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Pittsburgh Steelers vs Minnesota Vikings: Who Has the Advantage?

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Steelers vs. Vikings: Who Has the Advantage?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the day on Sunday, either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Minnesota Vikings will be on their way back to the United States with their first win of the 2013 NFL season. Both teams are franticly trying to do whatever they can to avoid a 0-4 start, which would make their chances for a postseason berth more difficult.

The Vikings are a team that lose some games late in the fourth quarter, and could easily be 2-1. As for the Steelers, their atrocious play on the field has prevented them from even being close to victory in the majority of the 12 quarters of football that they have played thus far.

The last time these two teams met was during the 2009 season, with Pittsburgh prevailing 27-17. Both teams have clearly changed, personnel-wise, since then, but the main constants are the teams’ two star players: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Peterson had 129 total yards from scrimmage (69 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving) and a touchdown four seasons ago against Pittsburgh, while Roethlisberger put up a modest 175 yards passing for one touchdown. I’m sure, with the current status of both teams, that the numbers put up by these two players will increase dramatically.

Minnesota will more than likely lean on Peterson and the rest of their running backs, due to the injury of their starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who will be replaced by Matt Cassel. While the Vikings’ concentration will be on their ground attack, the Steelers will have no choice but to try to move the ball through the air. Pittsburgh’s running game is currently 31st in the league because of a putrid offensive line.

Just looking at how both teams will approach this game offensively only gives us a small glimpse of who has the upper hand in this game. Let’s take a deeper look to see who has the advantage.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+

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Steelers Pass Offense vs Vikings Pass Defense

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Roethlisberger threw for over 400 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings have intercepted opposing quarterbacks six times so far this season (tied for first in the league), but are 28th in the league in pass defense. Even behind a struggling offensive line, Big Ben should still manage to get some good throws off.

Advantage: Steelers

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Steelers Run Offense vs Vikings Run Defense

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh will get some much needed help in their back field with rookie Le’Veon Bell making his NFL debut. The extra set of fresh legs will do the Steelers’ running game some good, but the success of the ground attack still depends on the performance of the O-line. I do predict some improvement rushing the ball this week, but until they prove otherwise, I won’t give them the edge.

Advantage: Vikings

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Vikings Pass Offense vs Steelers Pass Defense

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With Ponder out for the Vikings, Minnesota’s passing attack will be in question. Even if they had their starting signal caller, Pittsburgh’s third-ranked pass defense should give the Viking’s aerial attack some headaches.

Advantage: Steelers

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Vikings Run Offense vs Steelers Run Defense

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

As stout as Pittsburgh’s pass defense has been thus far this season, the same can’t be said about their 22nd ranked run defense. Peterson is currently sixth in the league in rushing, and should get ample opportunities to wear down the Steelers’ front seven.

Advantage: Vikings

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Special Teams

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Both kickers for each team have been perfect thus far in the season. However, Pittsburgh’s Zoltan Mesko has been average, at best, in punting. Field position will be a key factor in this game. Mesko has put only one punt inside the 20-yard line and is averaging under 40 yards per punt.

Advantage: Vikings

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Tomlin’s decision of leaving for London so late in the week still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. For a team struggling like the Steelers are, every little advantage is greatly needed, and getting use to such a dramatic time change so late in the week isn’t considered one of them.

Advantage: Vikings