NFL Hall of Fame Game Picks: Steelers vs. Vikings

Joe Gavazzi

Thursday, August 6, 2015 3:40 PM GMT

Keep in mind before placing your NFL pick for this preseason game that it features the non-playoff Vikings with a 7-9 SU record from last year vs. a playoff team, the Steelers, who were 11-6 SU last season.  

 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings (-3/35) 8:00 ET NBC, Hall of Fame Game
The Pittsburgh Steelers travel 90 minutes west to Canton, Ohio for the kick-off of the 2015 NFL Exhibition Season.  They will meet the Minnesota Vikings in the Hall of Fame Game to be played Sunday, August 9th as televised by NBC. The game will kick-off at 8:00 ET.  This preseason game features the non-playoff Vikings with a 7-9 SU record from last year vs. a playoff team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 11-6 SU last season.  

After missing the playoffs for the previous 2 seasons in 2012 and 2013, with identical 8-8 SU records, the Steelers rebounded with an 11-6 SU mark in 2014.  It culminated with a 30-17 playoff loss to their division rival, the Baltimore Ravens.  That defeat was tough to swallow, as despite outgaining Baltimore 387-295, 3 critical TOs led to the Steelers’ demise.  It was a bit surprising, considering the Steelers had just completed a 4-0 SUATS December to complete the regular season.  But, there are many positives to be taken from the 2014 season.  After failing to rush for an average of 100 YPG in their previous .500 seasons, the Steelers ran for 107/4.1 in 2014.  That opened up the passing lanes for QB Roethlisberger, who led a passing attack that averaged over 300 YPG, guiding the Steeler offense to 27 PPG on over 400 total yards.  A large part of that improvement can be credited to then 1st year OL coach, Mike Munchak, and the Steelers’ best OL in recent memory.  Once RB Bell serves his 3-game suspension (marijuana), the Steelers’ ground game and offense should again begin to click.  Life may not be as easy on the defensive side of the ball.  Gone are long-time DC LeBeau, along with retired stalwarts, Polamalu, Taylor and Worilds.   Playing among the hardest schedules in the NFL, beginning with New England and San Francisco, will not make life any easier.  That, however, is all in the future for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  For Sunday, expect little contributions from the first team and little intensity from the Steelers.  Rather, there will be more focus on rebuilding the defensive side of the ball.  With a 5-game preseason schedule, look for Big Ben to remain comfortably on the sidelines.  Greatest note to consider when handicapping the Steelers’ performance is that under HC Tomlin, Pittsburgh has a 1-7 SU ATS record in preseason play the last 2 seasons.  

The Minnesota Vikings hired HC Mike Zimmer, a defensive specialist, at the start of last season.  Results were immediately evident.  The Vikings’ defense improved from 30 PPG in 2013 to 21 PPG in 2014.  But, the offense stagnated despite the addition of QB Bridgewater to the Vikings’ backfield.  He was outstanding in his inaugural season, completing over 64% of his passes, including 14 TDs. The anticipated return of RB Peterson to the fold would be a big boost to the offensive fortunes.  For tonight’s action, however, expect little, if any, work from the 2 projected offensive stars.  Rather, with Zimmer again focusing on improving his defense in the offseason, the Vikings should once again be a relatively low-scoring team.  Note that only 6 of their 16 games in 2014 went OVER the total, as their games averaged just 41 PPG.  Of further consideration is HC Zimmer’s clear philosophy about the preseason.  His Vikings went 4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS in preseason last year with 3 of those 4 games finishing UNDER the NFL odds posted total.  

Coaching philosophies figure to come to the fore once again in the first of 5 preseason games for each team.  Look for both HCs to focus more on the defensive side of the ball and show limited playing time for their offensive teammates.  As outlined above, the recent coaching philosophies of the teams were clear in preseason play.  Put that on the backdrop that shows Pittsburgh Steelers’ preseason games going UNDER 20 of 32 under.

NFL Picks: Under 35 -106 at Pinnacle Sports