Dolphins-Steelers Preview: Will James Harrison Change His Dangerous Ways?
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Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. EST
Where: Sun Life Stadium (Miami, Florida)
Spread: Steelers by 3
Last Week: Miami beat Green Bay in overtime 23-20, Pittsburgh took it to Cleveland 28-10
Miami Injuries: DE Jared Odrick (Out-IR), LB Karlos Dansby (Probable-Knee), FB Lousaka Polite (Questionable-Knee)
Pittsburgh Injuries: DE Brett Keisel (Questionable-Hammy)
When Miami Has the Ball…
Miami is going to have a difficult time running the ball—at least initially—against the best front seven in football. Pittsburgh allows a league leading 64 rushing yards a game.
Their best bet in loosening up this dominant defense is to open up with the intermediate passing game. Also look for more draws and screens against a very aggressive defense. They are going to dare Chad Henne to beat them. The hope is they blitz him, because Henne is better facing fewer men in coverage versus eight men dropping back like in the New England game. However, Miami needs to protect him.
Pittsburgh pressures opposing quarterbacks like no other team, with a stable of explosive linebackers in James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Lamar Woodley, and James Farrior. Three of the four are of Pro Bowl quality, with Farrior the old man of the group at 35. Tight ends and running backs are going to have to excel in pass protection.
It's going to be interesting to see whether Harrison changes his playing style after undergoing a ton of scrutiny this week after knocking out two Cleveland players with helmet-to-helmet blows last weekend. The commissioner has instituted a stricter rule against hits like those, and there is zero tolerance. I'd love to see him try and deliver a cheap shot this week. Jake Long is going to put him on his ass.
If Henne doesn't look off his receivers down the field, safety Troy Polamalu is going to have a field day. He is the smartest safety in football and a pure playmaker all over the field.
Receiver Brandon Marshall needs to impose his will on the defense early. There is no corner on that team that can handle him one-on-one. He needs to make some plays after the catch. The Dolphins offensive front isn't going to consistently beat the Steelers at the line of attack so big plays will be critical.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball…
The Steelers love to pound the football. Only once this year has tailback Rashard Mendenhall not exceeded the 20-carry mark, and that was in a blowout win against Tampa. He's going to get the rock and it's up to the Dolphins front seven to stop him. He hasn't been efficient the last two weeks, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Miami needs to keep that going.
If you can take away the running game, Ben Roethlisberger can still beat you.
However he is prone to holding onto the ball too long in an effort to make the big play. That's where Cameron Wake and the Miami pass rush must take advantage. The Dolphins don't have a chance unless they can snag some takeaways. Knocking the heck out of Roethlisberger will lead to some fumbles.
Wake again has a very favorable matchup. Dinosaur right tackle Flozell Adams doesn't have the quickness to contain him, and if he isn't doubled it's going to be Green Bay (three sacks) all over again.
The Steelers have a nice group of wideouts starting with the dependable Hines Ward—one of the toughest men in the game. He is a smart possession receiver, but not a threat down field. The same cannot be said for Mike Wallace, who is averaging a ridiculous 25.0 yards per catch. He is their big-play threat on offense and cornerback Vontae Davis has to lock him down. Ben loves throwing to him and I would expect a Davis interception at some point.
Heath Miller is also a very solid tight end who has beat up the Dolphins in the past. Look for him to stay home in pass protection quite a bit on Sunday in an effort to derail Wake.
Miami Keys To The Game
- Pressure Ben Roethlisberger, force turnovers
- Special teams: Pin the Steelers back
- Downfield passing attack
Prediction - It's going to be a physical, and potentially ugly, football game. We could have ourselves a good old fashioned slugfest where both defenses are in control—that is if the Miami defense rises to the occasion. Can Miami deliver the upset against the best team in football? Sure, it's at home, but they would have to play lights out.
Pittsburgh 20 Miami 16
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