NFL Nation: 2013 Week 4 PIT at MIN Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Vikings 34, Steelers 27

September, 29, 2013
A few thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London.

What it means: Four games into the season, the Steelers have all but played their way out of postseason contention. They are 0-4 to start a season for the first time since 1968, and fans will start turning their attention to the 2014 draft. The Steelers are making a dubious run at a top-10 if not top-5 pick. Maybe they will use it on a left tackle, as Mike Adams continues to look overmatched there. A playmaker for a defense that is in serious decline is also an option. As well as the Steelers’ offense played Sunday, it couldn’t bail out the defense. And a turnover doomed the Steelers at the end. They are now minus-10 in turnover differential.

Stock watch: This loss was all on the defense, which turned in a simply unacceptable performance. When was the last time the Steelers gave up two touchdowns of 60 or more yards in one half, let alone one game? The Steelers’ tackling was horrendous, and they didn’t put any pressure on Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel. The turnover issue has become laughable, as the Steelers have not forced one in four games. What should have been a fumble recovery by Jarvis Jones after a LaMarr Woodley strip-sack turned into a Vikings first down when Jerome Simpson came up with the loose ball.

Bell tolls in London: Le’Veon Bell showed why the Steelers missed him so dearly in the the first three games of the season. The rookie had 84 total yards rushing and receiving yards and two scores, and he looked every part the feature back. His first NFL touchdown was a thing of beauty, as a nifty cut by Bell and a crushing block by tight end Heath Miller sprung him for an early score. The Steelers’ running-back-by-committee setup has been put out of its misery.

What’s next: The Steelers have their bye this week, which will give them a couple of extra practices to work on fundamentals such as tackling. They never imagined they would go into their bye week winless, and all eyes will be on the Steelers to see whether they start coming apart at the seams.

LONDON -- My thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings 34-27 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium.

What it means: In short, the Vikings' season isn't over. They're 1-3 headed into their bye week, and where an 0-4 record would have killed their season, a win at least gives them a little life headed into their bye week. The game might have also prompted a quarterback change (more on that in a minute) after Matt Cassel led the Vikings to victory and the defense managed not to blow a late lead for the third week in a row.

Stock watch: Rising -- Cassel. In his first start for the Vikings, Cassel did more than fill in admirably for Christian Ponder, who missed the game with a rib injury. He might have made the Vikings think seriously about making a permanent switch at the position once they return from their bye week. Cassel hit 16 of his 25 throws for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had the confidence to pull the trigger on throws over the middle that Ponder has been loath to attempt. He turned Greg Jennings into a factor, letting the receiver run after the catch on a quick throw that Jennings turned into a 70-yard touchdown. And Cassel was sacked once a week after the Cleveland Browns took Ponder down six times.

Peterson breaks out: Adrian Peterson had his best game of the season, romping for a 60-yard touchdown in the second quarter and gaining 140 yards to go with a pair of TDs. He looked more comfortable with Jerome Felton back, and Peterson got a key block from quarterback-turned-receiver Joe Webb, of all people, on the touchdown run. Peterson also helped the Vikings get an early lead, which was so important to the team in its 10-6 season last year.

Front four hassles Roethlisberger: The Vikings' pass rush had its best game of the season, with Jared Allen getting two sacks of his own and sharing a third with Sharrif Floyd, and Chad Greenway notching one on a blitz. Minnesota's depleted secondary had issues before injuries to Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford, and Josh Robinson struggled at times on Sunday, but the Vikings' defense has always been about their pass rush getting enough pressure to mask any issues behind them. They were able to do that on Sunday, and with the Vikings in danger of allowing a last-minute touchdown for the third week in a row, Everson Griffen and Greenway sacked Ben Roethlisberger and forced a fumble that Kevin Williams recovered.

What's next: The Vikings get an early bye week after their long week in London before returning to Mall of America Field on Oct. 13 to take on the Carolina Panthers.