Turn back the clock, not to the first meeting between the Steelers and Dolphins this season, but to December 30, 1979. Miami fans may remember it more as Larry Csonka’s final game. The “Steel Curtain” defense held the future Hall of Famer to 20-yards rushing in the Dolphins’ Divisional Playoff loss at Three Rivers Stadium.
This Sunday at Heinz Field the Pittsburgh defense will once again keep their primary focus on shutting down the featured running back in aqua and orange.
But how well did it work out for them in their previous meeting back in Week 6, when Jay Ajayi held a coming out party at their expense to the tune of over 200-yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“There’s tangible evidence we need to respect this preparation process and have an understanding what occurred the last time we played these guys was not a lightning strike,” said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin.
Ajayi once again could serve as the jolt to the Steelers system if he can get a big push up front. His punishing style, mixed with Adam Gase’s admittance that has to keep feeding Ajayi the ball in the fourth quarter could take out the clock and the crowd.
MOORE SEASONED or MOORE-TUARY?
With Ryan Tannehill ruled out, 9-year veteran QB Matt Moore will get his first crack at playoff action. “This is my second time being apart of a team to ever gone to the playoffs (3rd string with Carolina), I’m excited,” said Moore.
But how overly excited will he be? Moore has proven he can lead the offense with eight touchdowns in his three relief starts. But if the excitement leads to poor decisions like the three interceptions in as many starts, could mean the turning point in a one and done game.
“Statistics don’t really matter at the end of the day, turnover margin is really the key,” said Gase.
You can use any synonym you like, but cold is how the conditions will be Sunday. Pittsburgh finished in the Top 10 in the regular season in giving up 20.4 points per game. Which just happens to be right on the mark of the Dolphins 20-point average on the road.
But in the playoffs, scores, nerves and defenses tighten up. Don’t expect a shootout, especially in the 20-degree cold. Both teams will look to pound the rock behind their Pro-Bowl caliber running backs.
Defensively, you can expect Steelers’ Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler to blitz Moore unmercifully, but keep in mind, Moore has only been sacked once in three starts.
GONE FISHING OR SWIMMING ON?
We all know Miami wasn’t expected to be in the playoffs, not with a rookie head coach and not after a 1-4 start to the season. This won’t be the same Steelers team or game plan we saw in Week 6 and it’s not the same “Phins” team with Moore running the offense.
And while you could say the injuries to key players are killing Miami’s chances of advancing, don’t rule out another Gase genius planning performance. And do you really think Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph wants a “One and Done” to put on his resume when he interviews for head coaching jobs?
Miami 17-14 over Pittsburgh (Calling for their first Playoff win since 2000)
Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:
Tua Tagovailoa measured at 6-0, 217 pounds at the NFL combine today. Left throwing hand at 10”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 24, 2020
In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.
However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.
As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan
He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.
It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.
Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday
Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:
We'd like to officially introduce you to our new HC, Karl Dorrell.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) February 23, 2020
The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.
Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.
Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.
“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.
Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.
Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.
Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.
Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.