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Final Thoughts: Vikings vs. Steelers

Familiar Foes are these Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sure, the Vikings and Steelers meet in the regular season only once every four years and the Vikings visit Heinz Field only once every eight. But that doesn't mean there isn't some familiarity in this matchup.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for six seasons from 2008-13, meaning he played the Steelers twice per year for over half a decade. He's been through battles with this bunch, and he's had his fair share of success, too. In those 12 regular season meetings against Big Ben and Co., Zimmer's Bengals defenses held the Steelers to 13.4 points per game. The Steelers also had success, which is why the Bengals-Steelers matchup was such a rivalry during Zimmer's tenure in Cincinnati.

Does that mean the Vikings defense will have similar success against this year's Steelers team on Sunday? Not necessarily. But there aren't many defensive minds in the NFL more familiar with how the great the Steelers offense is. Also, consider that half of Zimmer's games against NFC North teams since coming to Minnesota have been one-score games.

The point? When there is familiarity between Zimmer-coached teams and the opponent, the game tends to be hotly-contested. Hopefully that's the case this Sunday, too.

Let's get to a few more final thoughts from the week that was.

Vikings 2015 draft class members loom large for '17 squad

A big part of Zimmer's latest effort against this high-powered Steelers offense will be his 2015 draft class, especially on defense. Stefon Diggs was a 5th-round pick that year, but take a look at the Vikings first three picks that year:

1st round, No. 11 overall: CB Trae Waynes
2nd round, No. 45 overall: LB Eric Kendricks
3rd round, No. 88 overall: DE Danielle Hunter

Kendricks led the Vikings in tackles in 2015 and 2016, Danielle Hunter led the team in sacks in 2016 and Trae Waynes has earned a starting spot and led the team in tackles last week; he had more tackles than any cornerback in the League last week and was a key component to the Vikings sharp run defense.

Steelers, Vikings help set the standard since Merger

Vikings fans don't often get an up-close look at the Steelers, but this week we do and we should take a moment to appreciate their own great place in NFL history. Since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, the Steelers have been THE standard for NFL franchises. Pittsburgh has more wins (445), playoff berths (29) and division tiles (22) than any other team since 1970. They have 18 more wins, more than a season's worth of victories, than the two teams tied for second – Dallas and Denver at 427. The Vikings don't rate much worse, though. Minnesota ranks sixth in wins (406), third in playoff berths (26) and fifth in division titles (17) in that same span, outperforming every team in the NFC North in each of those categories.

Keep it up Kai!

You can't ask for much more from Kai Forbath since he joined the Vikings last November 16. He's made 18 of 18 field goals, including a perfect three of three on Monday night against New Orleans. His third field goal was from 45 yards with four minutes to go and made it a three-score game in favor of the Vikings. Forbath did miss an extra point last week, but his performance on field goals and kickoffs has been solid. Forbath booted four touchbacks last week and was part of a kick coverage team that allowed only 57 yards on three returns.

Bringing Ben down

The Vikings face a quarterback this week who is hard to bring down. Roethlisberger took only 17 sacks last season. Yes, he holds the ball to give his receivers more time to break open and get downfield, but he gets rid of it in time and is capable of shrugging off would-be sack artists. The way to get him may not be to send the house, either. Of the 17 sacks Roethlisberger took last season, only two came with five rushers or more.

Three threats

You've heard all week about the three "Bs" – Bell, Ben and Brown. The Steelers have more threat than just that trio. Here are three more to watch:

Martavis Bryant – Everyone knows Brown, but Bryant is a dangerous receiver, too. He measures in at 6-4, 211 pounds, giving him above-average size to go along with his great deep speed.

Ryan Shazier – The third linebacker taken in the 2014 NFL draft behind Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr, Shazier was a starter right away for Pittsburgh and has been a tackling machine when healthy. He is also athletic enough to rush the passer and drop in coverage.

Jesse James – For a long time, Heath Miller was a sure-handed, tough, productive tight end for the Steelers. The Steelers may have another tight end in that mold with James. He had two touchdowns last week against the Browns.

Your mail

Great game. Goal line defense was very good. Offensive line played well and will only get better. Dalvin Cook is the real deal. Looking forward to the game in Pittsburg. We will be tested but the coaching staff will have us ready -- Gerald Goblirsch

You win in this League with players, but I am excited to watch the chess match between Mike Zimmer and Steelers Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley. Both men are well respected in the League and it's fun to watch their players try to execute the schemes they've devised. Both teams will be well prepared by their coaching staff. 

How much of the offensive success would you attribute to the Saints defense being terrible? They were 31st last year, right? I want to get high on the Vikings success, but I want to be realistic as well. What assurances do we have that the Vikings offense can also compete against a top 10 defense? -- Anders Wisconsin

We don't have assurances of anything. You just have to take things for what you see. It doesn't matter if the Saints were a top 10 defense or not. What matters is the Vikings did what it took to win. You can only beat the teams in front of you. Now the Vikings have Pittsburgh in front of them, and they need to find a way to do what it takes to beat them, and it doesn't matter if it's ugly or pretty. The Patriots play the Saints this week week. I would bet that Tom Brady will not have as impressive a stat line against that defense as Bradford had against that defense. Will that cause you to conclude that Bradford is better than Brady? I would think not. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. What matters is how many wins you have at the end of the regular season. They don't ask you how, they ask you many. The Vikings have one.

What a game! It takes a lot of guts to change every starter on the offensive line and get rid of a big free agent acquisition like Alex Boone, but hats off to the coaching staff for putting together what looks like to be a great offensive line. Offensive line play was the highlight of the night for me. Keep up the good play Vikings! Skol! -- Peter Billings, MT

There's no question some tough decisions were made by the Vikings with regard to the offensive line. I said it at the time and I believe it remains true: Boone's release said more about how the team feels about Nick Easton and Pat Elflein than it said about how they felt about Boone. Easton and Elflein had great camps and preseasons. They earned spots on the field.

What a great all around team win! Quieted all of the doubters immediately! Didn't see that kind of all-around play last year. Season is still long but I definitely liked what I saw! Can't wait to see them in person on Oct. 1st! SKOL VIKINGS! -- Kyle Texas

Glad to hear you'll be able to take in the Vikings-Lions game at U.S Bank Stadium. That will be the Vikings first division game of the season and it's the day Ahmad Rashad goes into the Vikings Ring of Honor. It's also time for the Vikings to exact some revenge on a Lions team that won two nail-biters last year.

Favorite quote of the week: Pat Shurmur

Reporter: How does the communication on the offensive staff work?

Shurmur: "I think it takes a village. I told the players, I tell them on a regular basis, and the same can be said for the staff, this is the Minnesota Vikings offense and we as coaches, if you have a good idea, you bring it to the table in the pre-planning. When we put the plan together, it's all stuff that we feel good about."

Shurmur has worked his way up the ladder. He's been a position coach, a coordinator, a head coach. He believes in the team concept and his actions demonstrate that. He has been a low man on the pecking order with great ideas, and now he's atop the pecking order and he adamant about making sure everyone on his staff and in his locker room feels compelled to share an idea they have. Make no mistake about it: Shurmur was on fire last Monday night with his play design and play calling. Yet, he deflects credit and spreads it around to his entire staff.

Broadcast Info

National Television: FOX (Channel 9 in the Twin Cities)
Play-by-play: Kenny Albert
Analyst: Ronde Barber
Sideline: Kristina Pink

National Radio: ESPN Radio
Play-by-play: Adam Amin
Analyst: Bill Polian

Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber

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