Miami prepares for must-win scenario, cold in Pittsburgh
DAVIE, Fla. — Playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday should offer few surprises for the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s going to be hard-nosed,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said after Friday’s practice. “You know it’s going to be one of those type of games you have to buckle your chin strap.
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“If you’re a real football player, this is the type of game that you love.”
The Dolphins (6-6) and Steelers (5-7) are among the teams fighting for the AFC’s last playoff spot, presently held by Baltimore (6-6).
While an 8-8 record might earn one team a trip to the postseason, the Dolphins know their best chance to advance, partly due to tiebreaker scenarios, is to win all four remaining games.
“When you’re in the playoffs, it’s one and done — you lose, you go home,” said Ellerbe, a member of the Super Bowl champion Ravens last season. “You gotta have that mindset right now — if we lose, we might not be able to get into the playoffs. More than likely, we won’t.”
The forecast called for a 60-percent chance of snow with game-time temperatures expected to be in the high 20s to low 30s.
“They’re saying ‘a wintery mix,’ whatever that is,” Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “I never heard that but we’re going to expect some type of snow. We know it’s going to be cold, but we’re already prepared for that. We practiced indoors and got it really cold.”
Despite currently calling Miami home, many Dolphins have played in cold-weather games during their high school, college and/or pro careers.
“I think the cold weather is a mindset thing more than anything,” receiver Brian Hartline said. “I’m not too concerned about it, unless some crazy storm comes through, and that’s not something you can prepare for.
“We’ll take precautions. We’ll have a couple different pairs of cleats, and go from there.”
Besides a playoff atmosphere and the cold weather, another anticipated storyline involves the return of Mike Wallace.
The receiver played four seasons with Pittsburgh before signing with the Dolphins as a free agent in the spring.
“It’s going to be my first time going back, I’m excited about it,” Wallace said earlier this week. “I already know how my welcome is going to be — it’s not going to be too pretty. I’m looking forward to it though. It’s exciting.”
Miami center Mike Pouncey also was eager to get to the Steel City, where his twin brother Maurkice, Pittsburgh’s center, has been recuperating from a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee suffered in a season-opening loss to Tennessee.
“I hate that’s he’s going through what he’s going through,” Mike Pouncey said. “It’s going to be fun to go up and see him and finally get to play against his football team.”
Mike Pouncey said he and his linemates — all of whom would be enjoying a Saturday dinner at Maurkice’s house — would be focused on helping the Dolphins establish a running game.
“That’s the key to our offense, running the football — it sets up everything else,” Mike Pouncey said.”That’s something we have to do good Sunday, run the football.”
Defensively, the Dolphins will face a unit led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wideout Antonio Brown, who already has 1,103 receiving yards and six TDs.
Miami has allowed just one touchdown to an opposition’s wide receiver this season.
“We don’t really keep tabs on that unless people tell us about it, but to hear about it is definitely a positive — it’s not a negative,” cornerback Brent Grimes said of the stat. “We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep that up.”