Vikings' defense pressures Roethlisberger, Parker in loss to Steelers

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's defense hasn't lost its edge without Mike Tomlin.

The Vikings kept the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, surrounded Willie Parker and held Pittsburgh's starting offense to three points Saturday before the Steelers rallied after halftime for a 12-10 victory.

Tomlin, the Steelers coach and former Vikings defensive coordinator, was pleased -- and a bit sentimental.

"Hopefully I helped them feed their families, and they helped me feed mine," Tomlin said. "That was the nature of our relationship, and we had genuine feelings for each other along the way."

Jeff Reed was delighted by the defensive struggle. He kicked four field goals for the Steelers, the last a 37-yarder with 4 seconds left and claimed it felt "like a big-time playoff football game."

Said Reed: "I'm pretty drained."

Minnesota held out quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (knee) and receivers Bernard Berrian (toe) and Sidney Rice (illness), giving Gus Frerotte more than 2 1/2 quarters to run the show in the third preseason game -- viewed by coaches as the most important.

One impressive season as the Vikings' defensive coordinator, plus some slick interviewing skills, was enough to get Tomlin hired last year as Pittsburgh's third head coach since 1969. From the visiting team's sideline, Tomlin watched his old players put some punishing hits on Roethlisberger and limit Parker to 18 yards on 10 carries.

"A lot of plays got leaked out against us in the first two games. It was just coming out and reassuring that we're going to be fine," defensive end Ray Edwards said. "We went out there with our hard hats ready to go."

Missing mainstay guard Alan Faneca after 10 standout seasons, the Steelers' offensive line didn't protect very well. Justin Hartwig, fighting Sean Mahan for the job at center, started in the middle.

"When you play a front as talented as they are ... it's going to be tough sledding," Tomlin said.

Edwards and Kevin Williams had consecutive sacks in the second quarter, the series before Williams ran down rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall and forced a fumble that Tyrell Johnson recovered near midfield.

Williams and Jared Allen charged at Roethlisberger so hard on one pass late in the first half that they smashed into each other and rolled around in pain for a few seconds before walking off equally relieved and amused.

"We were all trying to get in there and hit him, and we ran head-on," Williams said.

Roethlisberger, who signed an eight-year contract extension in March worth up to $102 million, completed 10 of 17 passes for 65 yards, mostly to tight end Heath Miller. Byron Leftwich played the entire second half and drove Pittsburgh into position for Reed's winning kick.

The Steelers slyly threw a trick formation into the video library of future opponents, when Roethlisberger lined up as a wide receiver and twice Parker took a direct snap.

On a drive late in the fourth quarter, with Pittsburgh trailing by one point, Mendenhall -- who totaled 79 yards on 15 carries -- fumbled again. Erin Henderson recovered at the Minnesota 25.

"This league isn't easy," Mendenhall said. "It's hard being young in this league, and coach knows that. He just wants to encourage me and remind me that this is the time to get better. ... I just came out and put it on the ground. That should never happen, no matter how it happens."

Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu wanted to play, but he didn't. A hamstring injury kept him out of practice until this week. Another starter, linebacker Larry Foote, hurt his left knee in the first quarter and didn't return.

"I don't think it's major, but of course we have to run tests for more information," Tomlin said.

Adrian Peterson leaped for a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter for the Vikings, but their offense was out of rhythm against a Steelers defense that was just as stingy. Berrian and Rice were in shorts and T-shirts on the sideline, and fellow wide receiver Robert Ferguson suffered a bruised right calf while playing special teams and didn't return.

"Two weeks from now nobody will be talking about the third game in the preseason," coach Brad Childress said. "They'll be talking about playing with all your ammo on opening night. I think that's the overriding sentiment right there: You have to play without those guys."

Peterson was limited to 21 yards on 12 carries. The Vikings rushed 12 times for a mere 17 yards in the first half; the offensive line was called for three false start penalties on the first series.

Frerotte finished 13-for-19 for 133 yards and one interception.

"We did lack some explosiveness," Frerotte said, "but they make you work on every situation. They make you work on every throw. It was a good test for us."