Well, that was just what the doctor ordered for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In all phases of the game the Steelers dominated the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field Sunday, resulting in a dismantling 30-12 blowout win in frigid temperatures on the banks of the Allegheny River.
With all of that said, it’s time for a playoff version of positional grades from the Dolphins game.
QB — B
Ben Roethlisberger was only asked to throw the ball 18 times on the day, but the veteran signal caller completed 13 of them for 188 yards, most of which came after the catch against a banged up Miami secondary.
Roethlisberger started hot, throwing a bubble-screen to Antonio Brown for a 50-yard touchdown on the open drive before then finding Brown on the very next drive for a 62-yard catch-and-run.
In the second half, Roethlisberger cooled off a bit and threw two picks, one of which came with the Steelers deep in Dolphins territory. Overall though, Roethlisberger was solid while being asked to do very little on a day in which the Steelers dominated on the ground.
RB — A
With all of the talk coming into the game surrounding Miami’s Jay Ajayi maybe being a better running back than Le’Veon Bell (which was an absolute joke), Bell simply went out and massacred the Miam run defense, racking up a playoff franchise-record 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, passing Franco Harris’s 158 yards rushing.
Bell was terrific behind a strong offensive line, showcasing his patented patience, wiggle and burst on the ground. In fact, Bell carried the load entirely on Pittsburgh’s third scoring drive, carrying the rock on all 10 plays, racking up 78 yards and the score.
WR — B+
Brown finished with five catches for 124 yards and two scores in the win, putting the game out of reach early, but 84 had three big drops, including one that went right through his hands for an interception for Miami.
Outside of Brown, rookie Demarcus Ayers received the most work at receiver, finishing with two catches for 21 yards, including a big third-down conversion on the first drive, leading to AB’s 50-yard touchdown.
Eli Rogers finished with one catch for 19 yards and took a bad penalty on a crack back block on Ayers’ second catch (hate the rule and the call), while Darrius Heyward-Bey added one catch for 10 yards on the opening drive.
Again, the numbers are low due to the offensive attack, but overall — outside of AB’s drops and Eli’s penalty — the receiving corps was solid.
TE — A
Jesse James had just one reception for six yards, but he was able to go up and high-point the football on a bad throw by Roethlisberger that should have been picked off in the middle of the field.
Outside of his one reception, James had a strong day blocking, getting out on the edge to spring Brown on his 50-yard touchdown, while David Johnson was instrumental as a run blocker, opening up the lane for Bell on his second touchdown of the game.
OL — A+
It took awhile for the Dolphins to even get a hand on Roethlisberger on the day, while the group of five up front dominated on the ground, allowing the Steelers to roll to 179 yards (5.1 yards per carry) in cold conditions at Heinz Field.
Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro were instrumental to Bell’s success, pulling to their left often to kick out unblocked Miami defenders, while Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster did a nice job of getting into space to open up holes for Bell.
DL — A-
The Steelers were very short-handed along the defensive line coming into this game, but Javon Hargrave and Stephon Tuitt stepped up in a big game to slow down Ajayi on the ground while putting heat on Matt Moore in the pocket.
Hargrave took control of the game early, pushing Kraig Urbik into the backfield on more than one occasion, while Tuitt cleaned things up off the edge, recovering a fumble in the win with the Dolphins in the red zone right before the half.
LB — A+
What a game by the Pittsburgh linebacking crops in a game that they absolutely had to have it against Ajayi and company.
James Harrison had the best game of any Steelers defender, recording 10 tackles (6.5 solo), one sack, one forced fumble, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. Harrison was nearly unblockable at times, causing problems off the edge all game long for Miami.
Opposite of Harrison, Bud Dupree showed a glimpse of just how much of a problem he can become when he puts it all together as a pass rusher.
Ja’Wuan James had a tough time containing Dupree, who broke the internet with a massive hit on Moore out of the pocket that knocked the QB out of the game for a play while drawing a personal foul on the hit. The second-year linebacker finished with six tackles, half a sack and two quarterback hits and even drew a blatant holding call on James in the second quarter because he beat him so cleanly.
In the middle, Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons had great games, flying all over the place to make play after play, playing a big part in holding the Dolphins to just 52 rushing yards on the day (Ajayi had 33 on 16 carries).
Timmons finished with a game-high 14 tackles (eight solo), two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits, while Shazier added six tackles, one interception, one tackle for loss, two quarterback hits and one pass deflection.
DB — B-
This could be a tough grade, but the Dolphins were able to get loose for two 35+ yard receptions on the day as Kenny Stills beat William Gay early for a 37-yard catch, while DeVante Parker added a 36-yarder against Ross Cockrell later in the game.
Overall, Cockrell was strong coming up in run support, as was Mike Mitchell as both finished with eight tackles each.
The Dolphins didn’t really test Artie Burns on the day as the rookie finished with just four tackles, as did rookie safety Sean Davis, who left the game briefly with a shoulder injury before returning.
Overall though, the secondary did a great job of making the tackle after the catch, limiting YAC plays for the Dolphins.
Special Teams — C-
Kenyan Drake had a 58-yard kickoff return against the kick coverage unit, but did force a fumble by Jakeem Grant early in the game that the Dolphins were able to get back.
Chris Boswell missed his first extra point of his career, but did bounce back with a 34-yard field goal later in the game.
Special teams also had a handful of penalties on the day, putting the Steelers behind the 8-ball on some drives.
That being said though, the Steelers were forced to punt just twice as Jordan Berry did a good job of kicking away from the dangerous Jarvis Landry.