Johnson, who had helped the Vikings rebound from a 2-5 start by going 6-0 as the starter in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper, could not lead Minnesota to a touchdown in an 18-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday at the Metrodome.
The Vikings faced only one team with a record above .500 during their winning streak (the New York Giants), so the Steelers were considered a true test of whether the Vikings were a playoff team.
Minnesota failed, as Johnson threw one more interception (two) against Pittsburgh than he had over the previous six starts. The loss leaves the Vikings with an 8-6 record heading into their regular-season road finale against Baltimore on Christmas night.
Coach Mike Tice knows his offense will be in for another big test against the Ravens. Pittsburgh entered Sunday ranked eighth in the NFL in total defense, while the Ravens were sixth. The Vikings close the season on Jan. 1 against Chicago's top-ranked defense.
"This game (at Baltimore) is going to be the same as this week's, the same thing," Tice said. "Whether they have Ray (Lewis, the injured Ravens linebacker) in there or not, they still have an excellent defense. They still have another couple players that can play. It doesn't make it any easier, obviously, but what we have to worry about is Baltimore and getting that ninth victory."
Tice also has to worry about keeping his defensive players positive despite the struggles of the Vikings offense. The offense had its problems in a 27-13 victory over St. Louis on Dec. 11 and essentially melted down against the Steelers.
"I could see (the defense) in the fourth quarter getting a little frustrated," Tice said. "I know it was tough on them. ... That's two weeks in a row. We are all human beings, and when guys are working that hard, I'm not going to say there's going to be any finger pointing. But I'd be a fool to say they're not frustrated. You kind of try to see how they come off the field or go on the field."