Both teams a long way from home as they get ready to clash at Wembley.
Where: Wembley, London
When: 17.30 (BST)
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Two winless National Football League clubs, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings, will meet Sunday at Wembley Stadium in the first of two 2013 regular-season American football games in London.
Pittsburgh’s “Big Ben”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, will be able to see the London landmark that inspired his nickname even though the Steelers only departed Thursday for the contest, leaving little time to adjust to the time change before facing the Vikings and star running back Adrian Peterson.
“I think it’s good to get away,” said Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
“I don’t think it will be a distraction in a bad way. I think it will be a distraction in a good way because it gets us away from every day hearing what’s going on with us.
“We can get away, spend time together as a team, get some of the chemistry and fellowship that you lose once the offense and defense go into meetings. It gives us the opportunity to just play. That’s become our focus this week.”
Games in London have been so successful in the past six years that the NFL began a plan this year to play twice a year in England and is considering a possible third game in Britain starting next season.
The Steelers have not started 0-4 since 1968 and only once in the current format has a team started with four losses and rallied to reach the playoffs.
Pittsburgh players had an expert on the London game experience in Zoltan Mesko, the Steelers’ punter.
Mesko was with New England when the Patriots routed St. Louis 45-7 in last year’s game at Wembley.
“I don’t think there is a secret to it,” Mesko said. “The same dimensions are there as we have here. It’s just that it’s in the 80,000 people range and I’m sure it’s going to be a full house. It’s going to be a nice environment for us to play in. There’s a lot of excitement.
“There are a lot of jerseys besides the two teams that will be playing on Sunday. It’s an international love for the sport of (American) football. I think both teams will be getting equal cheers.”
Steelers President Art Rooney II was among those at a welcoming dinner at the Houses of Parliament and he spoke about the NFL looking at London for a franchise one day.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work as to whether London can be a city that hosts a franchise some day so this will be an interesting experience in terms of thinking about how that might work,” said Rooney.
“I think there is still ground work to be done. This year we are playing two games over there. I think the idea is that will increase over the next couple of years to three or four games. That will start to give us a better idea of whether a franchise can be supported on a regular basis.”
Peterson has 281 yards and three touchdowns on 69 carries this season for Minnesota while Roethlisberger has completed 67 of 111 passes for 848 yards and four touchdowns.
Peterson says his numbers are down from last season, when he narrowly missed an NFL single-season rushing record, because more defenders are tagreting him.
“Teams are adding an extra guy in the box,” Peterson said of alignments with extra run protection.
“They have just been doing a good job of containing the run and now allowing big runs to take place.”
The only showdown among the NFL’s seven 3-0 clubs sends Miami to New Orleans on Monday night. The other unbeatens play Sunday with Seattle at Houston, Kansas City hosting the winless New York Giants, New England at Atlanta, Chicago at Detroit and Denver entertaining Philadelphia.
Among the other winless clubs, Washington is at Oakland, Tampa Bay will host Arizona and Jacksonville, which will play San Francisco in London next month, will host Indianapolis.
Other Sunday games find Dallas at San Diego, the New York Jets at Tennessee, Cincinnati at Cleveland and Baltimore at Buffalo. Green Bay and Carolina are idle.