The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Miami Dolphins Sunday on the road and they’re looking to extend their record to 5-1. Below are seven things that I believe the team will need to do in order to come away with their fifth win of the season.
Run, Le’Veon, run – Sunday’s game in Miami might include some rain and if that indeed winds up being the case, the offense should lean heavily on the run. The Dolphins have given up an average of 150 yards per game rushing so far this season and last week surrendered over 200 yards on the ground to the Tennessee Titans. If that’s not enough, the Dolphins defense has surrendered the second-most amount of runs of 10 yards or more in the league heading into Week 6. The Steelers should look to exploit the edges of the Dolphins defense with running back Le’Veon Bell and force the Miami defensive ends to play the run on their way to rushing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
DHB is fast, too – Even if wide receiver Sammie Coates dresses Sunday, he isn’t likely to be 100% as he’s reportedly dealing with a fractured left index finger. While Coates is slowly establishing himself as one of the better deep pass wide receivers in the league, the Steelers also have another wide receiver who can stretch the field with speed in the form of veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey. While the Dolphins defense has only given up 10 deep pass receptions all season, they’ve only faced 22 such attempts and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was 4-for-4 against them a few weeks ago. Roethlisberger is currently the best deep pass quarterback in the league and while he’s unlikely to take make several long throws on Sunday if it’s raining, he will take his calculated shots down the field with a few likely going to either Coates or Heyward-Bey. Look for Roethlisberger to pick on Dolphins cornerback Tony Lippett, who will likely start in place of the injured Xavier Howard. It will also be interesting to see if Dolphins safety Reshad Jones is able to play Sunday as he’s questionable with groin injury. If he can’t go, the Dolphins will be without their best secondary player and that’s yet another reason to think Roethlisberger should have some chances to connect deep.
Rub their linebackers the wrong way – We saw what happened last Sunday when the New York Jets tried to play some cover-2 with man coverage underneath. If you missed it, the Steelers used tight end Jesse James quite a few times as pick-setter (legal rub) in order to free Bell out of the backfield. With wide receiver Eli Rogers now back from his injury, the Steelers will have two great options to use in combination with James and that should be very difficult to stop if the Dolphins decide they want to try and play some cover-2 with man underneath.
Watch those ends – While I do expect Roethlisberger to take a few deep shots on Sunday, the rest of the time I hope he gets rid of the football quickly and especially if it rains. While the Steelers offensive line successfully handled the Jets big and physical front four last weekend, they’ll get a different kind of test on Sunday from the Dolphins. This time they’ll face defensive ends that are not as physical but quicker and more athletic. Mario Williams might be old, but he can still get after the quarterback and he’ll be going up against Steelers tackle Chris Hubbard, who will be making his second career start. On the other side, I’m sure we’ll see Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake get some runs at Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. When Wake is not on the field, Jason Jones will likely be on the right side of the Dolphins defense. Those three defensive ends haven’t started off the season well at all when it comes to sacks, so they’ll be looking to get on track against the Steelers inexperienced tackles and they’ll likely try to do it around the edges. Hopefully Roethlisberger is able to get the football out quickly most of the afternoon and avoid taking too many hits.
Treat Jarvis like defenses treat AB – Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry is easily the team’s best offensive weapon and quarterback Ryan Tannehill looks his way quite a bit and especially on 3rd downs. The Steelers might decide to let cornerback Ross Cockrell follow Landry around on Sunday. Whether that happens or not, the Steelers would be wise to treat Landry the same way teams treat wide receiver Antonio Brown and that means bracket him with two players most of the game. The Steelers need to force Tannehill to go to his other eligibles in order to move the football through the air.
3rd and Tannehill – Heading into Sunday, Tannehill is 18 of 32 passing on 3rd and 5 or more and only 8 of those completions resulted in first downs. He’s also been sacked 5 times on 3rd and 5 or more so far this season. In other words, the Steelers defense needs to force as many 3rd and 5s or more in the game as possible as their likely to get off of the field at a high rate if they do.
Don’t take Grant for granted – Dolphins return man Jakeem Grant is quickly proving himself to be a weapon on special teams so far this season. the rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Texas Tech is averaging 14.7 on punt returns in addition to 26.5 yards on kickoffs,. Last week against the Titans, Grant returned a punt 74-yards for a touchdown. The Steelers simply cant let him flip the field on Sunday so their coverage units will have to be on point all afternoon.