Minnesota -- how could a team with horns on its helmet call "tails?" -- won the toss and elected to receive. The temp is up to 55, and the sun makes it feel warmer. Game on.
1:03 p.m.: The Vikings gave the defense three very different looks, including a little no-huddle. And you saw James Harrison and Troy Polamalu make big plays. That's the kind of start they sought. Ed Bouchette asked an interesting point as soon as Minnesota declined first-and-five and took an 8-yard gain on the opening play for second-and-two: Why not take the penalty and gain a down? 1:16 p.m.: The Legend that is Brett Favre is 1 for 2 with a sack. Steelers defense looking sturdy so far, but soon the Vikings will feed them -- and, specifically, Aaron Smith replacement Travis Kirschke -- a steady diet of Adrian Peterson runs.1:22 p.m.: Harrison -- after LaMarr Woodley had the pressure -- and Polamalu, who appears to be wearing the knee brace this time (can you folks watching TV tell better?), are atop their games so far like they haven't been yet this season. Credit Gerry Dulac with the nickname for the Minnesota punter: Chris Kluwe-less. His punt to his own 39-yard line may have received a generous spot. (To answer ChiTown: Yes, even Mike Tomlin thought the right tackle lifted up prematurely on that snap, and let the side judge know about it.) 1:32 p.m.: It's the Mike Wallace Show. Nice, and critical, catch for 10 yards on third down. Then, after the Minnesota challenge that failed, a lovely flanker reverse -- with a dandy block by Santonio Holmes downfield. Willie Parker is in for this series, but still the question remains: Why aren't the Steelers challenging left cornerback Karl Paymah, Antoine Winfield's replacement whom Baltimore and Joe Flacco alighted for most of his 385 yards last week, includding 244 yards in the second half. 1:37 p.m.: A Heath Miller pass-interference penalty on the opposite end of the field wiped away Holmes' TD catch and run, and a sack left it to the foot of you know how. An eight-play, 18-yard drive ended when Jeff Reed punched through a 39-yard field goal. Steelers, 3-0. 1:39 p.m.: The Steelers coverage has been exemplary, but Percy Harvin has enough jets that he just might get past the first wave one of these times.
1:48 p.m.: Well, the Vikes ran Peterson and a quick, off-tackle play, and that one time it worked well (though why he slowed and shifted, I'll never know). The Battling LeBeaus seem to have them pretty well sniffed out otherwise, though. 1:51 p.m.: The play-calling on that Steelers series wasn't so bad. They do need to run, and they're holding back on those counter plays, apparently. And Roethlisberger, who isn't as sharp as he has been thus far this season, threw one into Vikings hands to Miller and the other high and slightly behind Hines Ward, who dropped the ball when clouted from behind. One thing to look for, though. Bruce Arians may try to play this one closer to the vest because it is shaping up to be a defensive, low-scoring game. (To me, with Favre and Peterson on the field, though, that can change in an eye-blink.) 1:54 p.m.: That's why he's a Legend. Favre, with Willie Gay flying at him in a delayed corner blitz, Favre found and hit a wide open Harvin to end a 1-for-5 third-down run and convert a first down with a 28-yard completion. The old guy still has it. 1:58 p.m.: Getting the idea that Favre is going after Gay? That and the right middle. Not a thing in the areas of Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor. 2 p.m.: Brad Childress just sprinted down to the 15-yard line to call that timeout, he wanted one so badly. Wait, isn't there a rule about straying out of the coaching box? 2:03 p.m.: The quicksilver Peterson skitters into the end zone on third down for the first touchdown of the game. So ended a confidence-instilling, 13-play, 76-yard, 5:22 drive. Vikings, 7-3. 2:10 p.m.: Sixty-five yards of Steelers offense so far -- no, that isn't going to cut it. You folks are correct, the defense -- against that massive Minnesota line -- will wear down at this rate come the second half. Maybe the no-huddle, or at least a varied play-calling that doesn't leave the Steelers' offense subject to seven-man blitzes. 2:21 p.m.: That third-down conversion, after the Steelers' 1-for-5 start, was all Mewelde Moore. And he bears watching: He declined all week to talk about his former team, so methinks he feels he has a little extra oomph for this one. 2:23 p.m.: Sure, a 22-yard pass for a first down to Wallace -- his Show continues -- but by now you can tell Roethlisberger, who made his career with plays afoot, didn't throw a sharp ball there. . . . But he threw a nifty one, with time, to Wallace for the go-ahead touchdown that dropped over two defenders and into the post-pattern arms of Wallace, snarled up the Vikings safeties and allowed the rookie to perform a somersault into the end zone with 24 seconds left in the half. Steelers, 10-3. But they did just leave The Legend 24 seconds to work. 2:26 p.m.: Excuse me while I update my resume to remove that "potential Offensive Coordinator" career move. Childress has Favre take a knee. Halftime, Steelers 10-7.
2:43 p.m.: What is this, 1992 all over again? Or 1992-2006? The Steelers are running, and effectively. Not a bad block by Roethlisberger on the reverse that the Vikings knew was coming -- and still that Paymah was called for a facemask. Man, there's a guy you attack all day. . . Nifty run by Roethlisberger, seeing the left side of the field wide open, but Benny Sapp dived through the air to elicit an unsportsmanlike penalty. He was even guilty of a charging penalty that an NHL ref called from Mellon Arena. 2:47 p.m.: That second-down play prompts questioning after the game -- did Wallace or Hines Ward run a wrong route in the right corner to cause Roethlisberger to refrain from throwing? did the QB worry about his fourth batted pass of the day? or was it a pass-run option, and Roethlisberger chose to tuck and run? One other thing: They ran the ball so well, outside of one crunching tackle, why go away from it compeltely in the Red Zone? . . . It's a record day in one capacity: The 65,597 attendance marks a Heinz Field record, surpassing by 247 the AFC championship game attendance last January and by 487 the Tennessee season opener last month. . , Reed's 27-yard field goal extends the lead a tad, but not enough to feel comfortable around The Legend and Peterson. Steelers, 13-7. 2:59 p.m.: That fourth-down play was vintage Favre. He pump-faked to freeze Polamalu for one step, and that allowed Sidney Rice to flash open behind the defense. 3:01 p.m.: Riddle me this: You got the best running back since maybe Barry Sanders, in Peterson, and you throw two of the three downs from the 1-yard line? The Steelers don't care. They made a stand and came away with the lead still. A moral victory, indeed. Don't fail to notice the Vikings put together another 13-play drive and they're 6 of 13 on third downs, meaning they've converted five of their past seven before failing on this last goalline play. The Minnesota field goal makes it Steelers, 13-10, with -- hmm, a harbinger? -- 4:44 left in the quarter.3:09 p.m.: Somebody in the press box is worried. They just cued up "Renegade," which Ryan Clark earlier this week noted is a sure signal that it's time to focus and bear down. (And, for the record, there are 17 minutes, 59 seconds of regulation left. Premature Styx, perhaps?) 3:14 p.m.: Harvin was already dropped that perfectly lovely, third-down throw by Favre, but Clark sure got into Harvin's bad shoulder and his head -- the rookie may not catch many more over the middle today, if at all. Steelers offense needs a prolonged drive and, it would help their cause, a score. 3:17 p.m.: The Steelers have piled up runs of 17, 16 and 14 -- and immediately after that last Mendenhall gallop around right end, behind stellar blocking, with a badly-thrown, badly-called halfback-release pass?
3:21 p.m.: Right after an electric play by Holmes, who eluded six would-be tacklers -- or, from the Minnesota vantage point, six blown potential tackles -- Mendenhall followed with an ill-advised leap. He lost the ball in mid-air, and the Vikings recovered at their own three. This could present a HUGE point turnaround, and possibly even the game, in one play. We shall see. But, of course, Mendenhall and fumbling aren't exactly strangers. (Search his name along with "bounty" and "tucked." ) 3:27 p.m.: Lawrence Timmons twice stopped, and crumpled once, trying to get off the field with a bad, right ankle. And that's one position where the Steelers aren't exactly blessed with depth (where have you gone, Larry Foote?) You certainly do get the feeling The Legend is going to lead them on a 97-yard drive here. Good thing Harrison came to play at a Defensive Player of the Year level, and a holding penalty just negated that long Favre completion to Rice -- more than a 50-yard swing. 3:36 p.m.: That was a smart challenge, the proper review and a heck of a throw and catch, a 25-yard gain for a third down -- after penalties on three of four Minnesota snaps. It's their game for the taking now. 3:39 p.m.: Kirschke limped off, something with his left ankle, shin or foot, and that stands as another bad sign for the Steelers defense. Nick Eason, a third-teamer cut twice already this season, is playing left defensive end in the Red Zone agiansttwo of the game's best all-time offensive players? 3:41 p.m.: Get this, if the Packers do score a touchdown, they'll have gained almost 130 yards this drive, overcoming four penalties. Look at that, I just typed Packers. 3:43 p.m.: Universal reaction: Are you kiddin' me? Brett Keisel got credit for the sack and strip, LaMarr Woodley got no style points -- it was no Harrison Super Bowl Polamalu play -- but his fumble return of 77 yards with a cordon of defensive blockers makes it Steelers, 20-10. Harrison, by the way, lay on his back around midfield in glee afterward. The first non-defensive player to congratulate Woodley? Mendenhall. Who probably should buy him dinner. Some new clothes. . . Kirschke has a calf and Timmons has an ankle, as Coach Cahr used to say. They're done for the day. By the way, Bart Simpson has a cow.
3:47 p.m.: That buzz didn't last long.
Harvin's 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown -- the second against the Steelers in two weeks, remember -- brought the positive vibes down. And it also brought down back judge Richard Reels, who got accidentally clouted by backup Minnesota tight end Jeff Dugan. Interestingly, one of the Vikings front-line blockers, sorry I didn't catch a number, signaled for Harvin to move up just before Reed ran up to the ball. So he read something on the coverage-unit call or alignment. . . Also note that Reed didn't slow down Harvin with that mild midfield push, and he normally gives the rest of his coverage unit a fighting chance.
3:52 p.m.: For the second game in a row, carrying the fourth-quarter ball in the ground game is. . . neither Mendenhall nor Parker, who has been noticeably absent since the earlygoing. It was Moore.3:57 p.m.: Credit Justin Hartwig's knee for knocking that horrendously loose footbal out of bounds.That saved the Steelers roughly 30 yards in a game with a field-goal difference. Still and all, you give Brett Favre the ball and 3:21? He can score six touchdowns in that time. 4:01 p.m.: "Renegade" twice? Is that kosher? Look at it this way: Not just third and 4, but in the final two minutes, a less-than-2008 defense with Keyaron Fox and Eason playing must make a stand. 4:04 p.m.: Time to update that resume again, to add "potential Nostradamus." Fox went 82 yards with a pass that went from Favre to Chester Taylor -- a former Baltimore Raven, remember -- to Fox's belly, and he bolted down the left sideline without needing a single block downfield from personal escort Clark. Steelers, 27-17. 4:12 p.m.: It's ovah. Score this one: Patchwork Pittsburgh defense 14, Steelers offense 13 (for a home total of 27), Vikings 17.