Vikings O-line continues to get praise, will face stringent test against Steelers' 3-4 front

Expect Vikings-Steelers to be a tough matchup (0:48)

Bill Polian explains how the Vikings have improved from last year and why that will make the matchup against the Steelers tough. Herm Edwards thinks Antonio Brown will lead Pittsburgh to victory. (0:48)

EDEN PRAIRIE -- The moment was about Sam Bradford, who had been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his 27-of-32 passing for 346 yards and three touchdown performance against New Orleans.

But just like he did following Monday's game, Bradford bestowed credit elsewhere.

"Like I said after the game, they deserved the game ball," Bradford said of the Minnesota Vikings offensive line. "They kept me clean all night. They opened holes in the run game.

"I think there's been a lot of talk outside this building about that group and about those guys, but inside this building I know we've got nothing but confidence in them."

Bradford's right. The O-Line has been a topic for months. There were multiple questions that needed answers: Would the offseason acquisitions of left tackle Riley Reiff and right tackle Mike Remmers remedy some of the issues this unit faced last year? How will rookie center Pat Elflein handle the responsibility of making calls? Does moving Joe Berger and Nick Easton to different spots help the continuity of the group?

And the biggest question of all: How would this line, that had not played together during the preseason, protect Bradford?

Those questions were all answered -- at least for the time being.

According to Pro Football Focus, Reiff, who is back starting at left tackle for the first time since 2015 when he was with the Detroit Lions, didn't allow a single pressure on Bradford. The quarterback was only hit two times in Week 1 and sacked once.

Minnesota was creative in the looks it threw at New Orleans. Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur mixed personnel at different spots throughout the night, including overloading the left side of the line and giving Remmers an appearance at left tackle and Berger at right tackle.

"They do a great job of changing the launch point, pocket misdirection," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They did an awesome job of protecting [Bradford] but I also thought the coaching staff, Coach Shurmur & Co., did an awesome job of staying a step ahead of New Orleans in terms of keeping them off balance as well, and I think that aided in the protection."

In the midst of keeping tempo and trying to catch the Saints off guard, Elflein's communication was critical. Bradford said he doesn't remember the center missing a call all game and got the Vikings in and out of the huddle efficiently.

"I think mentally his ability to grasp our offense and what we're trying to do I think has been one of the things that has really stood out to me," Bradford said. "I feel like during OTAs, during training camp if he made a mistake rarely would he ever make that mistake again. He would learn from it, he would kind of put that in his memory bank and the defense wouldn't be able to fool him again."

Having two former centers in Easton and Berger to his left and right respectively was a nice confidence boost for the rookie.

"Having them there and guys who have played it before and know the calls and know how the game works is a little comforting," Elflein said. "But I want to be able to be the guy to go out there and run the show. I know those guys have my back and if I ever have any questions I always go to those guys first."

Week 1 was a big step for this group. Granted, all of this was done against the Saints defense, which has been among the NFL's worst for the last few years. Minnesota faces a much different test this Sunday.

The Steelers defense sacked Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seven times and registered eight quarterback pressures. Cleveland was only able to muster 57 yards rushing, an average of 2.3 yards per rush.

Pittsburgh won't have defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who is out with an injury to his left biceps, but has a pretty diverse group that will move around a bunch.

Tyson Alualu, who is listed second on the depth chart behind Tuitt, rotates around and will probably fill Tuitt's spot with Cam Heyward as the other end and nose tackle Javon Hargrave rounding out the interior Steelers base 3-4 defense.

Rookie T.J. Watt's speed off the edge was a problem for Cleveland in his two-sack debut. So was linebacker Anthony Chickillo, who also registered two sacks.

Bradford's pocket awareness is more elevated via experience than Kizer, so that's something to consider when looking at the stats.

Nonetheless, the challenge for the offensive line to keep him clean a second straight week is on.

"They're a different type of crew," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "They're thicker, more powerful kind of guys. Obviously the scheme change is different. They have a lot of fire zones, zone blitzes, things like that. Those are all issues that we're going to have to get acclimated to in a hurry."