Grading the Game: Steelers

No question, the Vikings didn't play winning football Sunday. The grades reflect that.

PASS OFFENSE: C-minus - Brad Johnson threw more interceptions (two) in Sunday's loss than he had during the Vikings' six-game winning streak. His 38.6 passer rating easily was his lowest of the season. Both of Johnson's interceptions came inside the red zone and the first, a shovel pass attempt to Koren Robinson, was the type of ill-advised mistake the quarterback simply did not make during the winning streak. Johnson's protection also was suspect at times, especially after center Melvin Fowler went out in the third quarter. No Viking had more than 34 receiving yards.

RUSH OFFENSE: D - The Vikings' run game was virtually nonexistent Sunday. Michael Bennett was held to 43 yards on 11 carries and Johnson was second with 6 yards on one scramble. Mewelde Moore, apparently healthy enough to play, received only two carries and gained 5 yards. Moore, who has battled a variety of injuries this season, has a total of four carries in the past three games for a total of minus-1 yard. Falling behind limited the Vikings' ability to run.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus - Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was held to 149 passing yards as this area held up its end of the bargain. The Vikings were gouged for a 50-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller on the opening drive of the game - the Steelers got a field goal - but overall the yardage total was among the lowest the Vikings have surrendered this season. The Vikings, however, were unable to intercept Roethlisberger, who stayed away from any risky throws. That ended the Vikings' six-game streak with an interception.

RUSH DEFENSE: C - Pittsburgh accounted for 142 yards on the ground and got its only touchdown on a 3-yard scramble by Roethlisberger in the second quarter. The rushing total - Willie Parker led the way with 81 yards on 14 carries - was the most the Vikings have surrendered since a Week 4 loss at Atlanta. Parker gained 49 of his yards on one play, when a couple of Vikings messed up their assignments in the third quarter. That led to a Steelers field goal.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D - Paul Edinger's blocked field goal and Ciatrick Fason's muff of a punt in the third quarter were among this unit's shortcomings. Both plays happened in the third quarter and proved to be crucial factors in the momentum shifting to Pittsburgh. Throw in Antwaan Randle El's 72-yard punt return that set up the Steelers' only touchdown and it was a forgettable day for this unit.

COACHING: C - The Vikings had beaten only one team with a record above .500 during their six-game winning streak, so Sunday's game against the Steelers was considered a true test for Mike Tice's team. The Vikings failed. The offense and special teams both let the Vikings down. The Vikings were unable to establish anything offensively against the Steelers' top-10 defense. The defense was the only bright spot on a tough day.

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