A trip overseas may be just what the doctor ordered for the 0-3 Pittsburgh Steelers, as for the first time this season, they will field all of their intended starters. And a healthy lineup may be what they need to find their first win of the season.
• Tight end Heath Miller returned to the lineup last week but was on a snap count to ease him back into game shape. His presence last week nearly doubled the tight-end receiving yards. David Johnson and Miller combined for five catches and 86 yards. The run game also improved from their previous highest total of 43 to 73 yards thanks in part to Miller’s blocking. Miller should be able to increase his time on the field in London, which can only help the Steelers’ offense.
• Starting cornerback Cortez Allen will play this week after a Week 1 injury kept him sidelined the past couple weeks. His addition will hopefully improve the turnover ratio. Allen had two interceptions and three forced fumbles in just three games as a full-time starter in 2012. In comparison, Steelers top corner Ike Taylor had one pick and no fumbles forced in 12 starts.
• Touted rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will see his first regular-season action this Sunday. Bell’s foot injury has kept him from being a part of the Steelers offensive plan so no one is certain of his impact. However, he is definitely the most talented back the Steelers have. He can only help the dismal running game.
While the Steelers will be operating with a full team this Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will be down several key players:
• Starting quarterback Christian Ponder is out with a rib injury and will be replaced by former Kansas City Chief Matt Cassel. Ponder is a mobile QB who is a threat out of the backfield, similar to those the Steelers defense has faced in previous weeks — and struggled to bring down in critical situations. The Steelers know Cassel is a better pure passer than Ponder, but he is also a statue in the pocket, which can only help the Steelers defense to create more sacks.
• Vikings starting safety Jamarca Sanford and starting corner Chris Cook are out. Their backup corner A.J. Jefferson, who played sparingly in Cleveland after suffering an ankle injury, will likely play but a thin secondary doesn’t bode well for a struggling Vikings defense. When Roethlisberger wasn’t fumbling or running for his life, he was lighting up the Chicago Bears secondary last Sunday. Ben took advantage of the injury to Bears top corner Charlie Tillman, passing for 406 yards and two touchdowns to Antonio Brown. It only took three games but offensive coordinator Todd Haley finally unleashed his top receiver. Brown responded with 195 yards.
If the Steelers attack the Vikings’ weakened secondary early, touchdowns at London’s Wembley Stadium may come in a jiffy.