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Steelers' offense struggles against Vikings

| Monday, Aug. 25, 2008

His tender right ankle wrapped in an ACE bandage, Ben Roethlisberger reflected in a near-empty locker room late Saturday night on why an offense that previously had moved the ball with relative ease struggled against the Minnesota Vikings.

"I played terrible, and I think if a couple of throws here, a couple of throws there (are completed), it's a completely different outcome," Roethlisberger said after the Steelers edged the Vikings, 12-10, on a last-second Jeff Reed field goal. "That's why it's a preseason game. We'll move on. We'll get better."

Time is running out for the Steelers to fine-tune things before the start of the regular season.

They play host to the Carolina Panthers on Thursday in the preseason finale for each team and then open the regular season Sept. 7 against the Houston Texans at Heinz Field.

Starters traditionally don't play much in the final preseason game, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't indicate that anything will change.

The offense didn't look nearly as sharp Saturday night as it had in the Steelers' first two preseason games.

It produced only three points in the Metrodome, and the Steelers netted just 76 yards in the two quarters that the starters played.

Running back Willie Parker, who had 18 yards on 10 carries, never got going, and Roethlisberger, by his own admission, was off the mark.

It didn't help either player that the offensive line looked overmatched at times.

"There was nothing they did we couldn't handle," right tackle Willie Colon said. "We've got to be on the same page for a lot of things. We've all got to get adjusted to each other. I know we'll get it."

Added Tomlin: "In the first half, we were close to popping a few legitimate runs. What makes that front very good is they get off blocks. We got on people. We had some holes. They closed quickly."

The Vikings' defensive line is arguably one of the best in the NFL, and last year, Minnesota led the league in rushing defense, allowing just under 75 yards per game.

Tomlin said the Steelers went into the game expecting a defensive struggle. That's why he didn't seem overly concerned that the lone scoring drive the first-team offense managed covered only 18 yards.

"It was going to be an attrition game," Tomlin said. "That's one of those games where you'd like to see the first unit play four quarters because the game was going to be decided at the end of the fourth quarter."

The game wasn't decided until well after Roethlisberger had called it a night.

As Roethlisberger pointed out, the first-team offense didn't get a chance to play after the halftime adjustments were made.

Still, he didn't have nearly as much success throwing the ball as he had in the Steelers' first two preseason games.

Roethlisberger completed 11-of-13 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns in limited action against the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills.

Against the Vikings, Roethlisberger completed 10-of-17 passes for 65 yards. Only two of his completions went for more than 10 yards, and the Steelers were just 1 of 7 on third-down conversions.

"Just one of those nights," Roethlisberger said. "I think we're in good shape."

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