WATFORD, England -- Along with quarterback Christian Ponder, the Vikings ruled out defensive backs Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leaving their secondary thin heading into a game that they probably need to win in order to keep their season from careening off course.
The Vikings will likely keep rookie Xavier Rhodes at his left cornerback spot in the nickel -- coach Leslie Frazier said earlier this week the Vikings don't want to take him out of his routine there -- but it remains to be seen whether A.J. Jefferson or Marcus Sherels will get more work at Cook's right cornerback spot in the base defense. Jefferson injured his ankle shortly after Browns receiver Josh Gordon caused him to bite hard on a double move on the way to a 47-yard touchdown last week, and Sherels was serviceable in the base defense once Jefferson didn't return.
After Sanford left last week, safety Andrew Sendejo took his place, with Mistral Raymond de-activated for the game. It stands to reason both players will be active on Sunday, and though Sendejo will likely get more snaps than Raymond, this could be an opportunity for Raymond -- who was a starter last year before an ankle injury opened the door for Sanford -- to reassert himself.
In any case, the Vikings could have their hands full against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose MO has long been to hold the ball, extend plays and burn cornerbacks who can't stick with their receivers for six or seven seconds. Roethlisberger's receiving group is depleted, and his battered offensive line could have its hands full with Jared Allen and company, but if the quarterback can stay upright, he might be able to find some big plays downfield against the Vikings' depleted secondary.
In other Vikings injury news:
Tight end Rhett Ellison will miss his second straight game with a hyperextended knee.
Running back Adrian Peterson was back at work after being limited because of a coach's decision on Thursday. That offers further confirmation that the Vikings were trying to get him a break -- and in light of their quarterback situation, they need him ready for a heavy workload on Sunday.