Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Date and Time: Sunday, January 8, 2017, 1:05 p.m. ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
NFL Playoff Odds at BookMaker.eu: Steelers -9.5, O/U 47.5
Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers TV Coverage: CBS
When Miami Has the Ball…
Of all of the teams that are stuck counting on a backup quarterback in the AFC playoffs, Miami is probably the one best suited to use its backup effectively to make a real run. The Dolphins are of course, inherently flawed in that they don't have much of a passing game to start with, but at least Matt Moore is a proven veteran who can step in and manage a game.
But it's the aggression of the Pittsburgh defense that would worry us the most if we were fans of the Fins. The Steelers have forced 13 turnovers on their seven-game winning streak, and they've forced at least one turnover in each of those games.
Miami is going to have to gamble for sure. We're going to talk about the Pittsburgh offense in a moment, but as a teaser, the team has scored at least 24 points in eight games in a row and has been fantastic ever since Le'Veon Bell came back from his three-game suspension at the start of the season. If the Dolphins think they're winning this game by piecing together a couple field goals and a TD or two, they're crazy.
So it's about taking risks and making big plays happen. Jarvis Landry can do just that. So can Kenny Stills. And we know that the Pittsburgh corners are beatable. But will Moore have the time and the arm strength to get the ball out of his hands and get the ball to them? That's the biggest question that we have.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball…
Ben Roethlisberger has started 17 playoff games in his career, and you'd think that he has a tremendous level of success in said games. In actuality? Not so much. He's completing just 61.5 percent of his passes and has 19 INTs in that span. Worse is the fact that he's been sacked 47 times, an average of 2.76 per playoff start in his career.
Roethlisberger hasn't had a QB rating of 100 or better in a postseason game since 2010, and that also marked the last time that Pittsburgh put 20+ points up in a playoff game.
All that sad, it's going to be up to the Miami defensive line to dominate in this game. It's so hard to pin your ears back against Pittsburgh, knowing that Bell can just slip right out of the backfield and bail out Big Ben at any given time on a short dump or screen pass. But let's face it: The Dolphins don't have a choice here. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh have to take this game over if Miami wants to another date with New England in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Dolphins only sacked Roethlisberger twice in the first meeting, but he was under an immense amount of pressure all game long, and that's what prompted him to throw two picks and ultimately leave the game hurt for a short period of time.
We'd also be remiss if we didn't mention the fact that Jay Ajayi had some x-rays taken after last week's game against New England. Ajayi had a 200+ yard day on the ground against Pittsburgh early in the year, and he's a coveted piece to the puzzle that must play well, too.
The X Factor
This is a big ask for Adam Gase as a rookie head coach to go on the road and coach the game of his life against the Steelers without his starting quarterback in the saddle. Gase was only an offensive coordinator for three years, and when he was running the Denver offense, it was really Peyton Manning calling the shots, particularly at the line of scrimmage.
Effectively, Gase has never called a playoff game in his career. Is he going to have the right answers, especially for Moore when the going gets tough and those Terrible Towels start waiving around in the frigid conditions in the Steel City? That's perhaps the biggest factor that most will ignore in this game.