- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- One of countless measures as to why Adrian Peterson is the best running back on the planet: The Vikings star is perceived to have gotten off to a slow start even though he has rushed for 281 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
One of countless reasons why the Steelers can’t think they are catching Peterson at a good time: He had 230 rushing yards through three games last year and finished with 2,097 yards -- eight fewer than Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season record.
Not that the Steelers don’t know what they are up against when they face Peterson and the equally desperate Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday.
“When you watch film of him, you can have an even greater appreciation for how good he is,” Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. “He’s more talented than everybody else, but he also tries to outwork everybody else. He runs like an undrafted free agent.”
Combine a maniacal work ethic with freakish physical ability and it adds up to Peterson making a serious run at Dickerson’s record less than a year after tearing his ACL.
What the Steelers referenced in regard to Peterson's greatness were the runs that don’t show up on "SportsCenter" or any other highlight shows.
They are the shorter ones where Peterson makes something out of nothing simply because of the indomitable will that the reigning NFL MVP also applied to his recovery from a major knee injury.
“He fights for every yard,” Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “That’s something a defensive player can really respect. We scratch and claw for every inch on defense. When you see somebody on offense that’s really doing that and not running out of bounds, you get a lot of respect from defensive players for that.”
The Steelers will show plenty of respect to Peterson, and not just when he runs the ball. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said the 6-foot-1, 217-pounder is also the biggest weapon in Minnesota’s passing game since play-action opens up the field for the Vikings receivers.
The Steelers largely contained Peterson the only other time they played against him.
He gained 129 yards of total offense and scored a touchdown, but the Steelers limited Peterson to just 3.8 yards per carry.
If they can hold him to similar numbers in their second meeting, the Steelers have to like their chances to finally get into the win column this season.
That is how important Peterson is to the Vikings offense.
“We have to try to match his mental approach to the game,” Clark said. “Physically, he’s going to probably be one up on everybody but Troy [Polamalu], so for us we’ve got to be physical with him, get people to the ball and try to get him on the ground.”