The Steelers bring with them a 14-3 lead into the second half following two early touchdowns courtesy of Ben Roethlisberger, finding Martavis Bryant on a 27-yard catch-and-run and subsequently a four-yard connection with rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster on a shovel pass.
Overall, however, Roethlisberger’s accuracy has waivered a bit. He has also taken a couple hits, but has stayed in. Rookie T.J. Watt is the only casualty of the game so far, checking out with a groin injury, seemingly occurring on punt coverage. He is questionable to return.
The opening kickoff, shockingly, went for a touchback. Starting from the 30 because of an offside call, Dalvin Cook started the drive with a six-yard run. A hot pass to Cook bounced off his hand for an incompletion, setting up third and four. From the 36, Case Keenum was hardly able to get off the pass before being hit by Cameron Heyward. The Vikings attempted a pass on the punt, but the coverage was able to break it up, a very nice play from Tyler Matakevich. Second week in a row with a big play on special teams.
However, the offense quickly turned around and saw Le’Veon Bell dropped for a loss of two yards on first down, his first play of negative yardage on the year. From the Vikings’ 39, Roethlisberger flicked the ball to Bell for a gain of four to set up third and eight. A short pass to Bell saw him wrestled down by the first defender after just a short gain of one, setting up a long field-goal attempt from the 34. Chris Boswell’s attempt from 51 yards out was wide left, but an illegal formation penalty gave them another chance from five yards closer. Now from 46, the kick was good, putting the Steelers up 17-3.
Following a touchback, after a four-yard gain on first down, Cook pushed ahead to the 49 for a first down. Murray then picked up four to the Steelers’ 47. A big chunk pass for Stefon Diggs and then Cook got free cutting to the right side, making Mitchell miss inside the five to set up first and goal from the one. It was the fullback punching it in for the touchdown, but a missed extra point attempt still made it a 17-9 margin.
Smith-Schuster returned the kickoff from the end zone, but only reached about the 20. With a four-yard gain from Bell on first down, but Roethlisberger found Eli Rogers for the first down on the second play. After a one-yarder from Bell, he was then tackled for a loss of three on a checkdown. Now third and 12, Martavis Bryant caught a tough pass in traffic for the first down. Off a free snap with a defender jumping offside, Roethlisberger launched one deep for Bryant, who got behind the coverage and reeled it in for the long bomb to set up first and 10 at the 11.
Bell picked up four yards on the first play inside the red zone. On second and six, Roethlisberger tried to get the ball to Smith-Schuster on a screen, but the rookie could not hold on to the ball. On third and six now, James was easily beat inside, resulting in a Roethlisberger sack, so the Steelers offense failed inside the red zone for the first time this year, settling for a field goal to make it 20-9.
Watt has been downgraded to out, while Villanueva is questionable to return with heat-related issues.
The Vikings returned the kickoff from eight yards deep and the result was a stop at the 17. Artie Burns was targeted on first down, incomplete. Cook was good for eight up the middle. On third and two, and easy pitch-and-catch to Rudolph netted the conversion.
From the 31, the Steelers were spared a long completion with an offensive pass interference call. Now first and 20, McKinnon broke three tackles for no gain. Vince Williams just narrowly missed a sack, but the pass was incomplete. On third and 20, Rudolph, the tight end, made a spectacular catch on a high pass, tipping it to himself to convert.
Near midfield, Laquan Treadwell got his first catch of the game for six. Cook was stopped after three, but a holding call pushed them back 10 yards. On second and 14, Burns was there to make the tackle on Cook on the screen with a lot of window dressing. On third and 15, Gay and Mitchell made the stop on the short screen to finally get off the field. A lot of hangtime on the punt results in a fair catch at the 18.
Bell squeezed through a hole for seven on the final play of the third quarter. Roethlisberger rolled left and found Rogers in tight coverage for the conversion with a nice catch in tight coverage. After a quick-hitter to James for eight, Bell was stopped for essentially no gain, with Bryant seemingly pulling on the play. Roethlisberger’s third-down pass was tipped, but a defensive hold resulted in a first down.
Off play action, Roethlisberger floated a nice ball to Rogers for a first down. From the Vikings’ 37, Bell got the handoff for no gain. Rogers was able to pick up 11 off a screen pass to set up a third and four, but the pass to Bell was short of the first down. From two yards out, Roethlisberger showed the offense for the fourth-down play, but ended up taking a timeout. Boswell was sent out for a 48-yard attempt. Kameron Canaday was flagged for an illegal snap, taking the field goal unit off the field and sending in Berry. Berry’s punt was a beauty, downed by Brian Allen at the one.
After a false start, the Vikings were backed up to their half-yard line. Cook was able to pick up six on the first play, however. With Keenum tripping, Williams came in and got the sack. On second and 20, Cook wriggled his way through the defense for seven, but still setting up third and 14. Keenum’s third-down pass was deep, out of bounds.
After a hold on Chickillo from the previous punt, the offense took over from the 17. Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown on a drag route for eight, his first catch of the second half. Bell punched forward for three yards for the conversion. From the 29, it was Roethlisberger to Brown again on a drag, left open and finding an edge for about 25 yards. Bell up the middle picked up nine and a half. He converted with a three-yarder on second down.
Sticking with Bell in clock-draining mode, he was good for five yards on first down. Xavier Rhodes was shaken up on the play. A quick pass to Smith-Schuster went for nine against Trae Waynes. From the 19, Bell was hit in the backfield and stopped at the line of scrimmage. Off play action, Roethlisberger rolled to his right but found nothing open and threw it away under pressure. On third and 10, his high pass was incomplete to Rogers at the five. Boswell connected on his third field goal of the day to make it 23-9.
Following a touchback, the Vikings took over with 3:18 to play down two touchdowns, though with all three timeouts. A quick pass to Diggs added 15, but a hold wiped it out, backing them up to the 15, making it first and 20. Treadwell got 11 to make it nine, but Thielen got the rest on the next play. With 2:40 remaining from the 35, the pass to the back McKinnon was wide and incomplete. Keenum again avoided a sack with Williams and Shazier hitting him as he threw. On third and 10, Dupree came in through the middle and batted down the pass. Now fourth down, Keenum was able to complete to Thielen, but an illegal formation wiped it out. Finally, fourth and 15, Keenum could only hit Diggs out of bounds, the Steelers taking over on downs.
Taking over at the 30, Bell worked up the middle for two yards, the Vikings using their second timeout. Another short run and another timeout just ahead of the two-minute warning. A short carry from Bell brought the game to the two-minute warning, setting up another Boswell field goal attempt. Apparently Watson got a carry in there somewhere. From 43 yards out, Boswell was good, making it 26-9.
From the 25, Mike Hilton made the tackle on the Viking’s big tight end for one yard inbounds. Shazier got a hand on the ball on a downfield target on second down. On third and nine, Gay made a nice open-field tackle on the screen pass to limit it to two yards, setting up fourth and seven. Thielen lost the ball after converting, and Burns recovered the fumble to seal the game, just two kneeldowns to do it. The Steelers move on to 2-0, tied with the Ravens for the division leada.