A Faint Heartbeat Keeps the Steelers' Playoff Hopes Alive

Vicki FarriesCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2009

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 26:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the NFL game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on November 26, 2007 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Defeating the Baltimore Ravens 23-20, the Steelers playoff hopes, although on life support, are still alive. They don’t control their own destiny and will need help from others this weekend.

Although chances are slim to none for the Steelers, this is not the first time they have found themselves with their backs up against the wall for a spot in the playoffs. Stranger things have happened for this team.

To get a wild card berth, the Steelers will need to win their final game against the Miami Dolphins (7-8) . A win over the Dolphins would at least earn Coach Tomlin his third consecutive winning season in Pittsburgh.  

In addition to the win over Miami, the Steelers must depend on losses from the Houston Texans, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens and/or the Denver Broncos.

These playoff scenarios mean nothing if the Steelers don’t defeat the Dolphins, which could be a problem since the Steelers are 2-5 on the road this season.

Challenges await both teams as they fight for a wild-card berth.

The Steelers are on a two-game win streak—defeating the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens—while the Dolphins experienced a two-game losing streak to the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans.

Isn’t it interesting; the Steelers can defeat good teams and lose to sub-par teams, while the Dolphins defeat sub-par teams and lose to the good ones? 

Both teams have defenses that have lost fourth-quarter leads after handling their opponents for three quarters. Both teams’ secondary has been torched by the pass.

The difference in the defenses is Miami has a productive cornerback, Vontae Davis, who has four interceptions, to zero by both Ike Taylor and William Gay of Pittsburgh.

Both teams have been challenged defensively throughout the season and have suffered major casualties with their starting lineups.

Although it is speculative that SS Troy Polamalu could play Sunday, the prognosis is close to doubtful. Polamalu has been quoted saying he will not play without a full week of practice. He has not had that opportunity this week.

The Dolphins suffered a loss of a sure-tackler at linebacker as Channing Crowder is out with a foot injury.

The Steeler defense must prepare for the Wildcat again, which the Dolphins like to run. This will be the second time they have to face this offensive scheme; the first time was against Cleveland three weeks ago where the Steelers lost, 13-6.

It will be interesting to see which defense prevails. Let us not forget, ex-Steeler LB Joey Porter has a vested interest in defeating the Steelers, other than as a wild-card hopeful.

Offensively, Dolphins RB Ricky Williams is hampered by a right shoulder injury, and three members of the offensive line are nursing some pretty serious injuries; such as shoulder, knee, foot and back ailments which will hamper their running game.

This will likely put first-year starter QB Chad Henne, for the most part, in passing situations. To date, Henne has completed three 300-yard games in four weeks. This cannot be good for a weakened Steeler secondary.

Henne is becoming a serious contender who has throughout the season rallied his team to come from behind; even in some of their losses, much like Roethlisberger.

The Steelers air-attack on the other hand, seems to be the flavor of the day. Roethlisberger recently defended offensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ play-calling to the media, stating that fans and alike should stay off his back, as he believes the offense is playing well. Hopefully, this so-called high power offense will create havoc on an already weakened Dolphin secondary.

The Dolphins’ secondary was blistered by Houston’s QB Matt Schaub last week, allowing 286 yards passing and two touchdowns.

The Steeler defense allowed Ravens QB Joe Flacco 166 yards passing and two touchdowns.

On the rush, Miami allowed 129 yards total to the Steelers 174 total yards, including the first 100-yard rusher in 32 games, Ray Rice.

The Dolphins are 4-3 at home this season and 5-6 against AFC opponents. The Steelers on the other hand are 5-6 against AFC opponents.


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