Lurtsema's Reaction: Big Steelers test

The Vikings will have some doubts about their performance against Baltimore, but going against Pittsburgh is a bigger test yet. See what former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema thinks of some of the matchups and some of the tangential aspects surrounding the game.

VU: What do you think happened in the fourth quarter of the Ravens game to cause that meltdown?

BL: Meltdown is the wrong word to use for something like that. I wouldn't call it a meltdown. One of the bigger plays was them having the perfect call against a particular defense on Ray Rice's touchdown run. Sometimes that happens. That's why it's like a chess game all the time. When Antoine Winfield goes down and you have a good passer, they're going to go after the backup that comes in for the Pro Bowler. That injury was another big part of it. Meltdown is insinuates that it was a large number of things that went wrong. It was a long way from a meltdown.

VU: What were your impression of Karl Paymah's performance? There were a few times he was in position and didn't make a play on the ball.

BL: The thing there is that you're rusty. You can get yourself in position, but once you've played and started a few games in a row, everything will come as a natural reaction. Sometimes you've got good coverage, you're thinking about the defense and you're in position, but if you've gone through such a large thought process it can eliminate the part that makes you a good football player – just having your instincts take over 80 to 85 percent of the time once you're in position.

VU: The Ravens ran some hurry-up at the end of the game, but Pittsburgh runs a good amount of no-huddle and not just in the fourth quarter when they trying to make a comeback. How difficult is the no-huddle offense for the defense to handle?

BL: It's a lot harder on the defense than the offense because the defense is always exerting effort. The defenders are the ones initiating the contact. Their engines are turning a lot faster. On the offensive line, it's just set and wait. With the packages the Vikings defense has now, from the nickel package to the dime package to trying to get Pat Williams out of there on pass-rush situations to getting fresh pass-rushing defensive linemen, it's a good strategy against a team that is very situational with their defensive personnel. I'm petrified of Pittsburgh this week. With Winfield, I don't think he's going to play. And with Roethlisberger, I think he's one of the best quarterbacks around. He's a tough guy, very intelligent and he can run that no-huddle.

VU: What are your impressions of Mike Tomlin from the year he was here and the job he's done with the Steelers?

BL: Predictable. When he was here he did an absolutely outstanding job with the defense and he did what I've always preached about and admired in certain coaches – he coached to the players' strengths. He knew each and every one of those players. He used that to coordinate the defense and the blitzes. I've said this so many times in Viking Update: I think the coach is 60 to 65 percent of the game. Don't get between the players' ears too much. Play to their strengths. If you have a good, solid 4-3 defense, don't come in and try to change it because you are a different style of coach. Don't come in and try to change the different personnel. Coaches have to change to the players. Players shouldn't have to change to the coaches. Tomlin was known for the Tampa-2 in Minnesota and he went out to Pittsburgh and let Dick LeBeau handle their 3-4 defense.

VU: Heinz Field was re-sodded between the hashmarks last week and Pitt is playing a game there Saturday when it's supposed to rain. If there are terrible field conditions, whose game does that favor?

BL: First, they will have terrible field conditions if that happens because I went through that dance many times at Yankee Stadium. That's a good question. I don't see one team being a grind-it-out type of offense. I guess I'd have to lean towards the home team, just because they normally play on grass and have gone through these situations before, whereas the Vikings are more of a turf team now.

VU: Going against the defending Super Bowl champs, do you view this as a measuring-stick type of game? Is this their biggest game of the year?

BL: This is definitely their biggest game of the year. Even though Pittsburgh is 4-2, they need this game. They can't afford to go 4-3. The Vikings have had some cupcakes, but it's tough to win in the National Football League. When they play a team of this caliber and the Steelers are in a must-win situation at home, it should test everything the Vikings have got. The Vikings can't make any mental mistakes and they have to make every play when they have a chance to make them. It's the best test of the year so far.

Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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