Will Vikings end road woes in Pittsburgh?

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings return Sunday to the state where their road woes began.

Entering an Oct. 23, 2016, game at Philadelphia, Minnesota had won seven of eight road games. It started to go the other way that day in a 21-10 loss to the Eagles.

Now, the Vikings have dropped five of their past six on the road. They’ll try to get that turned around in Pennsylvania when they face Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.

“It’s definitely a good thing to get the swagger back going on the road,” said defensive tackle Shamar Stephen.

Winning on the road was a key for the Vikings in their NFC North title season of 2015. They went 5-3 on the road, which included winning five of their last six and wrapping up the division with an impressive victory at Green Bay in the regular-season finale.

It looked last season as if it would be more of the same after a 5-0 start that included road wins at Tennessee and Carolina. But Minnesota finished 1-5 away from U.S. Bank Stadium, its lone road victory over lowly Jacksonville.

“We have to take, you know, just more sense of urgency to start games,” said wide receiver Jarius Wright. “On the road, you always need to start fast and take the crowd out of it.”

It should be noted that the Vikings also struggled at home late last season, going 2-3 at U.S. Bank Stadium during a 3-8 finish. Still, one of the losses was by two points to NFC East champion Dallas, and one in overtime against playoff-bound Detroit.

In their last road game, the Vikings fell behind 38-13 on Dec. 24 at Green Bay and lost 38-25. The Vikings opened this season with a 29-19 victory over New Orleans on Monday night.

“It’s a totally different team,” said defensive end Brian Robison. “You just got to go out there and make sure all 11 guys are on the same page. … We’ve got to make sure that we set the tempo and not let them dictate how they’re going to play the game.”

Robison is the only Vikings player left from the last time they played at Heinz Field. That was a 27-17 loss on Oct. 25, 2009, after the Vikings had started the season 6-0.