Steelers not fantasizing about Vikings' Peterson


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Take a minute and go to youtube.com. Type in "Adrian Peterson Fantasy Commercial" in the search engine. Click on the first entry that comes up.

No, wait.

Get the kids away from the computer first. Get 'em out of the room, actually.

What you will see is more frightening than anything that will knock on your front door on Halloween.

Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings' terrific third-year running back, is shirtless and in shorts, running a sprint at the team's practice facility. Pity the poor defensive backs who have to get in his way after he puts on his pads on game day and looks even more monstrous.

"Don't show my guys," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said yesterday, laughing a sad little laugh.

Too late for that.

I'm guessing Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark have seen the Peterson video, not to mention hours and hours of his game tapes. That's why they went to Aaron Smith -- the team's outstanding run-stuffing defensive end -- before the Steelers played the Vikings in an exhibition game last season to ask for a favor.

"Please, don't let that guy get through the line," Polamalu and Clark told Smith. "We don't want to have to deal with him in the secondary."

Replay that video.

Would you want to deal with Peterson?

"No question, the best back in the league," Clark said.

"Arguably, the best football player in the world right now," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday.

It's for all the usual reasons, of course. Peterson is, to use a popular, complimentary football term, a beast. Big, strong and fast. As Clark noted, he is big enough and strong enough to run over you if you don't break down just right to tackle him, yet fast enough to beat you to the corner if you try to turn him toward the sideline to avoid that head-on collision.

"What are you supposed to do with a guy like that?" Clark asked.

That's a pretty good question, considering Peterson leads the NFL in rushing and the Vikings are 6-0. Clearly, that first development has led to the second. Peterson's work in the 33-31 win Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens was fairly typical of what he can do: He tortured the Ravens' proud defense for 143 yards on 22 carries.

Tomlin said Peterson's story is about so much more than just the basics. "The tape says he's ridiculously competitive. He doesn't turn down challenges."

The good news is the Steelers' defense enjoys a good test from time to time, as well. I'm happy to report Polamalu, Clark and the rest are planning on showing up Sunday. You have to think if anyone can design a scheme to slow Peterson, it's Tomlin and LeBeau. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 24 regular-season games -- 28, counting the postseason -- going back to the 2007 season. They rank No. 3 in the NFL in total defense this season, No. 2 against the run. They held the Cleveland Browns to 91 rushing yards -- 57 on gimmicky wildcat plays -- in a 27-14 win Sunday and, maybe more significantly, shut them out in the fourth quarter after a long, silly string of late-game troubles.

"It was a good step for us," linebacker James Farrior said, "but we'll know a lot more Sunday."

It's not just the great Peterson, whom the Steelers must stop. It's quarterback Brett Favre or, as the in-vogue Tomlin called him, using his full, proper name, "Legendary Brett Favre." Sunday, when Favre will be 15 days past his 40th birthday, he will give the Vikings enough of a drop-back passing threat that the Steelers won't be able to just load up on Peterson. After a cautious start to the season -- Favre didn't join the Vikings until late in the exhibition season, he has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,082 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions in the past four games. His 109.5 passer rating is better than Ben Roethlisberger's 104.5 -- and you know how dynamite Big Ben has been.

"One of the all-time great running backs and a Hall of Fame quarterback, that's a pretty good one-two punch," Farrior said of Peterson and Favre.

I'd like the Steelers' chances of taking the head and body shots at lot better if Smith were playing. It's a crying shame for their defense that he's out for the season with a torn rotator cuff. If I were ranking the team's most indispensable players, I'd probably put him third behind Roethlisberger and Polamalu. Certainly, Polamalu and Clark would love his help with Peterson again this week.

The Steelers have gone out of their way to say they didn't miss Smith against the Browns because his replacement, Travis Kirschke, played so well. That isn't to belittle Smith but rather to build up Kirschke, whom they're going to need at his best to win. Tomlin, though more restrained, said Kirschke and backups Nick Eason and Ziggy Hood "played above the line."

No matter, that was the lame Browns on the other side of the field. That was washed-up running back Jamal Lewis and quarterback Derek Anderson, who started the season on the bench behind Brady Quinn, who is terrible.

Know this:

There's absolutely no resemblance between Peterson and Favre and Lewis and Anderson.

"I love it," Clark said of the Vikings' challenge. "This is what it's all about. This is why we play this game."

Hmmm ...

Maybe Clark hasn't seen that YouTube video after all.

Chart-busting

Even before playing a game in his third season, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had already found himself in some elite NFL company. Backs in history to gain 3,000 yards in his first two seasons.


Ron Cook can be reached at rcook@post-gazette.com .


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