After starting the year an uninspiring 0-4, the 5-7 Pittsburgh Steelers have somehow managed to remain on the cusp of relevancy. However, after Thanksgiving’s gut-wrenching loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers have their work cut out for them if they expect to snatch an improbable playoff berth over the season’s final quarter.
And that work begins this Sunday against one of the teams currently ahead of them in the standings, the Miami Dolphins.
Of course, this game means plenty for the Dolphins as well. Currently the AFC’s seventh seed, a victory for the Dolphins would help them keep pace for the AFC’s last playoff spot and would be a major blow to one of the teams still in the running.
One of the biggest storylines heading into this game is the homecoming of former Steeler Mike Wallace. After beginning the year slowly, Wallace has notched 209 yards and two touchdowns in his last two outings. Likely matched up with Ike Taylor, who’s been torched by the likes of Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon recently, Wallace should have ample motivation to take it to his former team.
You think Mike Wallace likes this: #Steelers have allowed league-high 10 scrimmage plays of 50+ yards, seven via the pass.— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) December 6, 2013
Nonetheless, Wallace’s return to the Steel City won’t only be motivating him to have a big outing.
Wallace’s former teammates and “Young Money” members, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, are both on their way to career-best seasons in the wake of his departure. The trio plans on getting together for dinner this weekend, but rest assured, Brown and Sanders have every intention of outshining their former teammate in his return to Heinz Field.
Also of interest is the Steelers' sudden turnaround in regard to ball security. After hemorrhaging the football to start the year, the Steelers haven’t turned the ball over once in their past 15 quarters.
However, the pessimist in me fears that run could come to an end against the Dolphins.
The Dolphins haven’t failed to force a turnover in a single game this year. That includes outings against offenses led by Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Ben Roethlisberger has been playing remarkably efficient football lately, but with an injury-riddled offensive line and Cameron Wake gunning for him, it’s tough to see Roethlisberger not forcing at least one ill-advised pass.
Dating back to 2004, the Steelers have won their last five games against the Dolphins. These include a memorable 3-0 outing played in a torrential downpour in 2007 and a controversial 23-22 finish in 2010.
As expected, this contest between two mediocre teams isn’t garnering the attention that some of the bigger matchups this week have.
Nevertheless, these two teams seem evenly matched and are fighting for their playoff livelihood at this point. Expect this under-the-radar game to prove to be one of the best of the week.