Late in the first half, the Steelers were trying to kick-start a scoring drive when the Vikings ran a stunt. Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Ray Edwards were all converging on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when the quarterback stepped up in the pocket at the last instant. That left Edwards on the bottom of a pile and Allen running into Kevin Williams.
"It's kind of funny. It's one of those rare cases when everybody's getting there at the same time," Allen said. "Unfortunately, we didn't get him down. If we're able to rush the passer like that consistently, then we're going to have a lot of success."
When it happened, it wasn't quite as funny, as all three defensive linemen were slow to get up after the play – fortunately for them, the result of the play was an incompletion and they were able to walk to the sidelines. Allen, however, looked to have some pain in his own neck instead of being a pain to Roethlisberger.
"It hurt. I think I got the worst end of that. I tried to move my hands, but Kevin is a big man. I think he re-adjusted my spine," Allen said.
Allen was met at the bench by Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman but didn't appear to receive any treatment to his neck. The other good news for the Vikings was that Williams and Edwards each had sacks in the game and the Vikings appear to be getting more pressure on quarterbacks with their front four defensive linemen this year.
"It's great. Linebackers can cover and defensive backs can take chances," linebacker Ben Leber said. "The ball has to come out quicker. It really helps the (defensive) backs out. They can jump balls and get a lot more turnovers. (The other team) has to do things protection-wise, too. They have to hold guys in. The more of them it takes to block less of us, then we have more guys free to make plays.
Although head coach Brad Childress indicated that Bernard Berrian would see some action on Saturday, the Vikings' No. 1 receiver never did suit up. He wasn't listed on the pregame "will not dress" list, but there was little question before the game that he wouldn't be playing – he spent the pregame warm-ups without pads and a uniform talking with Sidney Rice, who was dressed similarly after spending the week fighting a virus.
"I didn't have a good feeling about where he was," Childress said of his decision to keep Berrian on the sidelines. "He could do some things and he couldn't do others. He was good on one side and he wasn't good on the other side. You have to be able to play on both sides of the formation. We weren't going to put our arm behind our back where we could only run plays one way. That was the biggest reason."
Without Berrian and Rice, Robert Ferguson and Aundrae Allison were the starting receivers. However, Ferguson hurt his leg in the second quarter and didn't return.
"He got kicked in the calf on one of those kickoff returns," Childress said. "He had a pretty good block going. I actually happened to be watching him when it happened and he got kicked down the field. (It's) just painful. It's a contusion and we'll just see. He's limping pretty good right now. We'll see how he turns up in the morning."
Allison, who led the Vikings with five catches for 56 yards, said he would give himself about a C grade.
"I have not played perfect, and I like to play perfect. I strive for perfection and keep working on being better each week," he said.
Childress said it's more important that the Vikings have their offensive weapons available for the regular-season opener than the preseason's third game.
"Obviously, two weeks from now, nobody will be talking about the third game of the preseason. They'll be talking about if you're playing with all your ammo on opening night," he said. "I think that's the overriding sentiment right there. You have to play without those guys. We weren't able to establish a rhythm without those guys, but that's no excuse. You still have to be able to do it with the guys who are out there."
With Tarvaris Jackson missing the game with a sprained medial collateral ligament, that left three starters at the skill positions absent from the passing game. Gus Frerotte made do and completed 13 of 19 passes for 133 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
Frerotte and the offense weren't helped by their 10 penalties for 75 yards. On their opening drive, Anthony Herrera, Matt Birk and Visanthe Shiancoe were all charged with false starts.
Frerotte and others said some of those penalties were caused by changes at the line of scrimmage and a different starter having a different cadence. Still, Childress wasn't pleased with 10 penalties on the game.
"Goal-wise, we wanted to play a clean game. I can't exactly say it was clean with 10 penalties. Obviously, we need to put a stop to that," he said. "We had three the last game and then obviously four in the first series (tonight). You can't do anything when you're backing up like that."
HICKS GETS HIS LICKS
Backup offensive lineman Artis Hicks got some playing time at left tackle with the first-team offense in the second quarter. On the sixth series, Hicks replaced McKinnie, who later returned to action.
Childress said he wanted to get Hicks more time at different positions earlier in the preseason.
"We had a bunch of injuries out in Baltimore. We had planned to get him in there, but we just didn't have the combinations that we could get to where we could move him out of the left guard position," Childress said. "Actually, (Anthony) Herrera had to come back in last week late in the game to play because we didn't have a viable group in there. We wanted to get (Hicks) left tackle snaps this week."
Hicks hasn't been willing to seriously answer any questions of late about his ability to play left tackle with the potential suspension of Bryant McKinnie still in the air.
McCAULEY GETS THE CALL
One of the surprise starters in the base defense was Marcus McCauley, who was in the game in place of Antoine Winfield on the opening series.
"We originally had it set for McCauley to start the second half," Childress explained. "I just wanted to see McCauley get out there and play on short notice. I thought he did some good things. I thought he had a pass defensed down there deep that was good. You just want to look at those different combinations. I wanted to see him play with the first-line defense in there and I kind of know what standard Antoine is going to give."
Former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was making his first return to the Metrodome as the head coach of the Steelers. Safety Darren Sharper, who played under Tomlin in 2006 and played with him in college at William & Mary, was anticipating some trash talking from Tomlin during the game, but Sharper said that subsided after the opening kickoff.
"It's great. What we went through together, they're lifelong friends," Tomlin said of his return. "Some things transcend the business and that's what happens when you commit yourself to something. I've got a lot of love for a lot of guys over there. Good to see them. Good to get a road win. I separate the two."
Another former Viking, Mewelde Moore, was also returning to the Metrodome for the first time not wearing a Vikings uniform. Moore was allowed to hit the free-agent market in March and the Steelers signed him, but Moore didn't want to talk about the differences between Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
Also returning to the Metrodome were former Vikings punter Mitch Berger, who didn't punt in this game, and safety Tyrone Carter, who also played his college ball in Minnesota with the Gophers.