At long last, we finally get to do another one of things coming on the heels of a victory, albeit a nailbiter. The Pittsburgh Steelers prevailed, just days ago on Sunday, against their chief rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, in a game that came down to a two-point conversion attempt in a one-score game with just 12 seconds to go in the fourth quarter.
And it was only pressure applied by T.J. Watt that prevented Lamar Jackson from delivering the necessary pass that would have allowed Mark Andrews to walk into the end zone untouched for Baltimore’s ninth win of the year.
Instead, it’s Pittsburgh with the ‘momentum’, if they have any, coming into this Thursday night game, on the road up in Minnesota against the Vikings. Both sides are dealing with key absences, though the biggest question on either side is whether or not their running back, Dalvin Cook, will play, listed as questionable.
It would be a bad break for Pittsburgh, given how poor their running defense has been for most of the year. They bounced back positively on Sunday against the Ravens, who still rushed for over 100 yards at 4.3 yards per attempt, but it’s a different story for the Vikings.
Their chief weapon barring Cook would be second-year wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game this year after topping 180 yards on Sunday in a loss to the Detroit Lions, with seven touchdowns on the season.
With Joe Haden out, and the Vikings’ Adam Thielen as well, how the Steelers defend Jefferson will be a big element in this game. Head coach Mike Tomlin suggested, unsurprisingly, that they don’t plan to leave him in one-on-one coverage very often if they can help it. Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon should both see a good helping of him.
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ own passing game is perhaps building some momentum. In his past four games, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 977 yards with eight touchdown passes to two interceptions, both of which came in the same game. He has also fumbled three times, however, losing one.
The X factor for me is Pittsburgh’s run game. The offensive line was able to start seeing more success in their physicality late in the second half on Sunday, with Najee Harris and Benny Snell both churning out successful runs to help close out the game.
If they can pick up in that area where they left off on Sunday, it will be a very promising start. The Vikings have one of the worst run defenses in the league, as well. Can guys like Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, and John Leglue, making his first NFL start, get some push across the middle of the field? If they can, I think they win. If they can’t…it’s going to be a long day.