The Pittsburgh Steelers will try to keep their record perfect Sunday when they host the Minnesota Vikings in the home opener at Heinz Field.
Both teams are coming off Week 1 victories. The Steelers squeaked past the Browns, 21-18, in Cleveland, while the Vikings handled the visiting New Orleans Saints, 29-19.
The Vikings lead the all-time series 9-7, winning 34-27 in the last meeting in 2013 in London. The Steelers had won the previous three matchups. They also beat the Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX following the 1974 season for the first of the franchise’s six Vince Lombardi Trophies.
Here are three things to watch for the Steelers on Sunday.
More balance on offense
The Steelers had 36 pass plays and 17 run plays in the opener.
Part of the imbalance was due to the Browns’ stout run defense. The Steelers managed just 35 yards on 17 carries. Penalties also played a role: The Steelers were flagged 13 times for 143 yards, forcing them into many long-yardage situations.
Star running back Le’Veon Bell looked rusty after sitting out the preseason in a contract dispute. He finished with just 32 yards on 10 carries.
Look for the Steelers to try to establish Bell and the ground game early this week.
Stopping the run
Minnesota first-round draft pick Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards on 22 carries against the Saints, the most in franchise history by a player making his NFL debut. Meanwhile, quarterback Sam Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
While Bradford has proven to be dangerous, the Steelers feel it is important to stop Cook and force the Vikings into obvious passing situations. If the Steelers can do that, they can unleash a pass rush that sacked Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer seven times.
Get Bryant involved
Wide receiver Martavis Bryant was a non-factor in the opener after sitting out last season while serving a suspension from the NFL for violating its drug policy. He had two receptions for 14 yards while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected 11 times with wide receiver Antonio Brown for 182 yards.
Roethlisberger was especially excited that Bryant was reinstated by the league because of his ability to use his 6-foot-4 frame in the red zone. However, both of Roethlisberger’s touchdown passes against Cleveland went to tight end Jesse James, covering four and two yards.
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