All week long I have been pissing off Steeler nation to the point that they actually said I was trolling. On this site. How can you troll on your own site? In any case, my bold prediction above, stating these Miami Dolphins will beat those Pittsburgh Steelers, won’t find it’s way to some Steeler player locker, some coaches comment, or for that matter any one on the Dolphins as well, but it will likely add more to the already flustered black and yellow steel town fans who already hate me for saying James Harrison acted like a clown.
The Dolphins are not a better team than the Steelers, not record wise, and not talent wise. But they do match up very well against them and the youth of the Dolphins players are starting to show some signs of veteran qualities. Offensively and defensively the Dolphins have the right players at the right positions with the right talent to keep this game well within their reach.
Not simply to keep the game close in the end but to win the game outright.
Offensively the Dolphins will have their hands full with one of the leagues top 3 rushing defenses and a blitz scheme like few others. The offensive line has been unable to open quality holes for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams this season but that means nothing in a game where the running offense is likely going to be used to keep defenses honest. But don’t be surprised if the Dolphins pass first game-plan doesn’t open a running game that has been lacking.
The Steelers are ranked 24th against the pass and the Dolphins actually are doing well this year in that department and despite games against formidable defensive lines such as the Vikings and the Jets, the Phins have done well protecting Chad Henne. The Steelers know this and on the surface it seems logical to open the game by trying to force Henne into throws he doesn’t want to make.
The Dolphins can use a heavy pass rush to their advantage with quick throws and TE screens. The RB’s will likely be held in the back-field to protect Henne but that does not mean soft flair passes won’t be made. Henne if asked to make these throws has to keep them up over the lifted defenders arms and keep an eye down-field for potential LB reads who can take it home.
Still, if the Steelers blitz often, underneath hand-offs following play action passes will allow Ronnie Brown to get out of the mass of bodies at the line of scrimmage and find daylight in front of him. For the first time in years, the Dolphins need to use the pass to set up the run and hope that the Steelers bring a lot of blitzes to allow for that breaking run.
Brandon Marshall will likely be blanketed by the Steeler’s secondary so don’t expect to see much production in terms of catch counts. Brian Hartline has been used very seldom this season and will likely draw man-to-man coverage with little over the top protection. This could be his big game of the year, especially if the Steelers assign their hard hitting safety Troy Polamalu to the slot guy Davone Bess or bring him at Chad Henne. Henne should start working on this 20 yard over the top floaters to Hartline, he will likely be throwing a few this Sunday.
Offensively the Dolphins should be able to move the ball with 4 to 5 yard passes that will eventually pull the rushing Steeler defense off the line and into coverage. If they can keep themselves in third and short situations, the offense will keep the chains moving and find the running game later in the game to come alive.
While the Dolphins will find it hard to simply win offensively, it will take a strong showing on defense for the Phins to really take the game over. Pass rush specialist Cameron Wake will have his hands full at the line of scrimmage and then, if he gets to Ben Roethlisberger, he still has to take the QB down. Big Ben is not a mobile QB but his body size alone makes him just as hard to take down as a Vince Young.
Playing in his second game of a young season, Big Ben will look to continue the success he had last week Vs. Cleveland, but the Dolphins don’t have the Cleveland defense. Vontae’ Davis and Jason Allen have been playing superb ball this year and the Pittsburgh WR’s are not going to get any breaks this week. Hines Ward is a savvy veteran who has controlled the Miami secondary in the past but youngster Chris Clemons at safety will help keep him underneath the long route allowing Davis or Allen to play solid man coverage.
The Steeler passing game is not great but those statistics were prior to the return of Roethlisberger. The Steelers are 9th in the league in rushing and the Dolphins have been solid for the first two quarters before surrendering big gains in the 3rd and 4th. The Phins need to attack Pittsburgh in the same way they did Green Bay. Take away the pass and force the Steelers to beat them on the ground. Rashard Mendenhall is not yet a Pro-Bowl caliber runner but he is strong and runs well upfield instead of side to side. In the open he is difficult to take down. If the Phins can stop the Steelers from successfully rushing the ball, they will put the ball and the games into the hands of their secondary.
Karlos Dansby will play a big role in the game this week as he will often find himself covering TE Heath Miller and supporting the run. With Jared Odrick out for the year, the Dolphins may employ NT/DT Randy Starks out at the end again in hopes of keeping Big Ben our of sync,
The Dolphins can win this game. Mental errors will allow the savvy Steelers to take advantage of the mis-cues and if the Dolphins can come away from the hard-hitting men in black without any turnovers, it will be a testament to a discipline that has been lacking.
Prediction: Dolphins 24 – Steelers 13