Be sure to follow me on Twitter: @PhinManiacs
The Miami Dolphins head to Pittsburgh tomorrow in a must-win game in order to have a good chance of making the playoffs. The Steelers remind me a lot like the Carolina Panthers. They have a quarterback that is hard to take down and can keep plays alive, a quarterback that can throw the ball deep with accuracy, and a receiving and tight end group that is one of the best in the league. Fortunately, the Steelers defense isn’t nearly as good as the Panthers. If the Dolphins can contain the Steelers on offense, they should be able to walk away from this game with a win.
When the Dolphins are on defense…
Antonio Brown is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL as he leads the NFL with 85 receptions. The good news for the Dolphins is that they have a legitimate shutdown corner in Brent Grimes who I assume will shadow him throughout the game, much like he’s done against other number one receivers such as Steve Smith, Vincent Jackson, and so forth. Grimes should have no problems handling Brown throughout the entire game.
With that said, they still have speedy Emmanuel Sanders and a big body in Jerricho Cotchery, much like the Panthers had in Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell. Sanders and Cotchery are very good players and the rest of the secondary will have to step up and contain them. It would be a huge boost if Dmitiri Patterson can get back on the field. That will essentially neutralize two of their best receivers. The Dolphins should get creative and bring Dion Jordan on the field to cover Heath Miller, who has proven to be dangerous.
As far as Roethlisberger goes, he has been on fire the past three weeks. During that time, he has thrown eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. Roethlisberger is also extremely hard to take down, much like Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. The good news is that Roethlisberger cannot run like Newton and Luck can.
Here’s more good news. Kevin Coyle has gone up against Ben Roethlisberger 18 times over the past years as a coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. Coyle knows all about Roethlisberger and his tendencies. This should be a huge advantage for the Dolphins.
More good news is that Danniell Elerbe has seen Roethlisberger up close as a Baltimore Raven over the past several years. He knows how hard it is to take him down. Want even better news? This entire defense has gone up against two tough quarterbacks this season and should know what to expect.
How about one more piece of good news? It’s supposed to be rainy and snowy in Pittsburgh tomorrow. The Steelers rely on deep passes and keeping plays alive to sustain their offense. Their offense will not survive tomorrow in those elements.
When the Dolphins are on offense…
The good news for the Dolphins is that they rely on short and intermediate passes to keep their offense going. They only throw it deep several times a game. This will help the Dolphins tomorrow in the elements. Tannehill will be able to snap the ball, get it out quickly, and won’t need to battle the wind, rain, and snow on deep passes. They will be able to continue what they have always done the entire season.
The Steelers defense is old and I expect them to wear down over the course of the game, especially if the Dolphins strike quickly, employ a no huddle offense, and keep the chains moving throughout the game. LaMarr Woodley, middle linebacker for the Steelers, is questionable with a calf injury. If he is out, that’s a huge blow to the middle of their field and I expect the Dolphins to expose that.
If Daniel Thomas comes back, that should be a boost to the offense because the Dolphins will need to be able to establish the run in these poor elements and especially because the Steelers have given up 4.1 yards per rushing attempt to opponents.
When the Dolphins are on special teams…
Antonio Brown is the punt returner for the Steelers and is very dangerous. He has three returns of 40 yards or more and is one of the top punt returners in the league. Brandon Fields will need to do a good job cornering him and not outkicking the coverage so the Dolphins could get a good containment on him.
Shaun Susham is 24 for 26 on field goal attempts this year and is very accurate. However, remember that it’s going to be rainy, snowy, and windy. This may have a big impact on his kicking game and we should hope that it does.
With that said, Caleb Sturgis has been struggling as of late. I expect the elements to have an impact on his game tomorrow. Heinz Field is notorious for wreaking havoc on kickers and tomorrow will be no different. If the Dolphins have to attempt a long field goal, we all need to pray and hold our breaths because it’s not going to be easy.
As far as the Steelers punt coverage, they rank 30th in the league in gross and net punting average. Hopefully there will be some good opportunities for Thigpen to break free and get a long gain and maybe even a touchdown.
The Bottom Line
This game is going to come down to Tannehill. He should be able to shred the Steelers secondary and put up a lot of yards. If he can do that while limiting his mistakes, the Dolphins should walk away with a victory. I actually expect the poor weather to help the Dolphins tomorrow as it plays to the strength of their passing game and hurts the Steelers offense. I predict that the Dolphins will win, 24 – 14.