’s rating was 63.3. Favre has seen it all in his career and defenses have to be disguised well. LeBeau will likely focus on stopping the run and try to force Favre to win through the air. Favre has done a masterful job in 2009 thus far in spreading the ball around to receivers, tight ends and running backs.
Visanthe Shiancoe vs Red Zone Defense – Brett Favre has 12 touchdowns on the season and 5 of them have been to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. Shiancoe has only 17 catches on the season through 6 games, so it is obvious where and when Favre likes to go to him. When the Vikings are inside the 20, the defense has to know where Shiancoe is at all times.
Adrian Peterson vs 3-4 Defense – Adrian Peterson has made it no secret that he likes to run against teams that use the 3-4 defense. In 4 games against 3-4 defenses thus far in 2009, he is averaging 116 yards a game which includes last week\’s 143 yards against the Ravens. The Steelers can not let him get to the second level and the linebackers have to make tackles before 5 yards. Keeping Peterson under 75 yards for the game will go a long way in determining the outcome.
Steelers Receivers vs Vikings Injured Secondary – It is looking like cornerback Antoine Winfield will be out Sunday with a foot injury, with Benny Sapp and Karl Paymah filling his shoes. This is clearly an advantage for the Steelers passing game and I expect them to exploit it. The key is to not force the ball into coverage, merely wait and let the receivers separate. This will all be predicated on the offensive line doing their job and given Roethlisberger time to throw. Do not be surprised to see rookie Mike Wallace pop one or two deep in this game.
James Harrison vs Referees – Silverback Deebo can play a major part in this game if the referees finally start penalizing every time Harrison is held. Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie should be no match for Harrison throughout the day and the Vikings have allowed 14 sacks through their six games this season. Favre is not mobile and pressure from Harrison will make for a long day for Favre. Expect to see lots of yellow other than Terrible Towels.
Kick Coverage – The Steelers kick coverage seems to get worse as the season goes on. Last week it was Joshua Cribbs and this week it could be Percy Harvin if he is healthy enough. The Vikings are dangerous enough without giving them a short field to work with. This game could indeed come down to field position and special teams and this is a battle the Steelers must win on Sunday in order to win the game.