With two starters injured and ruled out, Harrison Smith will be the undisputed strong link in the Vikings secondary.
Our snapshot look at the Vikings as they prepare for Sunday’s game against the Steelers in London:
Player in the spotlight
Harrison Smith, Vikings
The second-year safety got beat on Cleveland’s game-winning touchdown last week, but he has been one of the defense’s best playmakers. In three games, he has produced 26 tackles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Smith faces another challenge this week against a Steelers team that ranks 10th in the NFL in passing offense. The Vikings have a depleted secondary, which puts even more pressure on Smith to be a steady presence.
Despite their health issues, Smith said he can’t overcompensate in trying to help backups who are pressed into action.
“You might think that [way] from the outside looking in, but you really can’t do that because then you’re going to compromise your job,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to trust the guys around you. We’ve got young guys, but they’re coming along and doing their job.”
Keep an eye on
Everson Griffen. NFL pundits — including Peter King — predicted a breakthrough season for the backup defensive end after he collected five sacks, one interception and 16 quarterback hurries in the Vikings’ final seven games last season.
So far, Griffen’s impact has been fairly limited. He has accounted for only six tackles, one quarterback hurry and one pass breakup while playing 61 percent of the defensive snaps.
“He’s trying as hard as he can,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “He just hasn’t been able to get those splash plays that we saw at the end of last season. He’s getting close. It just hasn’t quite clicked yet.”
Griffen gives the Vikings another pass rushing threat, especially in nickel situations when he slides over to tackle. He said he’s not discouraged by his lack of productivity.
“It’s going to come. I’m not worried about it,” he said. “I think I’m playing some good ball. I can play a lot better than what I am. But it’s eventually going to come like I want it to.”
Most pressing question
|Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman||4||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: J. Nathan||6|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm||X||10-6|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm||X||30-28|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm||X||30-12|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm||X||19-3|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon||X||34-6|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon||X||30-7|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon||X||20-9|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm||X||41-28|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm||X||42-10|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon||X||17-3|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon||X||17-16|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon||X||19-13 ot|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon||X||29-26|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon||X||21-13|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon||X||24-21|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||31-13|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon||X||30-24 ot|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||3:25 pm||X||16-14|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon||X||37-35|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon||X||13-9|