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Thread: Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups

      
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    Default Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups

    Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups #1 - Jared Allen vs. Max Starks
    by Blitzburgh on Oct 21, 2009 2:27 AM EDT 26 comments
    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com...-key#storyjump


    What an exciting weekend of football ahead of fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings. Two of the NFL's most historic and storied franchises squaring off in an October showdown of teams with Super Bowl aspirations. I'm going to leave much of my analysis of the game for a bit later in the week, but I wanted to begin by laying out what some of the key matchups will be on both sides of the ball. From there, you all (and hopefully Vikings fans as well) jump in and lend your take(s). There's plenty of top shelf matchups in this one - both one-on-one as well as unit-against-unit.

    Let's take a look, beginning with an important battle in the trenches between Minnesota's Jared Allen and Max Starks of the Steelers.

    Matchup #1 - Jared Allen vs. Max Starks

    Analysis: Heading in to the 2009 season, the gigantic question mark surrounding the Steelers was whether their offensive line was going to be much, if any, better than they were a year ago when Ben Roethlisberger was sacked an ungodly number of times and the running game scared no one. Well, despite not much change in the personnel, the Steelers offensive line has improved. And not in a trivially small way either. They're protecting Roethlisberger much better this year and the result has been an amazingly productive start for Big Ben and the passing game.

    Left tackle Max Starks may not face a tougher test this year than trying to keep Jared Allen off of Ben's back on Sunday. Allen, the outspoken former binge drinker turned sober defensive end formerly of the Chiefs, already has 7.5 sacks on the year. His previous two year total of 30 sacks (15.5 in '07, 14.5 in '08) has to be one of the top marks in the league over that time span. Allen is the ideal combination of strength, speed and intelligence. He can run you over, beat you to the outside with an incredible first step and tremendous balance, and he's savvy enough to know what you're trying to do to him and capable of adjusting on the fly quickly. Simply put, he's the best pass rushing defensive end Max Starks has faced all year. He's arguably the best he will face for the remainder of the season.

    I can't say that I have watched and re-watched all six Steelers games this year just watching the play of the offensive line only, but from what I've seen live and and during the replays I've found time for, I've been more impressed with the play of the interior linemen for the Steelers - guards Trai Essex & Chris Kemoeatu and center Justin Hartwig - than I have been with Starks. I'd also say that I've rarely noticed Willie Colon. Isn't that a beautiful thing? What an improvement from a year ago! I wanted to see it in live games rather than just at camp and in the preseason, but I wrote before the season that it was very possible that Colon would make significant strides in 2009 and beyond. He's no All Pro yet, but the future suddenly seems much, much MUCH brighter for him and this offensive line as a result of the progress he has made. I continue to digress, but I'd also note that many of the Steelers successful running plays this year have been run to the right side of the Steelers offensive line. Some meticulous soul out there might chart them more thoroughly, but thinking back to the Chargers game in particular, the lion's share of Mendenhall's positive rushes were to the right side with the help of a pulling Chris Kemoeatu from the left.

    Anyway, back to Starks. I certainly have been nothing short of pleased with Starks' play as well. Just so we're clear. I wouldn't agree with those who'd argue that Starks is the most improved player on the line. I think Starks has approached his talent ceiling, but the good news is he's proven capable of playing at a solid level consistently. I believe others along the line have better long term upside than he does, but to his credit, Starks has been the most consistent performer over the course of the past 10-15 games.

    As for Sunday, I'm not sure what to say other than we'll see if he's up to the challenge on Sunday. Let's be clear - Jared Allen will make a play or two in this game most likely. He's more physically gifted than Starks and we all know that Ben Roethlisberger is more than willing to hold on to the ball and try to make a pass rusher miss while looking downfield. There just likely will be a play, or two or three when Starks maybe keeps Allen away for an acceptable amount of time, but Allen will still get to or near Big Ben due to his propensity to hold on to the rock.

    Take a moment and briefly think about this year so far - you wouldn't say that Ben Roethlisberger has been under duress too frequently would you? I wouldn't, even though there definitely been plays and even series where the offensive line has gotten taken to the woodshed. Still, Ben's generally had time to make plays thanks to their work. Agreed? Well he's still been sacked 16 times - tied for the 5th most through 6 weeks. That puts him on pace to be sacked about 42 times by season's end.

    Moral of the story, at least for me is that Allen's probably not going to get shut out completely in the passing game. That's fine and dandy so long as Roethlisberger protects the football if/when Allen does get by Starks. As we've seen, we already give up a healthy number of sacks and our offense is still faring pretty well. So it's not as if the Steelers can't overcome a 2 or even 3 sack day from Allen so long as they don't result in turnovers.

    No small task though. Allen has three forced fumbles on the year and 20 dating back to 2005. Think of him like Deebo in purple - equally athletic, equally disruptive, and equally bat**** crazy while competing on the football field.



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    Default Re: Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups

    Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchup #2 -
    Kevin Williams vs. Steelers Interior O-Line
    by Blitzburgh on Oct 21, 2009 5:42 AM EDT 62 comments

    What an exciting weekend of football ahead of fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings. Two of the NFL's most historic and storied franchises squaring off in an October showdown of teams with Super Bowl aspirations. I'm going to leave much of my analysis of the game for a bit later in the week, but I wanted to begin by laying out what some of the key matchups will be on both sides of the ball. From there, you all (and hopefully Vikings fans as well) jump in and lend your take(s). There's plenty of top shelf matchups in this one - both one-on-one as well as unit-against-unit.

    We first looked at Jared Allen vs. Max Starks.

    Let's now move on to another pivotal matchup - defensive tackle Kevin Williams vs. the interior offensive linemen of the Steelers (Chris Kemoeatu, Justin Hartwig, Trai Essex). Defensive end Jared Allen gets all the publicity for his sacks and entertaining personality, but it's really Kevin Williams (and to a lesser extent Pat these days) that do much of the heavy lifting for Minnesota's defense clogging up running lanes and collapsing the pocket up the middle so that Allen can do his thing on the perimeter. Collectively, they make one heckuva front-four.

    There's more.

    Kevin Williams vs. The Steelers Interior O-Line
    Why highlight both guards and the center when talking about Kevin Williams? Well, as one of the two DTs in Minnesota's 4-3 defense, he might find himself lined up over all of them by game's end. Justin Hartwig will have to have an outstanding game helping both Essex and Kemoeatu at various stages in the game. And when he does help out on whichever side K. Williams is shaded to, the guard on the other side will have to rise up to the challenge against Pat Williams, the other imposing tackle for Minnesota.


    The Willaims beasts in the middle (630 pounds between the two) are as good a run-stopping duo in all of football. Since 2005 when Pat left the Buffalo Bills via free agency to sign an incredibly lucrative free agent deal with the Vikings in 2005, Vikings have consistently been next to impossible to run the ball against. After finishing 2005 with the 19th ranked rush defense, the Vikings have led the league in fewest rushing yards allowed each of the past three years.

    At 29 years of age, I don't think there's any debating that Kevin is the better of the two at this point. Pat is 36 on and on the downhill side of an extremely durable, productive and long career. But he's still good enough to give an offensive line like Pittsburgh's problems potentially. It certainly helps that this one will be at Heinz Field rather than in the deafening indoor Metro Dome. I also think that Pittsburgh's big eaters up front are playing with a lot of confidence right now. I try not to quantify phantom things like momentum and confidence too often, but I will here because I think it's imperative for an offensive line to be confident - at least mentally confident that they know the assignments of each and every position along the line. It's a lot easier to hold your own down there I'd imagine if you're at least not wasting precious time and focus thinking about your assignments.

    Will the Steelers be able to get the run game going against the formidable duo in the middle? It's possible, if only because the Vikings might game plan predominantly for the Steelers passing attack while hoping/assuming that the Williamses will be able to clog running lanes well enough on their own. Perhaps more importantly, the interior of the Steelers offensive line must hold up in the passing game. The Steelers have struggled the most when the pocket has collapsed up the middle (think Tennessee and Philly games last year). And they've not generally been great against 4-3 defenses featuring two forces at defensive tackle. Will they be up to the challenge on Sunday of taking on one of the game's very best defensive duos in the trenches? We will see. Can't wait!

    Go Steelers!

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com...-key#storyjump

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    Default Re: Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups

    Our line will definately be tested this week!!! This is a "statement game" for the boys up front...I have a feeling they'll be up to the challenge

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    Default Re: Vikings (6-0) @ Steelers (4-2) - Key Matchups

    Allen vs each team:
    Cleveland: 1 Tackle, 0 Solo, 1 assist, 0 sacks, 0 FF
    Detroit: 4 Tackle, 4 solo, 0 assist, 1 sack, 1 FF
    SF: 6 tackles, 4 solo, 2 assist, 1 sack, 1 FF
    GB: 7 tackles, 6 solo, 1 assist, 4.5 sacks, 1 FF
    SL: 2 tackles, 2 solo, 0 assists, 0 sacks, 0 FF
    Bal: 7 tackles, 6 solo, 1 assist, 1 sack, 0 FF

    Most of his sacks came against GB. Everybody is sacking Rodgers. Their tackles seem to have trouble moving until people are already in his face. I don't think I've ever witnessed tackles as slow off the ball as they are.

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