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The Skinny Post: Vikings Face Tough Road Test in Pittsburgh

The Vikings earned a win in their season opener, but there is little time to celebrate as Minnesota now faces one of its toughest road tests of the season.

The Vikings will play at Pittsburgh at noon (CT) Sunday against a stout Steelers team that is 59-21 at home since 2007, which was Head Coach Mike Tomlin's first season in the Steel City.

Pittsburgh is 14-2 in home openers at Heinz Field and has won 12 of its past 13. 

Both teams enter at 1-0 after earning Week 1 victories. This is the first meeting between the teams since the Vikings won 34-27 in London in 2013.

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Handling pressure | By@pcraigers

Minnesota's new-look offensive line received multiple tips of the cap after helping Sam Bradford throw for 346 yards and Dalvin Cook rush for 127. The unit that featured five players who hadn't taken a snap in a game together as one allowed just one sack of Bradford.

This week, however, presents multiple challenges. It will be the unit's first road game, and crowd noise is expected to be high in the hostile environment. Beyond that, the Steelers like to bring pressure from multiple players, and Pittsburgh's defense is riding high after sacking Cleveland's DeShone Kizer seven times in his pro debut.

Linebackers T.J. Watt and Anthony Chickillo each recorded 2.0 sacks last week.

Bracing for Big Ben | By@EricLSmith

For the second straight week, the Vikings will face a likely future Hall of Fame quarterback who already ranks in the top 10 in league history in passing yards and passing touchdowns.

But the style of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is vastly different then what the Vikings saw from Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Monday.

Roethlisberger can break free from defenders and turn a near-sack into an explosive play.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer knows the quarterback well from his time as the Bengals defensive coordinator, and said it will take a team effort to contain Roethlisberger and his weapons.

"He's hard to get down. Just because you get around him doesn't mean you sack him. He moves well in the pocket," Zimmer said. "Their offensive line does a good job of snatching you and not letting you get away. And then he's able to move and the receivers take off into the end zone. 

"The thing I've always admired about him is that he's going to stand in there and take his shots and let it rip," Zimmer added. "And he's accurate when you hit him. We've had free guys hitting him in the past, and he's made some unbelievably great throws."

Shutting down Brown | By@LindseyMNSports

The Vikings will look to contain a dynamic receiving threat in Antonio Brown Sunday afternoon.

Brown is the NFL's leading receiver after Week 1, during which he recorded 182 yards on 11 catches. Adam Thielen's 157-yard performance puts him at No. 2. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger often utilizes Brown as a downfield threat, and Minnesota's defense could have its hands full with the explosive receiver.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes could match up against Brown throughout a good portion of the game. The two Miami natives actually attended Norland High School together, and Rhodes said earlier this week that he's looking forward* *to playing against Brown, who is two years his elder.

"It's more that we're happy to be going against each other," Rhodes said. "We're proud of each other for making it this far and achieving what we've achieved."

In 2016, Rhodes stood out as a shutdown corner against top receivers such as Odell Beckham, Jr., Kelvin Benjamin and DeAndre Hopkins. In addition to Rhodes, the Vikings implemented Trae Waynes and Terence Newman as outside corners last week, and Newman and Mackensie Alexander both played in the slot.

View practices photos from Fridays practice at Winter Park.

Substantial Stats

— Vikings running back Dalvin Cook set a franchise record for most rushing yards by a rookie in his first game with 127.

— Minnesota's defense allowed just one Saints touchdown in five trips inside the red zone Monday night.

—Roethlisberger ranks ninth all-time with 303 career touchdown passes. He is also ninth in NFL history with 47,077 passing yards after moving ahead of Vikings Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton last week.

— The league's top two receivers after Week 1 will be on the field Sunday. Brown had 182 yards against the Browns while Adam Thielen had 157 yards against New Orleans.

Quotable

"This will be a good test for us – go on the road to play a good football team.  They're very explosive offensively. They've got some big offensive linemen that kind of try and maul you, heck of a runner, quarterback is excellent, and defensively they're active. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

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