The Dolphins 2017 turnaround enters its most important phase this afternoon at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Yes, they’ve won nine of their last 11 games, but for the first time since 2008, Miami will play in the post season. And, in order to advance they will have a tall task in beat one of pro football’s top teams of the 2000’s…the Steelers.
Our Chris Fischer gave his thoughts earlier in the week and believes the Dolphins will combat the chilly temps (teens with the windchill) by getting back to running Jay Ajayi like they did in the regular season win.
But for a franchise that hasn’t won a road playoff game since Dan Marino’s final career win in Seattle in January of 2000, they will have to do a lot more. (Yes, the Fins last road playoff win was so long ago that Seattle was actually still in the AFC West at the time). Anyway, three things to watch:
First the Dolphins will have to stop Pittsburgh on the ground, themselves. And, that means get ready for lots of Le’Veon Bell, especially early. If Suh, Wake and Miami front seven can’t stop him, it’s obviously big trouble. In the last six games he played to close the regular season, Bell carried at least 20 times in all of them and had 100 yards in five of them. Wanna move on in the playoffs? Bell is getting “The Rock.” Stop him, or else.
Next, will Matt Moore continue playing composed and making the key throws that he has the last 3 1/2 games since replacing Ryan Tannehill. The Steelers have been shaky at times on defense and it’s not as if, Landry. Stills and Parker can’t make some plays, if given the chances. But do the Steelers harass, knock down and even sack, Moore to the point where he throws the critical pick (he has one in all three starts)? That’s something to watch and one or more turnovers will be likely death for Miami.
Finally, Ben Roethlisberger will be under the microscope. After having a tremendous playoff run earlier in his career where he won 9 of 10 games including a Super Bowl win, “Big Ben” has been mortal of late. With four losses in his last five post season starts, he also has a poor five TD five INT stat line in those five games. Again, as mentioned above, if Bell runs well in the cold and the Steelers can harass Moore into mistakes, it won’t matter. But, if it’s a close game in the second half, will Roethlisberger find his “go to” target Antonio Brown for the huge TD or throw the critical pick himself?
If he does and if the Fins pull the upset, don’t think for a second that “Stiller” fan won’t hesitate to pull out his playoff fizzles, recently.
Will the Fins “man up,” give Pittsburgh a game and perhaps, pull off the upset as a double digit underdog?
It’s time to find out.