Finding a way to win

This one wasn't a Mozart, as a certain former head coach used to say, but it was a victory over a good football team.

One thing that is certain in the NFL this season is that nothing is certain.

Heading into Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings, it seemed obvious that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have no problem throwing the football.

The Steelers have been throwing the ball with ease against everyone and Minnesota entered the game with its top cornerback, Antoine Winfield, out, something that surely was not going to help a defense that ranked 24th in the league against the pass.

But the Vikings clearly didn't think the Steelers could hurt them running the football and almost dared them to do it, playing both safeties deep for much of the game.

That left things up to the defense to win this one.

And win it the defense did.

LaMarr Woodley's fumble return for a touchdown and Keyaron Fox's interception return for a score were what has been missing from Pittsburgh's defense this season – big plays.

Entering Sunday's game, the Steelers had forced just eight turnovers in their first six games. They had yet to score a defensive touchdown.

But the sign of a good team is finding a way to win.

© James Harrison stole Minnesota Pro Bowl left tackle Bryant McKinnie's lunch money in this one.

Harrison owned McKinnie all day long.

© As big as those two defensive touchdowns were, the Steelers' best defensive moment came when it stopped the Vikings on three consecutive - four not counting a neutral zone infraction on Casey Hampton – plays from inside the Pittsburgh 1.

Running back Adrian Peterson was stuffed for a small loss on first down and Brett Favre threw incomplete on second and third down as the Vikings kicked a 19-yard field goal to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 13-10 late in the third quarter instead of going ahead 14-13.

That's impressive considering the pedigrees of Peterson and Favre.

Peterson is, in fact, the best running back in the NFL, while throughout his career, Favre has been the master of the one-yard touchdown pass.

While watching Favre throw the ball on second and third downs, I couldn't help but wonder how the best running back in the league isn't given two more shots to get a yard.

Then I remembered that nothing is certain in the NFL this season.

© Until the Steelers show that their running game can continually hurt opponents, they are going to see more two-deep zones the rest of the way.

Rashard Mendenhall broke off some nice runs - particularly behind right tackle Willie Colon – and averaged 6.9 yards per carry. But what in the wide, wide world of sports was he doing trying to dive over the pile from the Minnesota 7 in the fourth quarter?

Instead of going in for a score that would have made it 20-10, Mendenhall fumbled and the defense had to save the day.

© The injuries to Lawrence Timmons and Travis Kirschke – particularly Kirschke's – are troubling but come at a good time.

The Steelers have two weeks off before they have to play again.

At the same time, you do wonder about Kirschke's ability to hold up for an entire season starting in place of Aaron Smith.

There's a reason why 35-year-old linemen don't usually play every down. The more they play, the greater the tendency to break down. And it also takes them longer to heal.

The Steelers would be well served to get rookie Ziggy Hood as much practice time in the next two weeks as possible.

© If not for the injury to Timmons, Fox wouldn't have been in the game when he was to intercept Favre's screen pass to Chester Taylor.

© That's two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the past two games without Andre Frazier.

I'm not suggesting that Frazier is the reason for the Steelers allowing those returns, but he is a solid special teams player.

© I liked the spunk Ben Roethlisberger showed in going after Benny Sapp when Sapp hit him late out of bounds in the third quarter, but you don't want your quarterback getting into those kind of scraps.

Roethlisberger, by the way, went to the locker room with team trainers as soon as that possession ended with a field goal, but soon returned.

© Before going to the no-huddle offense on the final possession of the first half, Roethlisberger was 7-of-12 for 35 yards. He went 4-for-7 for 85 yards and a touchdown in the no-huddle, with one of the incompletions being a spike to stop the clock.

Then he went 3-for-7 for 55 yards in the second half.

I was shocked the Steelers didn't open the second half in the no-huddle when they took the opening kickoff. But Mendenhall gained 31 yards on four carries during that opening possession of the second half, so maybe the Steelers saw those two safeties deep and decided to exploit that.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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