The Pittsburgh Steelers live in the tough AFC North, but they kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Ravens by a point in Week 13, 20-19, with ‘Old’ Ben Roethlisberger throwing for two TDs and no INTs, his impressive targeting of Dontae Johnson almost as fun to watch as the defense posting seven sacks and an interception, a win here a must for HC Mike Tomlin.
Not too many things more embarrassing than losing to a team that has yet to win, but the Minnesota Vikings did just that last week after falling to the hungry Detroit Lions, 27-29, their defense failing to stop a final drive or to defend the endzone, and now QB Kirk Cousins and his 5-7 Vikings are on a must-win track if they expect to qualify for the postseason in the end.
These two cross-conference rivals have faced each other 18 other times (including 1 postseason game), with the Minnesota Vikings winning 9 of those games and the Pittsburgh Steelers winning 9 of the games.
Amidst rumors that this could be his last season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger continues to find a way to thrive in the NFL and keep his Steelers team’s postseason hopes alive.
Roethlisberger is almost 40 years old and though that might not stop certain GOATS from being productive, it seems to have slowed down Big Ben in both his ability to throw the ball deep as well as his maneuverability in the backfield that was never top notch for the big guy anyway.
This season Roethlisberger has won six of the eleven games in which he has started so his 22nd ranked offense can still get the job done, and against a Vikings pass defense that’s 23rd effective in the league he could still find some life in his aged throwing arm and legs here.
The bad news for Minnesota in this matchup is that its defense is ranked 30th in the NFL and they must shut down the Steelers with whatever talent they still have left standing on the field, the team’s injuries extensive but expected by the fourteenth week of this elongated season.
To keep the Steelers off the board, the Vikings defense must find a way to neutralize Pittsburgh’s run game starring Najee Harris, and DCs Adam Zimmer & Andre Patterson will have to game plan using whatever next man up situation they could encounter.
Several Minnesota defensive players are listed as questionable, including LB Anthony Barr (knee), S Camryn Bynum (ankle), and CB Patrick Peterson (Covid), so the rest of the roster including the many of the younger players on the team must take this opportunity to shine.
Third year wide receiver Diontae Johnson has begun to step up and show himself as a playmaker, catching eight balls including two touchdown passes in the team’s Week 13 win over the Baltimore Ravens averaging over 13 yards per reception in that game.
This season, Johnson, the 5’ 10” 183 pound Toledo alum, has been targeted 120 times and he has caught 76 of those balls for 914 yards and 6 touchdowns, a fast route runner who gets open often and then finds yards after the catch who QB Roethlisberger has come to rely on.
The offense of the Steelers is ranked close to the bottom third of the league, so young stars like Johnson need to step up in these final five games if Pittsburgh expects to earn a spot in the postseason, most likely a wildcard berth given the tough AFC North.
Arguably the best receiver on the Vikings, Adam Thielen has proven himself a dependable target for QB Kirk Cousins, a speedy, tall receiver who can maneuver himself out of most coverage and tackles, all high level skills the veteran has picked up over his eight NFL seasons.
But this week the 6’ 2” 200 pound Thielen is listed as questionable with an ankle injury slowing him down, so he could be a last-minute coach’s decision depending on his week of practice and warmups before the game.
The team could use Thielen’s production, the Minnesota State alum so far with 64 catches off 92 targets for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, a production that could help his Vikings win here in order to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
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|Steelers vs Vikings Information|
|What||Pittsburgh Steelers vs Minnesota Vikings|
|Where||U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN|
|When||Thursday, December 9, 2021; 8:20 PM ET|
|How to watch||FOX / NFL Network|
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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