This Sunday the Miami Dolphins will travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in a game with serious playoff implications. If the Dolphins win, they move one step closer to the postseason and would essentially eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention. If the Steelers win, they continue to stay alive in the playoff hunt and would put the ‘Phins in a win-or-go home situation for the remainder of the season. While there are a number of things I think the Dolphins need to do to win this game in one of the NFL’s toughest atmospheres, I think a Miami victory relies on one major assignment: stopping QB Ben Roethlisberger.
To me, the key to stopping Ben Roethlisberger is keeping him within the pocket and forcing him to beat you with the original play. Roethlisberger is a rare specimen. He is probably the only quarterback in the league who is not particularly fast yet is still extremely dangerous outside of the pocket. He will never run past you, but he has an uncanny ability to stay upright despite numerous attempts to get him to the ground, and is at his best when defenses chase him out of the pocket and disrupt the original Pittsburgh play on offense. Think about it. How many quarterbacks actually do better when they are flushed out of the pocket and are forced to throw on the run? Very few. Big Ben makes seemingly hopeless plays look like backyard-football miracles.
Miami must keep Roethlisberger in the pocket while still rushing him and disrupting his timing. My message to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is this: put your best pass rushers on the field (at the same time) and let them loose! This is not the game to leave Dion Jordan, Cameron Wake or Olivier Vernon on the sideline. Give Big Ben different looks, blitz different players and use our incredible pass rush to bring the heat. Now, that being said, here is a message to the Miami defense: make sure you TACKLE completely. How many times this season have we seen a Dolphin defender make a great play, only to forget to tackle completely and let the opposition go? It seems like too many times to count. Big Ben is arguably the toughest player in the NFL to bring to the ground. It may take some wrapping up. It may take more than one person. Whatever it takes, the ‘Fins must tackle and stop number seven.
If Miami can successfully keep Big Ben in the pocket and wrestle him to the ground when they get the chance, then I believe they will leave Pittsburgh victorious. If they give Ben Roethlisberger time (as the Ravens did on the final drive of the Thanksgiving game), Big Ben will shred this Dolphins defense apart and it will be a long day. That being said, I believe it will be a great game and I like Miami’s chances.