Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Like every one of the Minnesota Vikings’ opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense needs to fear Adrian Peterson and Minnesota’s running game.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, the Vikings’ running game will receive a boost this weekend when their Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton returns to the lineup from his recent suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. With his suspension served, none of Minnesota’s players are more excited for the fullback’s return than “Purple Jesus.”
Peterson expressed his feelings regarding Felton in a recent article on the Vikings’ team website by Mike Wobschall:
"Now I can say there is some type of confidence I feel just knowing what type of guy [fullback Jerome Felton] he is, knowing his approach and his mentality, … He’s a guy I can count on. It feels good to have him back."
Although Peterson has done a fine job through his first three games without Felton (291 rushing yards ranks fifth overall), he has definitely missed the presence of his lead blocker. Felton helped to pave the way for Peterson’s monster 2012 campaign, and him starting over rookie Zach Line appears to give the future Hall of Fame running back an extra air of confidence.
An already “run-heavy” team, the Vikings will probably have to rely on their ground attack even more with Christian Ponder out of the lineup with his rib injury. With Matt Cassel taking Ponder’s place, the Steelers’ defense has to be ready to contend with an even-more confident Peterson now that his lead-blocker is back in the lineup.
Pittsburgh’s linebackers and safeties must be on high alert, and they have to burst through their gaps quickly and fight off Felton’s blocks if they wish to limit Peterson’s destruction. If they are unable to keep the running game in check though, 0-4 will be this team’s record as they head into their bye week.
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