After the weight of winning the division was lifted off their shoulders, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be able to happily rest their stars this week against the Cleveland Browns. There are now two possible playoff opponents for Pittsburgh- Kansas City or Miami.
Casual fans might have the wrong answer in mind of which one the Steelers would rather face. In Week 4 the Steelers torched the Chiefs 43-13. In Week 6 the Dolphins hosted Pittsburgh and beat them 30-15. A lot of things have changed since Week 6 though.
Scenario 1: Kansas City Chiefs
Ben Roethlisberger and the offense scored 22 points in the first quarter against the Chiefs the first time around, but it most likely won’t be that easy again. The Chiefs have been bulldozing through the rest of the league capturing 9 wins in 11 games, not to mention they also play in leagues top division this year.
With a defense that can lock you up and an offense that tries to control the clock as much as anyone, another game against the Chiefs could swing the other way.
Justin Houston is back, as he was inactive due to injury in Week 4 and is an absolute monster off the edge.
Tyreek Hill has taken the league by storm and if the impressive duo of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott weren’t around, he might be the offensive rookie of the year. It was not long ago that he was thought to just be a threat on special teams, and now he is catching deep balls and rushing for touchdowns as well. This Chiefs team is dangerous on all three aspects of the game, so if you are off just a little they can capitalize.
In the first matchup, the Steelers beat the Chiefs secondary deep repeatedly. Sammie Coates got loose on the first offensive possession for a 47-yard bomb, and he has not been any bit of a threat since injuring his fingers.
Plus, after the Steelers had quite a few missed tackles against the Ravens on Christmas day, tackling Hill in the open field and Travis Kelce in general isn’t the best matchup.
Scenario 2: Miami Dolphins
This game had a bad Mike Tomlin feel from the start, as one of the biggest knocks on him is that he doesn’t win the easy games. It didn’t help his resume at the time either as Miami looked like a pretty bad team, but now they are obviously respectable since they are in the playoffs. Making the playoffs isn’t an easy feat, unless you play in the AFC South.
In the Week 6 battle, Roethlisberger went down, but was able to come back in and finish the game. A healthy Roethlisberger for a full 60 minutes will be a major key for Pittsburgh.
On the Dolphins side of the ball, Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has proven to be an impressive back- having a total of three 200-yard games this season. If the Steelers want to beat the Dolphins they will have to control the line of scrimmage and get to Ajayi quickly.
The biggest difference for the Dolphins will be that they will likely be without their franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, because he went down with a knee injury. In to relieve has been the veteran, Matt Moore. The vet has done everything that the Dolphins have needed him to do. He threw for 4 touchdowns in his first start of the year, as he murdered the New York Jets and threw for another 2 td’s in his win against the Buffalo Bills last week.
The offensive line and a solid run game have helped Moore immensely. He has only been sacked once in both of his starts.
The Miami defense will also be without star safety Reshad Jones, who made a huge diving interception when the two teams faced earlier.
The Dolphins were able to beat the Steelers with a hobbled Big Ben and one of the best rushing performances of the year
Now there have not been many differences from the Steelers on the offensive side of the ball other than Ladarius Green being available, and it is yet to be known if that will happen since he is in the concussion protocol.
On the defensive side there has been big changes though. Artie Burns has become a full-time starter and leads the team with three interceptions. Sean Davis is now starting at safety and has helped the team in all aspects. Bud Dupree is off the IR and now starts along with James Harrison, as the team went away from a rotation at outside linebacker.
While it would be nice for Steeler Nation to face a backup quarterback, all that matters is if the team shows up on both sides of the ball. Whoever they play, it should be competitive.