5 Minnesota Vikings Players Who Must Step Up Against Pittsburgh Steelers

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5 Minnesota Vikings Players Who Must Step Up Against Pittsburgh Steelers

Vikings
Bruce Klukhohn- USA Today Sports

When a team starts 0-3, the blame usually falls on the shoulders of several players rather than an individual. The Minnesota Vikings have lost three close games to start the season, but turnovers and inconsistent plays in all three phases of the game prevented Minnesota from getting their first victory of the season.

The Vikings’ offense has struggled with turnovers by quarterback Christian Ponder, uncharacteristic fumbles by Adrian Peterson and suspect blocking by an offensive line that was one of the best in the NFL last season. Minnesota is second in the NFL in giveaways to the New York Giants with 10 in only three games. This is a team that made the playoffs last season by winning the turnover battle and wearing down the opposition with its stellar running attack, but they have been unable to do either this season.

Minnesota’s defense has regressed mightily from last season with the team currently ranking 29th in yards allowed, 30th in points allowed, 28th in passing yards allowed per game and 21st in rushing yards allowed per game. Blair Walsh has been one of the few players on the Vikings’ roster that’s played up to his potential this season. Walsh is 6-for-6 on field goals this season and has been effective in the touchback department.

Although the Vikings have struggled this season, there’s still a glimmer of hope for this season. If Minnesota wants to begin its turnaround, there are five players that need to step up in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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5. Jared Allen

Vikings
Bruce Klukhohn- USA Today Sports

Jared Allen has been the heart and soul of the Vikings’ defense since he joined the team in 2008, but he’s been a nonfactor in the first three games of this season. Allen is considered one of the league’s best pass rushers, but he only has one sack through three games. One positive to take away from Allen’s play this season is that he’s been a slow-starter the last couple seasons, but has responded and put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers. Look for Allen to make life hard for Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday.

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4. Everson Griffen

Vikings
Bruce Klukhohn- USA Today Sports

Everson Griffen was a surprise contributor to the 2012 Vikings, with eight sacks and an interception for a touchdown against the Rams. There were high expectations this season with Griffen coming off the best season of his career, but he has yet to make a significant impact. Griffen only has three total tackles this season and although he’s not known as a run stopper. He needs to get more involved in the action.

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3. Jerome Simpson

Vikings
Andrew Weber- USA Today Sports

Jerome Simpson has started the 2013 season better than most Vikings fans expected, but Simpson’s big-play ability has been absent the last two games. Simpson is one of the few Vikings wide receivers who’s a legitimate deep threat down the field and can make the defense think twice about stacking the box with eight defenders. I don’t expect Simpson to have a game on Sunday like he did against the Detroit in Week 1, but look for him to make one or two big plays down the field.

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2. Jamarca Sanford

Vikings
Brace Hemmelgarn- USA Today Sports

With the exception of Harrison Smith, the Vikings’ secondary has been atrocious so far this season and opposing offenses have exposed safety Jamarca Sanford. Sanford has struggled with the deep ball and although he isn’t the only source of concern in the secondary, his solid play last season led many to believe that he could be a solid contributor on this unit. Sanford isn’t an exceptionally talented safety, but his play this season hasn’t been what many expected and I believe he and the rest of the secondary will improve their pass defense against the Steelers.

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1. Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel

Vikings
Bruce Klukhohn- USA Today Sports

With Christian Ponder struggling with a rib injury, backup Matt Cassel has received the majority of the snaps this week in practice. Regardless of who starts on Sunday, the quarterback play on this team needs to improve dramatically. I’ve mentioned the turnovers committed by Ponder, but another concern with this offense is that they’re unable to make plays down the field. The Vikings’ pass offense relies too heavily on short passes that are easier for the quarterback, but don’t scare any defense. If the Vikings hope to end their three-game losing streak, Ponder or Cassel must cut down on the turnovers and put some fear in the Steelers’ defense.


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