When: 7:20 p.m. Thursday, U.S. Bank Stadium
TV (radio): Ch. 9, NFLN (100.3-FM)
Line: Vikings by 3
In a matchup of two teams trying to stay in the wild-card mix, the Vikings might be the more desperate ones. That, combined with the defensive reinforcements they'll get on Thursday night with Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Patrick Peterson back, will be enough for them to win a nail-biter at home and keep their playoff hopes alive.
THREE STORY LINES
Quick turnaround after loss to Lions
Playing a Thursday night game this week might not be such a bad thing for the Vikings: They're certainly looking to quickly move beyond Sunday's last-second loss to the winless Lions. They'll get their chance at home against a Pittsburgh team that tied Detroit in November, as both teams try to keep their hopes alive for a wild-card berth.
Roethlisberger, Zimmer meet for the last time?
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 39 years old, and amid reports in recent weeks he could retire after the season, he'll travel to Minneapolis to face Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who's designed game plans to try and beat Roethlisberger 14 times in his career (once as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, 12 times as the Bengals' defensive coordinator and once as the Vikings' head coach).
A Terrible Towel Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium?
The Steelers haven't played in Minneapolis since 2005 because the Vikings' home game against Pittsburgh in 2013 was moved to Wembley Stadium in London. Steelers fans consistently travel well for road games, so there could be a fair number of Pittsburgh supporters, in addition to Vikings fans anxious after two straight losses, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings RT Brian O'Neill vs. Steelers LB T.J. Watt
Watt, who is pursuing the NFL's single-season sack record after posting 16 through 10 games, will command plenty of the Vikings' attention on Thursday night, but O'Neill will have the primary responsibility for controlling Watt as he rushes off the right side of the Vikings' offensive line. Watt has gone without a sack in only two games this season (in a win over the Broncos and loss to the Bengals), so shutting him out completely might be a tall order, but the Vikings at least need to control him.
Vikings CB Patrick Peterson vs. Steelers WR Diontae Johnson
Johnson stands only 5-10, but uses his speed and releases to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Peterson, back from the COVID-19 reserve list, can try to be physical with him, but he'll also have to be ready for Johnson's ability to change direction quickly and his explosiveness after the catch. He is ninth in the league with an average of 5.4 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
10-4: Roethlisberger's record in 14 career games against Zimmer-coached defenses. The Steelers quarterback most recently threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-9 Pittsburgh win over the Vikings in Week 2 of the 2017 season.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They're able to come up with an offensive line configuration that can contain the Steelers' pass rush, open holes for their running game and give Kirk Cousins enough time to find Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn downfield. Without Adam Thielen on Thursday night, the Vikings will have to find ways to finish drives minus their best red-zone receiving target, and they'll need to take advantage of a Steelers run defense that's given up 693 rushing yards in its past four games.
THE STEELERS WILL WIN IF …
Roethlisberger has enough left to pick on the Vikings' secondary, his offensive line can keep Minnesota's pass rush contained and Watt has a big night pressuring Cousins. The Steelers haven't run the ball particularly well in recent weeks, but the Vikings have struggled to keep teams from being productive on the ground, so Pittsburgh would benefit from a big night from Najee Harris.
Vikings 23, Steelers 20