Notebook: Who Needs Blitzburgh?

The Vikings have been creating pressure up front in their first two preseason games, with or without the blitz. Plus, find out why the Vikings struggled to start the game, how a couple of undrafted rookies are making a name for themselves, how the Vikings are showing their new disciplined approach on the field, and get other various notes surrounding their second preseason game.

The Steelers' 3-4 defense is meant to confuse offenses and make the would-be blockers wonder which defender is coming on a blitz. Conversely, the Vikings' Tampa-2 defense relies more heavily on the front four to create pressure.

In the first two preseason games, the nod goes to the Minnesota's simpler approach.

In the opener against Oakland, the Vikings sacked Raiders quarterbacks five times while Minnesota's counterparts were sacked only once.

In Pittsburgh, the Steelers were sacked four times and the Vikings two. Ironically, two of the Vikings' four sacks Saturday came on blitzes, with cornerback Ronyell Whitaker and linebacker Heath Farwell each getting a sack.

Just as telling are the quarterback hurries, and the Vikings won that category 7-3 in Pittsburgh.

Purple Haze has a chance to return to the Metrodome.


The Vikings got off to a slow start on offense and defense, but their defensive struggles happened for a reason.

The Vikings came into the game thinking the Steelers offense would be like the Steelers have typically been under head coach Bill Cowher, running the ball early and often. Instead, they used more three-wide receiver sets, called a successful reverse on their first play from scrimmage and went to a no-huddle offense to keep the Vikings from substituting.

It worked to near perfection, keeping the defense on its heels while the Steelers gained 20 yards on the reverse before surprise starter Ben Roethlisberger completed three of his four passes on the opening drive, including a 16-yard touchdown fling to Cedrick Wilson.

The Vikings defense regrouped quickly after that toe-stubbing first series, sending Pittsburgh's offense to the sidelines after three play on the next series before ending the final two Steelers drives of the half with an interception and a fumble recovery.


Mewelde Moore didn't make the trip to Pittsburgh because of a knee injury, Koren Robinson hasn't been heard from since his arrest earlier in the week, and replacement kick returner Kevin Kasper has a high ankle sprain. That left the Vikings' top punt and kick returners from last year and last week not in uniform.

It also left the lead duties in those categories to a two-some of wide-eyed rookies who performed admirably.

Jason Carter, an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, got another shot at returning punts. In the preseason opener against Oakland, Carter averaged 9.7 yards on three returns. Saturday, he averaged 8 yards on three returns.

With Robinson's future with the Vikings in jeopardy and last week's main kick returner, Kasper, shelved with an injury, Wendell Mathis got his opportunity. Mathis, a rookie free agent out of Fresno State, averaged 27.7 yards on three returns, far better than any of the Steelers' more heralded returners on Saturday. First-round draft pick Santonio Holmes averaged 19.5 yards on two returns for Pittsburgh.

"Honestly, my role is any position the coaches put me in, I'm going to do anything I can to make this team and get on the field," Mathis told Viking Update last week.

If he continues to return at the pace he did Saturday, he'll return to the roster for the regular season.

Offensively, Mathis added 36 yards rushing (tying for the team lead) on eight carries while Carter had two receptions for 48 yards.


The Vikings sported a new look with their purple pants and new uniforms, but that flashy design may be undone by their downright disciplined play so far.

In their preseason opener, the Vikings fumbled the ball only one time and threw only one interception. Their opponent, the Raiders, fumbled four times and threw two interceptions.

The Vikings' positive turnover differential continued in Pittsburgh, where they had one fumble to the Steelers' two. Each team threw one interception in Pittsburgh.

But the disciplined approach doesn't end in the turnover department; it extends to the penalty phase of the game.

In the opener, the Vikings were penalized six times for 55 yards compared to Oakland's nine penalties for 64 yards. It was much the same in Pittsburgh, where each team was penalized only five times – the Vikings for 34 yards and the Steelers for 35.

That's a new look they are wearing well.


  • Captains for the Vikings were fullback Tony Richardson (offense), defensive tackle Pat Williams (defense) and Jeff Dugan.

  • Brad Johnson said one of the nice things about playing the Steelers in the preseason was being able to face the 3-4 defense, but Johnson hasn't had great success against Pittsburgh. In two previous games against the Steelers, Johnson had 515 yards but only one touchdown against three interceptions. His performance Saturday was markedly more efficient, going 9-for-11 for 71 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

  • Vikings DE Erasmus James had a career-high two sacks against Pittsburgh on Dec. 18 last year as a rookie. None of the Vikings' starting front four had a sack Saturday.

  • Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is in his 15th season as head coach of the Steelers compared to rookie head coach Brad Childress for the Vikings.

  • Pittsburgh is a football hotbed and the Vikings have a number of connections to the area. QB Mike McMahon played prep ball at North Alleghany High and TE Jeff Dugan attended Central Catholic High.

  • Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, a widely respected assistant, was an eighth-round draft choice by the Steelers in 1990.

  • Steelers tackle Max Starks is the nephew of former Vikings safety Joey Browner.

  • McMahon and Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch played together in Detroit.

  • With heavy lighting in the area before the game, the NFL decided to delay the start of the game about 15 minutes.

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