By Teresa Varley
The Steelers pulled out a come-from-behind win against the Vikings, defeating them 12-10 to make head coach Mike Tomlin's return to Minnesota victorious.
Jeff Reed provided all of the scoring for the Steelers, hitting four field goals including a game-winner with just four seconds to go on the clock.
"It's great for us to get a win," said Tomlin. "We came in at halftime and talked about this being a grimy game. We knew it was going to be a grimy game. It was a hard fought battle, a defensive battle if you will. The difference in the first half was they scored a touchdown after they got a turnover and we kicked a field goal. I liked the mettle of the guys. I liked the way they fought."
Ben Roethlisberger completed 10 of 17 passes for 65 in one half of play and wasn't pleased with the job he did.
"I think it was a terrible performance on my part," said Roethlisberger. "We didn't come out and game plan too much. We have some things we need to correct on offense. I am disappointed with my play. I think we had some good opportunities missed on my part and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Byron Leftwich played the entire second half and looked good, completing 16 of 23 passes for 129 yards.
"It was priceless the situations we were able to get Byron Leftwich in and he delivered for us," said Tomlin. "Playing from behind, some hurry-up ball…all and all it was a good night. It was part of his growth and development of being a Steeler. He took advantage of it. I thought he had poise. I thought he delivered the ball to some guys in some critical situations. Nothing we haven't seen him do before, but we have never seen him do it in a Steelers uniform."
Rashard Mendenhall ran well with 15 carries for 79 yards, but fumbled twice, both times giving the ball to the Vikings.
It was a tough start for the Steelers on their first offensive drive of the game. Roethlisberger completed his first pass for five yards to Heath Miller, but on the next play Willie Parker was stopped in the backfield for a four-yard loss. On third and nine Roethlisberger was under pressure and avoided a sack, but threw incomplete to Miller forcing the punt.
The good news, though, the Vikings didn't have any more success on their first drive either. The Vikings started at their own 11-yard line after a false start call and lost three more yards when Aaron Smith sacked Gus Frerotte for a three-yard loss. Adrian Peterson got the Vikings back to the 11-yard line with a three-yard run, but two more false start calls pushed the Vikings back to the three-yard line. Frerotte completed a short pass to Peterson, but not enough to get them out of the hole they dug.
The Steelers tried a little bit of trickery with Parker lining up behind center and Roethlisberger lining up on the right side at wide receiver. Parker got the snap from Justin Hartwig and turned it into a five-yard gain. Parker pulled in a six-yard reception across the middle for the first down. Parker continued to get the work on the drive, but was only able to manage three yards on two carries. After a six-yard completion to Hines Ward the Steelers went for it on fourth-and-one but Roethlisberger was stopped for no gain.
The defense shut down the Vikings and got the ball right back in the hands of their offense – and right back in Parker's hands. For the second series the Steelers opened with a different look, Parker in the shotgun and Roethlisberger in motion. They didn't have much success, though, as Parker was stopped for no gain. In a more conventional play, Roethlisberger hit Miller over the middle for 12 yards. The drive would soon stall, as Roethlisberger was under pressure and had to throw the ball away and then Parker was stopped for no gain. An eight-yard reception by Willie Reid left the Steelers short of the first down and forced another punt.
A stingy Steelers defense didn't allow the Vikings a yard on their next drive and forced them off the field for their third three-and-out of the game. But it wouldn't be for long. Mendenhall, in for Parker, fumbled on his second carry of the game and Tyrell Johnson recovered at the Steelers 47-yard line.
This time the Vikings found a way to move the ball. Frerotte completed consecutive passes to Aundrae Allison and then connected with Visanthe Shiancoe for 25 yards. It would be Peterson who would cap the drive and give the Vikings a 7-0 lead with his one-yard touchdown run.
The problem that plagued the Steelers offense last season returned on the next drive when Roethlisberger was sacked on consecutive plays, with Kevin Williams making it look easy as he was among a host of Vikings defenders in the Steelers backfield on the second sack.
The Steelers finally caught a break when Ike Taylor intercepted Frerotte to give the ball right back to the offense at the Vikings 34-yard line. Parker rattled off nine yards and Mewelde Moore added a six-yard reception for a first down. A face mask call against the Vikings put the Steelers at the 12-yard line, but two incomplete passes and a four-yard loss on a catch by Parker forced the Steelers to settle for a 35-yard Reed field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
Frerotte remained at the helm for the Vikings to start the second half and got the offense moving, guiding them on an 11 play, 60 yard drive that ended with a Ryan Longwell field goal against the Steelers starting defense, extending the lead to 10-3.
Leftwich started the second half for the Steelers with wholesale changes on offense. Mendenhall showed what he is capable of breaking away for a 21-yard gain. Mendenhall added two short runs and on third down Leftwich completed an eight-yard pass to Dezmond Sherrod. Leftwich went deep to Reid but the pass was broken-up. Reid got called for illegal formation on the next play, but rebounded with a five-yard reception. Mendenhall pulled in a seven-yard catch, but the Steelers came up short and were faced with fourth-and-three. Leftwich went back to Reid who came through with an eight-yard reception. The Vikings stepped it up then and stopped the Steelers, forcing them to settle for another Reed field goal to cut the lead to 10-6.
John David Booty took over for the Vikings offense and the Steelers didn't allow him to do anything shutting them down for a quick three-and-out.
Mendenhall continued to impress on the Steelers ensuing drive, with carries of 18 and 16 yards. But they continued to struggle to get in the end zone and Reed came through with his third field goal of the game to bring the Steelers within one at 10-9.
Another defensive stop put the Steelers in position for a go-ahead drive and Leftwich was right on target completing passes to Mendenhall, Reid and Dallas Baker. But another Mendenhall fumble would halt the drive.
The Steelers wouldn't say die though. With one final shot at it Leftwich got the Steelers in position for Reed to come on and hit a game-winning 47-yard field goal with just four seconds remaining on the clock for a 12-10 win.