Steelers vs. Vikings: Takeaways from Pittsburgh's 34-27 Loss to Minnesota
The Steelers had an opportunity to tie or win the game at the end of regulation, but in an act of poetic justice, they turned it over to the Vikings one last time to seal their fate.
This was a game of momentum swings from one team to the next for both squads. Both teams had their moments and plays that showed their highs and lows. In the final analysis, it came down to fundamentals and which team did the little things right that made all the difference.
Here are some takeaways from the Steelers' loss to the Vikings.
*All stats provided within are from NFL.com.
Le'Veon Bell Is the Real Deal
When the Steelers drafted running back Le'Veon Bell with the 48th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, he was drafted to be the feature back for this offense.
Unfortunately, his debut was delayed as he has dealt with a foot injury. However, on Sunday, the Steelers and their fans got their first taste of the future as Bell got the start. And he didn't disappoint.
Bell finished with 16 carries for 57 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also chipped in four receptions for 27 more yards. The best part was Bell showed a level of quickness and agility that no other back on this roster can emulate.
The future of the running back position looks very bright.
No Splash Plays
Last week, the Steelers were able to attack the Chicago Bears secondary down the field with the deep pass. This week, the Vikings were able to counter with quick pressure, forcing the Steelers to use short passes, hoping to turn them into long runs.
If the Steelers could have established a downfield presence in the passing game, it would have almost certainly allowed them to run the ball with more consistency and effectiveness. Instead, they worked the underneath, which was effective, but lacked the punch of the previous week.
No Answer for Adrian Peterson
Sometimes, no matter how good you are, there is someone better. That was the case with Adrian Peterson and the Steelers defense. Sound tacklers were made to look foolish, and good athletes looked very average compared to Peterson.
There is no shame in losing occasionally to a player as talented as Peterson. Nevertheless, there were plays that were left on the field for the Steelers defense against the Vikings' run game. Fortunately, the Steelers don't face another back of his caliber anytime soon.
Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert Have to Go
Another week and another performance from Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert to make Steelers fans cringe. Both tacklers are lumbering and too slow afoot to protect Roethlisberger. They can't even redeem themselves by using their girth to be better run blockers.
Neither of these players is starting-caliber, and one way or another, should be replaced in 2014. As it appears, the Steelers are going to have a very high pick in the 2014 NFL draft and could have an opportunity to draft one of the top tackle prospects to get this group back on track.
The Steelers Struggled to Tackle
If there is one stark contrast from this game, it is in tackling between the two teams. The Vikings did a very good job of wrapping up whichever Steelers player had the football, going low when they needed to and forcing those speedy Steelers receivers to get down to avoid big hits.
The Steelers, on the other hand, reverted back to their drop-a-shoulder-and-bump routine without wrapping up the Vikings players. This allowed the Vikings to get extra yards. The first three weeks of the season, the Steelers had shown marked improvement in that area, but Sunday was a regression.
Same Old Story on Turnovers
Once again, the undoing of this team was turnovers—and the inability to force turnovers.
It is almost comical how this team is unable to take the football away. Cornerback Ike Taylor had two interceptions in his hands and was unable to hold on to either, while LaMarr Woodley forced a fumble, but the Vikings recovered and advanced it for a solid gain. It is literally a comedy of errors.
Nonetheless, for the Steelers, it was more of the same. Roethlisberger throws an interception after wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders cuts off his route early, crushing a vital drive. Then to end the game, as they are marching down for a potential game-winning score. Roethlisberger is swallowed up by the Vikings defense, and he loses the football.
The Steelers still have not forced a turnover yet this year, and the way things are falling this year, they may not. It is hard to imagine this team winning many games if this does not change.
This Season Isn't the End of the World
As glum as this season is, and trust me when I say it's glum, the future looks bright in places. There are some really talented young players on this team. Seeing Bell and wide receiver Markus Wheaton in the offense is promising.
And on defense, rookie linebacker Vince Williams and safety Shamarko Thomas are showing tremendous promise. Even some of the other young veterans like Cameron Heyward and Ziggy Hood give hope to the future.
Nevertheless, for the next 12 games, things are likely to get worse before getting better.
This Team Needs to Care How Bad They Are
Perhaps it is my age, and the fact I was weaned on football of a different era, but I really struggle with the level of friendliness between players on opposing teams. This goes along with the apparent casual attitude about losing that is so prevalent.
Right after the game, the television crew panned across the field, as they always do, to show players congratulate one another. Seeing the Steelers players, and head coach Mike Tomlin laughing and smiling and joking with the Vikings players is infuriating.
Take some pride in your team and respect just how poorly you have played. Obviously, as most of these young men are millionaires and this job is little more than a payday I get some level of apathy toward the outcome.
However, seeing the head coach and a player like Troy Polamalu doing it makes one wonder just how much they care that they flew nearly 4,000 miles to get beat by a team that hadn't won a game yet.