Welcome to the Wild Card Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Miami Dolphins! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, provides a game outlook, score prediction, individual stats, team stats, the most up-to-date injury report, and even the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 11-5
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (10th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 103-57 (.644)
Playoff Record: 6-5 (Qualified for playoffs 6 times)
Last Game: Pittsburgh 27 Cleveland 24
Breakdown of the Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers enter the playoffs rested and almost fully healthy. Roethlisberger finished the regular season with 3,819 yards passing with 29 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He was sacked 17 times.
Antonio Brown is Big Ben’s ultimate weapon in the passing game. Brown has caught 106 passes on the year for 1,284 yards and 12 scores. He finished one catch behind Larry Fitzgerald for the league lead in receptions despite missing the season finale vs Cleveland. Eli Rogers is excellent out of the slot. Rogers grabbed 48 catches for 594 yards and three touchdowns. On the opposite side of Brown is usually the receiver whom Big Ben likes to utilize as his deep threat. Sammie Coates manned that position early in the year but suffered multiple hand injuries that limited him for the better part of the 2nd half of the year. Coates averages 20.7 yards per catch. Cobi Hamilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Demarcus Ayers have all made contributions in the passing game. Depending on who is healthy and most capable of making the biggest difference will determine whom head coach Mike Tomlin activates this Sunday.
Ladarius Green was signed to be a big part of the offense in the offseason. The talented tight end has seen his season marred by injuries. When healthy, Green caught 18 receptions for 304 yards and a score. His 6’6 frame combined with breakaway speed makes him a match-up nightmare underneath.
“He’s in the (NFL’s concussion) protocol – part of the protocol is practice; he practiced (Thursday),” Tomlin said after Friday’s practice. “We didn’t get the type of results we wanted. He still remains in the protocol. His status for the game is questionable.”
Jesse James stepped up in his 2nd season as a Steeler with 39 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t overlook Xavier Grimble who caught only 11 passes for 118 yards, but of those 11 catches, two ended up in the end zone.
Le’Veon Bell is the most talented player in the league. His blend of speed, power, and patience has to keep defensive coordinators up throughout the night trying to figure out how to defend him. Despite missing four games in 2016, Bell racked up 1,268 yards on the ground with seven touchdowns. He caught 75 passes out of the backfield for 616 yards and another two scores. DeAngelo Williams is finally healthy and ready to provide relief to Bell when needed.
The Steelers defense improved as the season progressed. It’s the younger core of players such as Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Artie Burns, and Sean Davis that have elevated this unit into a force to be reckoned with. Pittsburgh is 10th in the league allowing only 20.4 points per game.
Tomlin and his defense are well aware that they need to contain Jay Ajayi if they hope to travel to Kansas City the following Sunday.
“We are not going to pretend like Jay Ajayi’s 200-yard day was a lightning strike,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. “No, it was very real. I don’t think it’s appropriate to take that approach. He ran for 200 yards twice against the Buffalo Bills this year.”
It doesn’t hurt that savvy vets such as Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison are playing at a level much higher than their age should permit, especially Harrison.
Shazier has nothing but praise for his fellow linebacker in Timmons.
“It’s incredible to see him still make plays like that. You would never know how old he is,” Steelers inside linebacker Shazier said. “He makes a lot of spectacular plays when we need them, and he’s been doing that for a long time. Guys definitely look up to him to make plays. We understand his physicality and that motivates us.”
A look at the Miami Dolphins!
Overall Record: 10-6
Head Coach: Adam Gase (1st Season with Dolphins)
Overall Regular Season Record: 10-6 (.625)
Playoff Record: 0-0 (Qualified for playoffs 0 times)
Last Game: New England 35 Miami 14
Breakdown of the Dolphins: Matt Moore makes his 1st career playoff start for the Dolphins as starter Ryan Tannehill is out. Tannehill sprained his left knee in a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 11. Moore passed for 721 yards with eight touchdowns and three picks. Moore was sacked only one time in his three starts. Tannehill was brought down 29 times.
The Dolphins have a trio of talented receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills. Landry led Miami with 94 receptions for 1,136 yards and four TDs. Parker has 56 catches on the year and has found the end zone four times. Stills is Miami’s deep threat, nabbing 42 receptions for 726 yards. Stills scored nine times. Dion Simms is the biggest threat out of the tight end position for the Fish. Simms has 26 catches on the year for 256 yards and four TDs. MarQueis Gray is used primarily as a check-down.
Jay Ajayi is Miami’s best offensive weapon. Ajayi rushed for 1,272 and eight scores. He also caught 27 passes for 151 yards. He gashed the Steelers for 204 yards earlier this season. Both Kenyan Drake and Damien Willams provide relief for Ajayi. Williams has 115 yards rushing with three TD’s and is a threat out of the backfield, as he caught 23 passes for 249 yards and another three scores.
The Dolphins are 18th in the league in points allowed as they give up 23.8 points per game. At the skill positions, the Dolphins do not match up well against the Steelers’ offense. Ndamukong Suh is a big part of the Dolphins front four that will have to disrupt the Steelers passing game if they expect to advance in the playoffs. Suh is considered one of the dirtiest players in the NFL.
Suh once kicked Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving Day, stepped on Evan Dietrich-Smith, and ripped Andy Dalton’s helmet off in a 2011 preseason game. He was nearly suspended after he stomped on Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game as a member of the Detroit Lions. There have been fewer incidents in Miami than there were in Detroit, but there has not been less ferocity.
“That front four,” said Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, “if they aren’t playing well, we aren’t playing well.”
Game Preview: Pittsburgh entered this season as Super Bowl favorites. In the City of Champions, anything less than raising the Lombardi Trophy is considered a failure.
For the first time ever, the Steelers will enter a playoff game with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and center Maurkice Pouncey all healthy.
This will be Bell’s first playoff appearance as injury issues led him to miss all three of Pittsburgh’s playoff games during his standout career.
“I know how hyped I’m going to be. I think I deserve it,” Bell said. “This is going to be my first playoff game in my fourth year in the league. I’m going to be pumped and I need that. I need to keep my energy up, help my teammates feed off my energy, let them know how important this game is to me. I obviously want to go out there and show some people what I can do.”
The high-powered Steelers offense will be a major challenge for any defense to stop.
“They’re going to make a lot of plays both in the pass and the run game, so we’ve got to tackle.” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “We’ve got to make plays and counteract that, and that’s our job as defensive players to really corrupt what they’re trying to do on the offensive side of the ball.”
Now that the big three are healthy, there will be no time for excuses.
“We have to go out and execute and play our best game, ” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said. “I don’t feel like we’ve done that yet. That’s been kind of our thing, just trying to play to our potential. We’ve done it in spurts.”
Eli Rogers hopes to show the world that he is another weapon to behold in the Steeler offense.
“There was a little up and down, but he’s had steady growth once we hit that halfway mark,” Haley said. “He’s a smart guy because something I told him early on is, ‘You better stop worrying about what I think and you better worry about what the quarterback thinks.’ “
Miami won’t be as fortunate when it comes to health. Matt Moore will make his first career playoff start as Ryan Tannehill is injured.
The Dolphins are confident in their backup signal caller.
“He’s our starter,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said of Moore.
“Largely, I think their personality remains the same,” Tomlin said of Moore. “I think that’s often the case when you have a backup that is more experienced than your starter. You want to be able to function in a very fluid manner and have business as usual.”
He knows the game. He’s been around the game,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Thursday. “The people who play above the neck usually have a chance to stay around for a while. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the NFL usually flushes you out.
Pittsburgh is going to try and keep Miami’s defense off balance with its use of the running game behind Bell and attempting to pick apart the Dolphins secondary with Brown, Rogers, and Green (if available). Bell creates match-up nightmares wherever he lines up on the field, especially when he motions out to a wide-out spot. There are few if any linebackers capable of containing Bell in the open field.
The weather will be cold and blustery, but snow should not play a factor in this game.
Miami will have to play mistake-free football behind Moore and hope Ajayi can come close to matching his effort he had in the previous encounter with the Steelers. Truth be told, the Dolphins would be ecstatic if he could just breach the century mark. They will need to control the ball and the clock if they hope to steal a victory away from the heavily favored Steelers.
“For us, take all that pass stuff out the window, we have to stop the run,” Steelers safety Mike Mitchell said. “If you are smashing the run, the bootleg really is irrelevant because we’re not biting on run fakes. When the run is hitting, then obviously everybody is (thinking), ‘We’ve got to stop the run,’ and the bootleg becomes more dangerous.”
Roethlisberger knows he must be up to the task as the playoffs begin.
“This game is about when you can get hot when you can play your best football,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s important to play your best football late in the season when it matters the most. Staying healthy is such a key component to that.
“We have had so many injuries in years past, it’s hard to play your best football when you have guys down. To go into the postseason as healthy as I can remember, me feeling that way and the guys around me, that’s very important and huge for us.”
It will be a bitterly cold day in Pittsburgh, something that it’s players will greet with open arms. The Dolphins, more used to the balmy temperatures in South Beach, may not find the weather as comforting. Pittsburgh faced plenty of ups and downs this season, including a four-game losing streak that left them with a 4-5 record. The Steelers found their pride and their groove and haven’t lost a game since.
Pittsburgh enters the playoffs as hot as anyone, and most importantly–healthy. They had built in excuses for playoff failures since the 2011 season.
Now they have none. It’s time to put up or shut up for the Steelers and their offense. They are at home in front of their rabid fanbase.
The Lombardi Trophy and a 7th World Championship lay four wins away.
Look for the Steelers offense and defense to atone for their performance earlier this year against Miami. As long as Roethlisberger avoids careless turnovers, Pittsburgh’s offense should overwhelm the Dolphins defense with its star players. I see Big Ben throwing for around 250 yards and a few touchdowns with Bell topping 100 yards and a score.
Defensively, Pittsburgh would be wise to keep Moore as uncomfortable as possible. If the Steelers find a way to contain Ajayi, they should have this game in hand by the start of the 4th quarter.
Prediction: Steelers 27 Dolphins 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) vs Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Game time: Sunday, January 8th, 1:05 pm
TV: CBS | Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Phil Simms (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feely (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: John Sadak (play-by-play) Tony Boselli (analyst) | Steve Tasker (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: Partly Cloudy and 17. Winds 10-15 mph.
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh -10
- Series History: Series began in 1971.
- The Steelers are 12-11 in the overall Regular Season series against the Dolphins.
- Steelers are 6-3 vs the Dolphins in Pittsburgh.
- Streak: Dolphins won previous two meetings.
- Last Regular-Season Meeting: Oct. 16, 2016, at Miami- Miami 30 Pittsburgh 15
- Steelers are 1-2 in the Post-Season vs the Dolphins.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 6, 1985 at Miami- Miami 45 Pittsburgh 28 – AFC Championship
- Miami CB Lafayette Pitts is a former Pitt Panther.
- Dolphins CB Tony Lippett and DE Cameron Wake both played their college careers at Penn State.
- The Steelers look to improve to 35-24 in postseason team history.
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, would improve to 12-6 in the postseason as a starter (6-3 at home).
- Roethlisberger is two completions from surpassing Jim Kelly (322) for the eighth-most in NFL playoff history, 21 from moving into seventh (Donovan McNabb, 341) and 35 from sixth (John Elway, 355).
- Antonio Brown is 109 receiving yards from surpassing Franco Harris (504) for the sixth-most in Steelers postseason history and 192 from moving into fourth (Heath Miller and Ernie Mills: 587).
- Brown is four catches from becoming the eighth Steeler with 30 career postseason receptions.
- Le’Veon Bell with 100 rushing yards on Sunday, will become the first Steelers running back with a 100-yard postseason game since the 2011 postseason (Isaac Redman, 121 yards, Jan. 8, 2012 at Denver).
- James Harrison is 1.5 sacks from registering 10.0 in his Steelers’ postseason career and to join LaMarr Woodley (11.0) as the only players with at least 10.0 sacks in team playoff history.
- Chris Boswell is two field goals from tying Shaun Suisham (nine) for the fifth-most in Steelers postseason history and three to match Norm Johnson (10) for the fourth most.
QB- Ben Roethlisberger (3,819 yards passing | 29 TD passes | 13 interceptions | 17 sacks)
RB- Le’Veon Bell (1,268 yards rushing | 7 rushing TD’s | 75 receptions | 616 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
RB- DeAngelo Williams (343 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 18 receptions | 118 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Antonio Brown (106 receptions | 1,284 receiving yards | 12 receiving TD’s)
WR- Eli Rogers (48 receptions | 594 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR- Sammie Coates (21 receptions | 435 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Cobi Hamilton (17 receptions | 234 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Darrius Heyward-Bey (6 receptions | 114 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Demarcus Ayers (6 receptions | 53 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
TE- Jesse James (39 receptions | 338 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
TE- Ladarius Green (18 receptions | 304 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
TE- Xavier Grimble (11 receptions | 118 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
K- Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 36-36 | FG: 21-25 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-2 | 30-39: 8-9 | 40-49: 11-12 | 50+: 0-2 | Long: 49)
QB- Matt Moore (721 yards passing | 8 TD passes | 3 interceptions | 1 sacks)
RB- Jay Ajayi (1,272 yards rushing | 8 rushing TD’s | 27 receptions | 151 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- Kenyan Drake (179 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 9 receptions | 46 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- Damien Williams (115 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 35 receptions | 115 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR- Jarvis Landry (94 receptions | 1,136 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
WR- DeVante Parker (56 receptions | 754 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
WR- Kenny Stills (42 receptions | 726 receiving yards | 9 receiving TD’s)
TE- Dion Sims (26 receptions | 256 receiving yards | 4 receiving TD’s)
TE- MarQueis Gray (14 receptions | 174 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
K- Andrew Franks (Extra Point: 41-42 | FG: 16-21 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 8-10 | 30-39: 6-6 | 40-49: 1-3 | 50+: 1-2 | Long: 55
Steelers – Dolphins: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 372.6 YPG | Dolphins allow 382.6 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 110 YPG | Dolphins allow 140.4YPG
Passing: Steelers average 262.6 YPG | Dolphins allow 242.2 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 24.9 PPG | Dolphins allow 23.8 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 342.6 YPG | Dolphins average 332.8 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 100 YPG | Dolphins average 114 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 242.6 YPG | Dolphins average 218.8 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 20.4 PPG | Dolphins average 22.7 PPG
Injury Report (1/6/2017)
Out: QB Ryan Tannehill (Knee),
Final NFL Standings
Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 12 DETROIT L, 30-17
Thursday, Aug. 18 PHILADELPHIA L, 17-0
Friday, Aug. 26 @ New Orleans W, 27-14
Thursday, Sept. 1 @ Carolina L, 18-6
Regular Season (11-5)
Monday, Sept. 12 @ Washington W, 38-16
Sunday, Sept. 18 CINCINNATI W, 24-16
Sunday, Sept. 25 @ Philadelphia L, 34-3
Sunday, Oct. 2 KANSAS CITY W, 43-14
Sunday, Oct. 9 NEW YORK JETS* W, 31-13
Sunday, Oct. 16 @ Miami* 1 p.m. L, 30-15
Sunday, Oct. 23 NEW ENGLAND* L, 16-27
Sunday, Oct. 30 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 6 @ Baltimore* L, 14-21
Sunday, Nov. 13 DALLAS* L, 30-35
Sunday, Nov. 20 @ Cleveland* W, 24-9
Thursday, Nov. 24 @ Indianapolis W, 28-7
Sunday, Dec. 4 NEW YORK GIANTS* W, 24-14
Sunday, Dec. 11 @ Buffalo* W, 27-20
Sunday, Dec. 18 @ Cincinnati* W, 24-20
Sunday, Dec. 25 BALTIMORE W, 31-27
Sunday, Jan. 1 CLEVELAND* W, 27-24 OT
Sunday, Jan. 8 AFC Wildcard: MIAMI 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 15 AFC Divisionals: @ Kansas City 1:05 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Jan. 22 AFC Championship
Sunday, Jan. 29 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 5 Super Bowl LI (Houston, Texas)