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Steelers-Vikings: Seven things to watch for in London

If desperation resulted in great football, Sunday's matchup in London between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings would be the game of the week.

It's more likely that this will be a hard-fought, sloppy game that comes down to the wire. Let's break it down:

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2013 International Series: Steelers vs Vikings

Take a look at photos of the NFL across the pond.

1. The Steelers' offense is mess, largely because of their offensive line. But it's easier to imagine a road back to relevance if they can win this game. A win in London would come before a bye week, then a date with the New York Jets.

Win those two games, and the Steelers could be 2-3 before hosting their rival Baltimore Ravens. It's a stretch, but it's also so hard to rule any team out with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Mike Tomlin at coach and a quality defense.

2. Pittsburgh's defense isn't forcing turnovers, but it's not playing poorly overall. Troy Polamalu looks better than he has in years. LaMarr Woodley is playing very well at outside linebacker. The Steelers have done a nice job stopping the run, so they match up well against Adrian Peterson.

3. It's hard to imagine an offensive line playing any worse than the Steelers'. A lot of times a bad offensive line is at least decent at run blocking or pass blocking, but the Steelers are equally poor in both.

4. The debut of rookie running back Le'Veon Bell and the second healthy week of tight end Heath Miller should give the Steelers' offense more juice overall.

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5. I went back to watch all of Peterson's runs on Game Rewind to see if he looked any different than during last season. He's still running like the best player in the league. He is creating a ton of yards after contact, and his lateral movement to slide through holes is unmatched. Minnesota's offensive line just isn't opening up holes, which makes sense because every team is loading up to stop Peterson.

6. There's no reason to think the Steelers will take a different approach with Matt Cassel starting at quarterback over Christian Ponder for the Vikings. Cassel seems well liked in Minnesota by folks inside the organization and by his teammates. He's played at a higher level as a starting quarterback than Ponder ever has, but Cassel has been in a downward spiral since leading Kansas City to the playoffs in 2010.

7. Looking for some positives from the Vikings? They have been competitive in every game. There's really not much separating them from many of the 2-1 teams around the league. Brian Robison is playing outstanding at defensive end. (Jared Allen, however, is starting to finally look his age.) Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the league and cornerback Marcus Sherels did a nice job against Josh Gordon last week after he got on the field.

Nothing would surprise us in this game, but look for the Steelers to pull this one out: 24-21.

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