The chances of the Dolphins losing defensive architect Vance Joseph to a head coaching job with the 49ers, Chargers or Broncos might have grown a little longer on Sunday afternoon.
Joseph went into the Dolphins wild card game against the Steelers as one of the game’s hot young coordinators, one who had garnered attention from at least three of the teams looking for a new head coach.
Like the weather in Pittsburgh, though, the once-growing interest in Joseph probably cooled off a bit after his defense struggled to keep the Steelers in check during a 30-12 loss.
The Dolphins had little or no answer for either quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who set a career high by completing each of his first 11 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, or running back Le’Veon Bell.
While Roethlisberger went on to complete 13 of 18 passes for 197 yards and those two touchdowns, Bell set a Steelers playoff rushing record by running 29 times for 167 yards and two scores.
The Dolphins didn’t even officially hit Roethlisberger until midway through the third quarter, when a sack on third-and-goal from the Miami 7 forced Pittsburgh to settle for a 34-yard Chris Boswell field goal.
By then the game was already well in Pittsburgh’s hands, largely because of a poor start by the Dolphins defense, which allowed the Steelers to score on each of their first three possessions.
Big plays proved to be the Dolphins undoing. Roethlisberger connected with Antonio Brown on touchdown passes of 50 and 62 yards for the first two scores and Bell set up the third with a 26-yard run.
The Dolphins hinted at a comeback, tightening the score on an Andrew Franks field goal and they were in position to tighten it again late in the first half when disaster struck.
During a nine-play swing for the Dolphins, the Steelers forced three takeaways, two on sacks fumbles of quarterback Matt Moore and the third on a Moore interception.
The Steelers turned those three takeaways into 10 points, which wasn’t bad when you consider that touchdown came after an offside penalty by Miami’s kick block unit gave Pittsburgh new life.
That spoke to the resiliency of the Dolphins defense, which has grown stronger as the season has progressed, but when it mattered most Sunday the unit simply wasn’t up to the task of slowing the Steelers.
As for the Dolphins offense, it struggled as well, particularly in the run game where Jay Ajayi was limited to just 33 yards on 16 carries, his worst outing since gaining just 33 yards against Cincinnati in Week four.
Moore’s outing, meanwhile, will almost surely be defined by his three giveaways, but he gave the Dolphins a chance, completing 29 of his 36 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown.