Grading the game: Steelers

The Vikings had a chance to beat the defending Super Bowl champions on their turf, but a mostly average performance wasn't good enough. We hand out the grades for the Vikings for each phase of the game.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — Brett Favre completed 34 of his season-high 51 passes for 334 yards, but he did not have a touchdown and was part of two crucial turnovers in the fourth quarter. The first came when the ball was tipped out of his hand by Steelers DE Brett Keisel on a play that originated at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line. LB LaMarr Woodley recovered the ball and raced 77 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota still had a chance to win it later in the quarter, but with the Vikings at the Pittsburgh 19-yard line, Favre's screen pass was deflected by Chester Taylor into the hands of Keyaron Fox and returned 82 yards for a touchdown. Favre does continue to find Sidney Rice on a regular basis. Rice caught a career-high 10 passes for 136 yards, giving him his second 100-yard receiving game in a row after he had none in his first two-plus seasons. Favre also was sacked four times, and his 76.8 passer rating was his season low.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau deserves credit for having a good plan against the Vikings offense. For the fifth time this season, Adrian Peterson was held to under 100 yards rushing. Peterson finished with 69 yards on 18 carries, and his longest carry went for 19 yards. Peterson had a second-quarter touchdown on a 2-yard run. As a team, the Vikings were held to 89 yards on the ground on 23 attempts, a 3.9-yard average.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — There were serious questions about how well the Vikings would do with veteran CB Antoine Winfield out because of a foot injury, but the Vikings trio of Karl Paymah, Benny Sapp and rookie Asher Allen seemed to hold their own. Sapp and Paymah played the majority of the snaps, but Allen also got some work in the nickel defense and caused a fumble by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikings spent plenty of time in the nickel because of how much the Steelers like to pass. Roethlisberger threw for 175 yards and a touchdown, but he did not have great success going to the left side, where Winfield ordinarily would be stationed. One of the costliest mistakes by this unit came late in the first half when Roethlisberger directed an eight-play, 91-yard drive that ended with him hitting Mike Wallace on a 40-yard touchdown pass on which S Madieu Williams took a poor angle.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Steelers might have most exploited the fact that Winfield was out by running and not passing toward the left side of the Vikings defense. Rashard Mendenhall started the game with a 14-yard run toward the left side and later added a 17-yard dash. The Steelers finished with 106 yards on 20 carries, a 5.3-yard average. It marked the third time a team has had more than 100 yards rushing against the Vikings this season, but Minnesota's defense did increase its streak of not having an individual gain 100 yards against it on the ground to an NFL-high 30 games. It's worth noting that veteran NT Pat Williams appeared to have his best game this season, recording six tackles, with one for a loss. He forced a fumble by Mendenhall that ended a Steelers drive at the Vikings 4-yard line in the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus — This grade is proof of what an up-and-down day it was. P Chris Kluwe's second boot of the game in the opening quarter traveled 35 yards to give the Steelers the ball at the Vikings 49-yard line. Kluwe's next punt was awful, going only 19 yards and enabling Pittsburgh to take over at the Vikings 39. That set up an eventual 39-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. But the coverage units did a nice job, and rookie Percy Harvin was fantastic on kickoff returns — especially one in the fourth quarter. The Vikings had fallen behind 20-10 when Harvin took the ball and headed up the left sideline before cutting across the field and toward the end zone for an 88-yard touchdown return. That made Harvin the first player in Vikings history to return two kicks for a touchdown in one season. Harvin finished with an average of 33.4 yards on five returns. Jaymar Johnson did not have as much success on punt returns, averaging only 2.7 yards on three of them. Ryan Longwell made his only field-goal attempt of the day, an 18-yarder in the third quarter.

COACHING: C — The Vikings played their least-disciplined game of the season, taking 11 penalties, and there was some question about whether coach Brad Childress should have rolled the dice on fourth-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 1-yard line and gone for a touchdown in the third quarter instead of having Longwell kick an 18-yard field goal. The play-calling near the goal line also was curious, with Peterson running on first-and-goal from the 1 but then Favre attempting passes to Rice and Jim Kleinsasser before Longwell came on to kick the field goal.

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