Steelers face stumbling Vikings in rare Minnesota visit

PITTSBURGH (6-5-1) at MINNESOTA (5-7)

Thursday, 8:20 p.m. EST, Fox/NFL Network/Amazon

BETTING LINE: Vikings by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Pittsburgh 5-7; Minnesota 6-6.

SERIES RECORD: Tied 9-9.

LAST MEETING: Steelers beat Vikings 26-9 on Sept. 17, 2017, in Pittsburgh.

LAST WEEK: Steelers beat Ravens 20-19; Vikings lost to Lions 29-27.

STEELERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (29), PASS (15), SCORING (21).

STEELERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (22), RUSH (27), PASS (14), SCORING (22).

VIKINGS OFFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (15), PASS (7), SCORING (11).

VIKINGS DEFENSE: OVERALL (30), RUSH (29), PASS (23), SCORING (25).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Steelers minus-3; Vikings plus-6.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB T.J. Watt’s 16 sacks lead the NFL. He’s already tied James Harrison for the team’s single-season record and is on pace to slip by the NFL single-season mark set by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan with the New York Giants in 1991. Watt is coming off a 3 1/2-sack performance in the win over Baltimore even though he didn’t practice with the team all week after being placed on the COVID-19 list.

VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Justin Jefferson has 577 receiving yards over the last four games, the most in Vikings history in a four-game span. Jefferson needs 156 more to set the all-time NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first two seasons.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers CB Joe Haden will miss his fourth straight game with a sprained foot. LG B.J. Finney, who has been filling in for the injured Kevin Dotson, is out with a back injury. John Leglue, a practice squad promotion, saw his first NFL snaps last week after Finney exited. Backup LB Rob Spillane (knee) returned to the active roster this week but will not play. DLs Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu have been out with long-term injuries. … The Vikings listed RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder) as questionable after he sat out last week, but WR Adam Thielen (ankle) and LT Christian Darrisaw (ankle) are out. The defense was down five starters last week, but CB Patrick Peterson has returned from the COVID-19 reserve list and LBs Eric Kendricks (biceps) and Anthony Barr (hamstring/knee) will return to the lineup.

SERIES NOTES: In one of the rare quirks of the NFL’s methodical scheduling system, this is the first visit to Minnesota by the Steelers in 16 years. They beat the Vikings at the Metrodome on Dec. 18, 2005, and went on to win the Super Bowl that season. In 2013, the last time Pittsburgh was on cycle to play at Minnesota, the game was held in London. … The Steelers beat the Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl 9 on Jan. 12, 1975.

STATS AND STUFF: Both teams are on the outside of the playoff picture in their respective conference. The Steelers are 6-1-1 in games decided by eight points or less. The Vikings are 4-7. … The Steelers are 8-7 on Thursday nights under head coach Mike Tomlin, including 2-6 on the road. … Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is 242 passing yards away from becoming the sixth quarterback in NFL history to reach the 3,000-yard mark in 15 seasons. Roethlisberger needs 335 passing yards to pass Philip Rivers for fifth place on the all-time list. … The Steelers had seven sacks last week against Baltimore, led by Watt and Chris Wormley (2 1/2 sacks). The Steelers are 6-2 when Watt has played all four quarters and 0-3-1 when he has been limited by injury or unable to play at all. … RB Najee Harris (779 yards) is on pace to break Hall of Famer Franco Harris’ record for rushing yards by a Steelers rookie. Harris had 1,055 yards in 1972.. … Steelers WR Diontae Johnson has 31 receptions for 384 yards and three TDs in his last four games, including the go-ahead score against Baltimore with 1:48 remaining. … The Vikings are 1-4 on Thursdays and 10-13 in all regular-season night games in eight seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer. … Vikings QB Kirk Cousins has a league-leading five games this year with 300-plus passing yards, at least two TDs and no interceptions. … Vikings TE Tyler Conklin tied his career high with seven catches last week. He has at least two receptions in 12 straight games, tying Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts for the longest active streak in the league by a tight end. … Since their bye week, the Vikings have allowed an average of 406 yards per game, the league-worst rate over that six-week span.

FANTASY TIP: With Thielen out, Vikings WR K.J. Osborn will have an elevated role. He had four catches on seven targets for 47 yards and a touchdown last week after Thielen departed.

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