Steelers' strength meets Vikings' weakness

The Vikings have struggled to stop opponents' passing attacks, and the Steelers have a surprisingly effective one this year. The injury to Antoine Winfield only exasperates the situation.

Fresh off giving up 385 passing yards to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the Vikings will try to slow the Steelers' second-ranked passing attack on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

It won't be easy.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leads the NFL with 1,887 passing yards. Wide receiver Hines Ward has a league-leading 599 receiving yards and is tied for first with 41 receptions, and Heath Miller is one of the NFL's best pass catching tight ends with 34 catches for 315 yards and four touchdowns.

The Vikings, meanwhile, are faced with the possibility of not having Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield after he suffered a sprained right foot last Sunday against the Ravens.

That's not exactly good news for a team that has given up an average of 355.3 passing yards in its past three games and is ranked 24th among NFL teams in that category.

The Vikings are 6-0 this season and atop the NFC North but must become more effective against the pass. The Steelers could be in for a big day if things don't improve quickly.

If Winfield can't go Sunday, the Vikings could start veteran Karl Paymah at the left corner spot. Paymah replaced Winfield on Sunday, and the Ravens took advantage of that matchup on a few occasions, including on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Mark Clayton.

The Vikings also could consider having Benny Sapp shift from his nickel role to Winfield's starting spot and inserting rookie third-round pick Asher Allen as the nickel. Allen has not been active for a game this season, so that could prove risky.

While the Vikings might need to do something short term to make up for Winfield's absence, long term they are going to have to become better against the passing game.

"Missed tackles will kill you, particularly in air, in space," coach Brad Childress said, pointing to one problem from the Ravens game. "Then in a couple of instances, we had missed assignments where, A) a guy is not doing what he should do, or B) a missed communication where everyone is doing one thing and somebody else is doing another thing. ... (We are) trying to do too much.

"I think you go back and (say) you can't stop every play. Every defense has a strength and weakness, and it's just more important for our guys to understand where the strength is and where the weakness is and play to it."


  • QB Brett Favre improved to 6-0 for the first time in his 19-year career with Sunday's victory over the Ravens. Favre completed 21 of 29 passes for 278 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a season-best 136.9 passer rating. That marked the fourth time in six games that Favre's rating has exceeded 100. Favre has been everything the Vikings were hoping and more since he arrived in Minnesota on Aug. 18.

  • QB Tarvaris Jackson continues to serve as the primary backup to Brett Favre. Sage Rosenfels, acquired from Houston in an offseason trade, has been the third-string quarterback in every game this season.

  • RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries against Baltimore, breaking a streak of four games in which he did not rush for 100 yards. Peterson has never gone more than four games in his two-plus-season career without a 100-yard rushing performance. Peterson's 58-yard run in the fourth quarter was his longest since he went 64 yards for a touchdown in Week 1 at Cleveland.

  • RB Chester Taylor rushed for a season-high 22 yards on eight carries but did not catch a pass in a game for the first time this season. He was targeted only once by Brett Favre. Taylor entered the game with a team-leading 21 receptions but is now third on the Vikings.

  • TE Visanthe Shiancoe caught two touchdowns in the Vikings' victory over the Ravens and now leads Minnesota with five TD receptions this season. Shiancoe caught four passes for 48 yards and now has 17 catches for 164 yards. Shiancoe's success should come as no surprise given the fact Brett Favre has never been afraid to throw to his tight end.

  • WR Bernard Berrian caught three passes for the second consecutive game and also had his second touchdown reception of the year. Berrian is second on the Vikings with 22 receptions for 234 yards. The biggest surprise is his longest reception of the season has gone for only 36 yards.

  • DE Jared Allen had another impressive performance Sunday, finishing with a sack, four tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and seven tackles in the victory over the Ravens. Allen now has a team-leading 7.5 sacks on the season. That ranks third in the NFL.

  • DT Kevin Williams continues to be one of the best at his position in the NFL and cause major problems for opponents. Williams had two sacks Sunday and has four on the season. He also had four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss.

  • DT Jimmy Kennedy continues to get significant playing time as the Vikings use a frequent rotation on the line that gives veteran NT Pat Williams a rest. Kennedy, signed by the Vikings late last season after being released by Jacksonville, had a tackle and a quarterback hurry against the Ravens and has been active the past three games after being inactive for two consecutive weeks.

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