As we’ve done in the past, the keys to the Pittsburgh Steelers winning (or losing) today’s game. Three things that need to happen for them to end up on the right side of the score and vice versa in tonight’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
My prediction is at the bottom.
THE STEELERS WILL WIN IF…
1. The Run Game (Finally) Finds Traction
One of these games it has to come true, right? Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ front seven is built pretty similarly to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ front. A bit old-school, tough up front with a big man in the middle in Christian Wilkins. Controlling him will be key but across the board, the Dolphins’ front is physical, aggressive, and slant and shoot downhill. I can see them blowing up a ton of runs. Now, Miami’s linebackers aren’t as strong as the combo as Devin White/Lavonte David but an unblocked linebacker will still ruin any chance of a run game. Pittsburgh’s been a mess communicating in the run game and the times they’re on the same page, they’re simply not executing.
2. O-Line Handles Third Down Stunts
Miami’s struggled to generate pressure this season, no one has more than two sacks, but they’re sending plenty of people. It’s a creative front that will challenge a young offense in Pittsburgh playing on the road. On third down especially the Dolphins like to run stunts and games. Alert for a head-up nose tackle on passing situations. That means they’re going to run a twist with a defensive tackle or end. Pittsburgh has to be able to pass that stuff off well. Overall this year, they haven’t been too bad but tonight will be a test.
3. Linebackers Cover Well
Everyone knows about the speed Miami has on the outside in WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. I imagine Pittsburgh will have a scheme, plenty of two-high, to try to eliminate the deep ball. That’ll leave linebackers solo underneath against guys like TE Mike Gesicki. To be fair, Gesicki has been far quieter this year, not nearly as involved in Mike McDaniel’s new scheme, but he’s still a red zone threat and I could see him winning 1v1 against Steelers’ linebackers. They haven’t been terrible in coverage, those guys made plays last week, but athletically, Gesciski is a different challenge than say Tampa Bay’s Cameron Brate.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
1. Dolphins’ Defense Fools Kenny Pickett
Miami’s defense is creative in the back end too with a secondary that likes to hold and disguise coverages. They’re not playing at full strength, dealing with plenty of injuries, but they do a nice job forcing QBs to process post-snap by rotating and spinning coverages. Pickett will need to be one step ahead to decipher what Miami’s running and where to go with the ball which can be tough against a blitz-heavy team like the Dolphins are. But one bad INT could doom this team so Pickett will need to follow Mike Sullivan’s “rules” to reading coverages well.
2. They Don’t Have The Need For Speed
An obvious one. Pittsburgh surely has the intention of minimizing Miami’s speed at receiver. So has every other team. And no defense has done a good job this year, Hill and Waddle posting big numbers. As DC Teryl Austin noted Thursday, Hill and Waddle are speedsters but not just 9-route type of players. They run the full route tree, Hill especially, and he can catch short and run long. Pittsburgh’s far healthier in the secondary but they have a heck of a matchup to come back to.
3. Alex Highsmith Goes Quiet
One of the offseason’s biggest free agent signings didn’t get the headlines it deserved. Miami signing stud LT Terron Armstead was one of the splashiest moves any team made, their replacement for Laremy Tunsil. Granted, Armstead has struggled with injuries and as of this writing Friday evening, is questionable for Sunday night’s game. If he plays, Alex Highsmith will need to be able to win those 1v1 matchups. If he doesn’t, then Highsmith better put on a show. He’s had a breakout season, already more sacks this year than all he had in 2021, but there’s still a long ways for him and this pass rush to go.
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