The Miami Dolphins had themselves a fantastic season, winning 10 games and earning their first playoff berth since 2008. Having won nine of their last 11 games, Miami is one of the hottest teams in the league. However, they’re running into another team that’s been nearly unbeatable in recent weeks. The Steelers have won seven in a row behind 180 total yards per game from Le’Veon Bell and a resurgent defense.
With Ryan Tannehill and a few key defenders sidelined, the Dolphins will struggle to beat the Steelers. Pittsburgh is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs, and it’ll begin on Sunday afternoon with a win.
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Miami’s defense is suspect against the pass
The last time these two teams met, the Dolphins picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice and held Pittsburgh to 15 points. That was ages ago and things have changed dramatically for both teams. The two players who picked off Roethlisberger – Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus – are both on injured reserve, while Byron Maxwell, their No. 1 cornerback, is doubtful. Not to mention, Roethlisberger was injured in that game and the Steelers were nowhere near the complete offense they are now.
Without those key players, the Dolphins will be susceptible to the pass, which is where the Steelers have success. None of their cornerbacks can match up with Antonio Brown and safety help over the top won’t be nearly as strong as it was back in October. Unless the Dolphins can get after Roethlisberger and force him to get rid of it sooner than he’d like, the Steelers will succeed in the passing game.
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Pittsburgh’s defense is playing great
Excluding Week 17 against the Browns when starters were rested, the Steelers have allowed fewer than 300 total yards in five of their last eight games. Le’Veon Bell gets most of the credit for the Steelers’ hot streak, but the defense has also played a huge role in their success. The pass rush has improved with Bud Dupree back, while Ryan Shazier does a great job taking away the middle of the field for opposing offenses – particularly against the run.
Where the Steelers have improved significantly is in the secondary, and it’s largely thanks to two rookies. Sean Davis is a rangy safety with good ball skills and the ability to play over the top of the defense. At cornerback, Artie Burns has developed into a nice player with good speed and coverage ability. If those two continue to play like veterans, the Steelers will handle Matt Moore and the Dolphins’ passing attack.
Arguably the best player in football right now, Le’Veon Bell is a difference-maker for the Steelers. In their last meeting, Bell received just 16 touches in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Dolphins. It was questionable and baffling and rest assured, it won’t happen again. Bell will be certain to touch the ball at least 25 times with the Steelers looking to control the tempo of the game. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is playing as well as any unit in the league right now, so the holes will be there to run through.
The biggest matchup to watch when the Steelers do run the ball is Ndamukong Suh versus David DeCastro. Both are terrific players, and the winner of this battle will set the table for how much success Bell has. Suh can single-handedly blow up running plays between the tackles, which is why it’s so important for DeCastro to seal his blocks and open up running lanes.