New series we’ll do each Sunday morning before kickoff. A prediction of what will happen if the Pittsburgh Steelers win, if they lose, and my final score prediction. My outlook on this afternoon’s game against the Miami Dolphins
The Steelers Will Win If…
– They run the ball effectively. Pretty obvious thought but I didn’t realize just how bad the Dolphins’ run defense is. It’s the worst in the league even with a highly acclaimed defensive line. They tied for dead last in yards per carry allowed, 4.8, with the San Francisco 49ers. Steelers shouldn’t have an issue establishing a ground game. Only threat is the Dolphins’ four down front which isn’t something the Steelers face all that often. Just once in the last month.
– Special teams doesn’t prove costly. There’s the obvious. Make all your kicks, avoid penalties, yadda yadda. But this unit is hurting with Anthony Chickillo definitely out and Robert Golden and Vince Williams possibly joining him. Golden is generally just a one-unit play, though he’s been added to the kick coverage unit recently, but he’s been the upback on the punt team, a critical spot. Fitzgerald Toussaint will continue to replace him.
Jakeem Grant, their return man, has not had a great year, but he’s a ridiculous open field threat and an aggressive returner. This can’t be the group that sends Pittsburgh packing. Don’t take it for granted.
– Roethlisberger works the middle of the field. That’s going to be the weak spot for the Dolphins’ defense. Challenge the safeties to cover a lot of ground, working back to the middle of the field after getting to their Cover 2 landmark. Both safeties entered the year as backups so it’s a group to exploit.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
– They can’t control the line of scrimmage defensively. Miami doesn’t have a whole lot of creativity in their running game. Not a lot of trades. Not much window dressing. Just line up and kick your butt. That’s what happened in the first meeting and it can’t happen again.
Guys have to get off blocks. Make tackles. Not allow Jay Ajayi into the second level untouched, a power back with a full head of steam. And rally to the football. It’s an 11 man job and this might be the biggest challenge they’ll have in a playoff run attempting to control the ground game.
A lack of technique also proved problematic in that first matchup. Run fits that weren’t sound and secondary players, like Artie Burns, not being able to adjust on the fly. Think that’ll change this time around.
– Todd Haley doesn’t utilize Antonio Brown well enough. I know I’ve complained about this countless times throughout the week but it was such a problem in that first game. AB can’t line up as the X receiver, split outside the numbers, on every single play, and let the Dolphins scheme him out of the game. The group is healthy again and experienced enough to be able to move around. Get AB in bunch looks. Move him in the slot. Narrow his split. Gotta open up the route tree for him and let your best weapon in the passing game do his thing.
– Cameron Wake takes over. Marcus Gilbert will have his hands full with Wake, who is one of the hottest pass rushers in the league. Sack in eight of the last ten games and 11.5 for the season. Doesn’t matter how good you look on paper. Getting pressured is a surefire way to lose games.
And the Steelers need their tight ends to be a threat over the middle so you can’t simply have him stay in and help all day.