Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Minnesota Vikings (8-5)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross
15th meeting. The Vikings lead the series that began in 1962, 8-6, including 4-1 at home. The Steelers won the last time they played, Dec. 2, 2001, in Heinz Field, 21-16. The record includes one postseason game, Super Bowl IX, the first won by the Steelers, 16-6. This will be only the second visit inside the Metrodome for the Steelers, who lost there 31-7 in 1986.
Steelers: offense 20th (9th rush, 24th pass); defense 8th (4th rush, 21st pass).
Vikings: offense 25th (23rd rush, 21st pass); defense 26th (17th rush, 24th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME
Don't look for anything too exotic from the Vikings offense. Coach Mike Tice respects the speed of the Steelers defense, and he doesn't want to overburden his inconsistent offensive line.
Minnesota wants to attack Pittsburgh's secondary, but in order to do so the Vikings will have to find a way to run the ball and set up their staple — the play-action pass. The Steelers rush the passer very well, so QB Brad Johnson needs the play action to buy time to look downfield.
Pittsburgh's offense won't look to go vertical nearly as often. The Steelers are back to running the ball effectively, and RB Willie Parker could be especially dangerous on the Metrodome's field turf. The Vikings' secondary is playing increasingly well, so Pittsburgh doesn't want QB Ben Roethlisberger and his injured thumb forcing the ball downfield any more than necessary.
Steelers: RB Willie Parker needs 144 yards to become the franchise's first 1,000-yard rusher since Jerome Bettis in 2001. ... Have won six of their past seven games against the NFC North.
Vikings: Seek seventh consecutive victory. ... Johnson's .610 winning percentage ranks behind only Brett Favre (.633) and Peyton Manning (.632) among active quarterbacks with at least 100 starts.
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