- With the Miami Dolphins paying a visit to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers at 1 p.m. Sunday, let’s take a look at who has the advantages, and where:DOLPHINS ADVANTAGE
Powered by the arm of veteran Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ ninth-ranked passing offense is hardly typical for a struggling 5-6 team. On Sunday they take on the ninth-ranked passing defense of the Dolphins. The Miami defense has allowed just 12 passing touchdowns – only one by an opposing wide receiver.
The Dolphins threw money at more than Mike Wallace this offseason. They also added top free-agent corner back Brent Grimes. Grimes will likely take on Antonio Brown and hopes to keep his “touchdowns allowed” at zero.
Grimes and fellow cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson have gotten a lot of help from the Dolphins pass rush. Relatively unknown Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon has recorded 10.5 sacks this season, including six in the past three games. He will be matched against left tackle Mike Adams, who has played better as a blocking tight end than his drafted position.
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will have the task of controlling the other DE, Cameron Wake. Wake blew up last year for 15 sacks but has been limited by injuries this season, but they have not seemed to bother him in his AFC North matchups. Wake has netted 5.5 sacks combined against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. This game could be made or broken in these two face-offs.
If there is one area the Dolphins defense has struggled, it has been against opposing running backs. They are ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in run defense, six spots lower than the Steelers. Given the weakness against the run and the potential sloppy weather conditions, the Steelers may choose to continue to rely on running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell has averaged 107 yards in past three games, proving to be a threat in the running and passing game. The Dolphins’ two top tacklers – former Colt Phillip Wheeler and old Raven Daniel Ellerbe – will try to keep Bell from taking over. December football in Pittsburgh is why the Steelers chose the former Michigan State back Bell over Alabama’s Eddie Lacy and North Carolina’s Geovani Bernard. And if Bell gives the same effort he did against the Ravens, he may finally win over the home crowd and his quarterback.
A lot of talk in Pittsburgh has been focused on the rise of left-for-dead outside linebacker Jason Worilds. Worilds and his rookie contract appeared to be at the end of the expiration date until he moved to the left outside linebacker spot to replace injured LaMarr Woodley (calf). After three weeks of lighting up opposing QBs, Worilds will move back to the right side, pushing the talented rookie Jarvis Jones back to part-time duty.
LeBeau can use this trio to stay in fresh pursuit of Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill will be relying on veteran tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie to keep him safe no matter which Steelers linebacker stands across from them. It’s a matchup the Steelers must win. The less time Tannehill has to find Wallace and Brian Hartline, the better the Steelers chances are to hold onto slim playoff hopes. And these are the type of games that all-world safety Troy Polamalu finds a way to impact.
GAME PREDICTION: By virtue of the Dolphins not being good on the road, not acclimatized to blustery Pittsburgh and unable to win back-to-back games since September, I give this one to the Steelers in a low-scoring game. STEELERS 20-10.