Steelers aim to change losing course overseas
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is all business as he seeks to get his first win this season against the Vikings in London.
LONDON – Wins have been hard to come by for the Steelers and Vikings in the United States.
Thanks to the NFL, they’ll get to see if a trip to London is the cure for what’s been ailing them.
The Vikings will host the Steelers at Wembley Stadium today in the first meeting between the two at a neutral site since Super Bowl IX in 1974, a game won by the Steelers.
And when you’re off to an 0-3 start, as both the Steelers and Vikings are, the change of scenery isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Every one’s a must-win for us,” said Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. “We’d like to get a win before we go to the bye week. Might as well leave the country and try to get one.”
Might as well, because what they’ve done in the United States hasn’t worked so far.
Minnesota has turned the ball over 10 times in the first three weeks; the Steelers have done so nine times. The only difference is that the Vikings have also forced 10 turnovers.
“I think you have to identify what the problems are and try to come up with solutions to those problems,” said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier.
Identifying the problem isn’t the issue. Fixing it, at least thus far, has been.
For the Steelers, the issue is two-fold. Not only are they turning the ball over, they’re not forcing any turnovers, either. Pittsburgh is the only team in the league that hasn’t forced a turnover in the first three weeks.
“Getting turnovers is kind of a fluke thing,” said Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. “It’s tough when you’re not putting quarterbacks in tough situations where they have to take risks down the middle of the field. That’s what’s made it tough for us getting turnovers.”
The Steelers have been outscored 24-5 in the first quarter, something that has forced them to play from behind.
Minnesota has had the opposite problem. The Vikings have been outscored 21-9 in the fourth quarter of their three losses, giving up a second-half lead in each game.
It’s not exactly the matchup the NFL had in mind when it scheduled the Steelers versus the Vikings as one of two games in London this year – San Francisco and Jacksonville will play here Oct. 27.
Minnesota arrived Tuesday, fresh off a 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns at home. The Steelers also were losers at home, 40-23, to Chicago, but arrived Friday morning as head coach Mike Tomlin wanted the team focused on playing a game, not seeing the sights.
“I know that Coach wants to treat this as a business trip,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s why we’re going over and trying to take care of business.”
So far, however, they’ve seen nothing but support from a market of which the NFL is trying desperately to take advantage.
Roethlisberger made a couple of trips here during the summer to help publicize the game and came away impressed with what he saw.
He expects a different type of atmosphere for the game, however, with 90,000 fans packing a stadium more accustomed to soccer matches than NFL contests.
“I’ve heard that during games they are a little crazy with the horns and the thunder sticks, making noise all the time,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not situational noise; it’s just noise. But when I went over and did some things with fans, there’s a Steelers Nation UK. I got to meet them. They’re passionate. They know their stuff. I wouldn’t say they’re as knowledgeable as the fans (in the U.S.), because they still have a little rugby and soccer on their mind, but they are passionate about the Steelers and for NFL football.”
And the Steelers are passionate about finding a way to win a football game before heading into their bye week. Pittsburgh has not opened 0-4 since 1986, a season than ended with a 6-10 record.
They won’t be distracted from that.
“This is just a road game for us,” said Tomlin. “We are happy to represent the NFL, obviously, in international play. But in terms of what it is that we are doing, our level of focus and the things that we need to do in preparation and in play, it’s just a road game for us.”
Rookie running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to make his debut for the Steelers after missing the first three games with a mid-foot sprain. … Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder has a rib injury and will not play. Former Kansas City starter Matt Cassel will start instead … This is Pittsburgh’s first regular season game in a foreign country. The Steelers have played seven games outside the United States, but all have been in the preseason.