Just like the Steelers wide receivers mimicked rolling dice in the back of the end zone, the Minnesota Vikings rolled their own die in today’s matchup, opting to sit quarterback Sam Bradford and his injured knee and start backup Case Keenum instead. The move did not pay off as the Steelers rolled to a 26-9 victory over the Bradford-less Vikings in their home opener.
While the Steelers offense still ached through minor growing pains in today’s victory, the arrow does seem to be pointed up from last weekend’s subpar showing. While Ben Roethlisberger put up the usual ‘Home Ben’ numbers – two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 104.8 passer rating, it was Martavis Bryant who had arguably the best showing of the day.
After recording just 14 receiving yards in his season debut, Bryant reminded Steelers’ fans what they had missed in his long absence, totalling 3 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown – a touchdown that helped jumpstart the Steelers’ offense.
Aided by two costly pass interference calls by the Vikings secondary, the Steelers jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. The first being Bryant’s first touchdown reception since his reinstatement and the second a shovel pass to rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster – the first of Schuster’s career.
The Steelers did not look back from there, relying on their defense to hold onto their early lead. Cameron Heyward led by example, wreaking havoc in the trenches. A big reason why the Vikings were limited to just one touchdown and under 250 yards of total offense.
In the secondary, the tandem of Artie Burns and Joe Haden did a magnificent job at removing the fear out of the Vikings receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, holding the duo to a combined 71 yards – a far cry from the 250 yards they amounted last week.
After being named Defensive Rookie of the Week, T.J. Watt looked to keep building off his dominant debut but unfortunately his day was cut short due to an injury. After recording two tackles and a pass defensed, Watt was taken to the locker room during the second quarter to be evaluated for a groin injury, he would not return.
On the other side of the line, outside linebacker Bud Dupree was ready to rejoin his defensive teammates after sitting out last week’s victory with an injury. Dupree did not miss a beat, creating constant pressure early and notching his first sack of the season.
When speaking of special teams, it is typically for all the wrong reasons but for the second week in a row it was special teams ace Tyler Matakevich making a big play. After blocking a punt for a touchdown last week, Matakevich was able to break up a surprise fake punt early in the third quarter.
The Vikings failed to make any sort of legitimate threat to the Steelers’ lead, often shooting themselves in the foot anytime they had the chance. With over 130 penalty yards accumulated and a 33-percent success rate on third down, the Vikings were their own worst enemy.
The Steelers may not be playing the explosive type of football some have come to expect but after 120 minutes of football, they stand 2-0, and have still not trailed at any point. And with a short road trip lying ahead, this is a trend the Steelers hope they can bring with them. They’ll take on the Chicago Bears on the road next Sunday at 1 PM/ET.