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Peterson will be focal point of Vikings' offense, Steelers defense

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tries to break free from Browns cornerback Buster Skrine during the second half Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013.

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Going the distance

The longest touchdown runs in Adrian Peterson's career:

Distance Opponent Date

82 yards Packers Dec. 2, 2012

82 yards Rams Dec. 16, 2012

80 yards Lions Sept. 26, 2010

Active leaders in career rushing yards:

Player Yards

1. Steven Jackson 10,215

2. Adrian Peterson 9,130

3. Frank Gore 8,981

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 11:06 p.m.

The Steelers aren't expecting the Vikings to try anything clever Sunday in London — whether ailing quarterback Christian Ponder plays.

The Vikings are likely to feed the Steelers a steady diet of Adrian Peterson. The reigning league MVP has gotten off to a good start, but he's hoping to find another gear against a defense that has been vulnerable against the run this season.

“We've played some good defenses the past three weeks,” said Peterson, who has averaged 4.1 yards per carry during the Vikings' 0-3 start. “But there have been some missed opportunities.”

Peterson led the league with 2,097 rushing yards in 2012 and took his first carry this season 78 yards for a touchdown against the Lions. He's had other chances, but he's been tripped up with open field ahead of him.

Still, he ranks fifth in rushing with 281 yards. And he's 57 yards ahead of the pace he set last year while threatening Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards.

“He has a never-die mentality,” Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. “We have to match his intensity.

“A special guy like Peterson comes along every blue moon. It's the way I feel about Troy (Polamalu). So with a guy like that, why wouldn't you run him?”

Peterson, of course, would prefer to run all day. Besides, he'll face an overworked defense the Titans and Bengals plowed through in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers are looking to minimize Peterson's effectiveness by funneling him toward the seams patrolled by inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Kion Wilson. Peterson would rather challenge the boundaries, putting pressure on cornerbacks Taylor and Cortez Allen to contain him.

“We want to come out, get the run game going, get the passing game going and be balanced,” said Peterson, who rushed for 69 yards on 18 carries in a 27-17 Steelers victory in 2009. “It's tough any time you're not balanced as an offense.

“When we're not being efficient in the passing game, we've got to run it. I definitely prefer a more balanced offense because it opens things up for the run and vice versa for the pass. We've got a nice challenge in front of us, and this is an opportunity for us to get back on track and get a win before the bye,” Peterson said. “It would kind of give us something to build off on once we come back from the bye.”

The winless Steelers, too, are searching for momentum. But if Peterson touches the ball 30-35 times, they could be in trouble regardless of Ponder's status.

Ponder was limited in practice Wednesday with a rib injury.

“We're not worried about what they want to do,” defensive tackle Steve McLendon said. “I'm worried only about what we have to do. Our main focus is always to stop the run.”

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