This weekend marks the beginning of the NFL’s International Series. The game will feature the Minnesota Vikings taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dominic DiTolla, the Co-Editor of “Nice Pick, Cowher”.
I don’t think that Bell’s return will hurt the Steelers at all, but Ben Roethlisberger recently said that he does not know what to expect from the rookie. To their credit, Felix Jones and Jonathan Dwyer had some nice runs against Chicago last Sunday, and the offensive line looked competent in the run-blocking department. Unfortunately, the Steelers had to scrap the run since they were already down by 21 points in the first half. So while Bell will receive some playing time, I think that Jones and Dwyer will receive their fair share of touches as well.
I personally thought that Pittsburgh’s brass should have drafted an inside linebacker in the second round this April instead of Bell, but that’s a subject for a different article.
Heath Miller is an “animal.” I’m not sure if you saw the knee injury he sustained against the Bengals last year, but it was pretty gruesome. To come back as quickly as he did and to make three catches lin his first game back speaks to his toughness as a player and skills as a tight end. While Heath will probably not be back to his “old self” athletically until late in the year, his presence alone as a run blocker and safety-valve for “Big Ben” will always come in handy.
With their running game still in flux, I am sure that Roethlisberger would love nothing more than to use his best play-makers in the passing game. Antonio Brown torched Chicago’s secondary for nine catches, 196 yards, and two touchdowns last weekend, while Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, and Miller should serve to be solid compliments on Sunday.
Keep an eye on rookie speedster Markus Wheaton as well. If he can stretch the field vertically, then could open up all sorts of space in Minnesota’s secondary for Brown, Sanders, Cotchery, and Miller to work within at Wembley Stadium.
This 0-3 start only reminds me of the 2000 season from a record perspective. Back in 2000, Pittsburgh might have been rebuilding, but they did not possess a franchise quarterback, they actually had a competent running game led by Jerome Bettis, and the defense could actually force turnovers.
A core of solid young players was also being built in 2000 as well with Joey Porter, Alan Faneca, Marvel Smith, Aaron Smith, and Hines Ward as well. No young group exists on Pittsburgh’s roster with that type of talent just yet, although Jarvis Jones, Shamarko Thomas, and Vince Williams have all illustrated some promise at some time or another during the first three games.
As many turnovers as the Steelers committed last weekend (five), their offense finally showed signs of life. So as long as the offensive line can give Roethlisberger time to throw, then he should be able to pick apart Minnesota’s hobbled secondary. Who knows? Maybe even the defense can record their first turnover of the year off of Christian Ponder. As much as Adrian Peterson scares me, I think that the Steelers will win a close game 27-20.