Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Wild Card Round
#6 Miami Dolphins (10-6) vs. #3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Heinz Field)
January 8th, 10:05 AM PT
It is another playoff game with a backup quarterback gearing up to start. The Miami Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill to a sprained left knee a few weeks ago and have to go with career backup quarterback Matt Moore. It will also be a tough battle for Miami because they are facing the explosive Steelers, who unlike last year, have Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown healthy and look to be the team with the best chance to take down the Patriots in Foxborough.
Pittsburgh has been playing sound football to the end year. They had to beat Baltimore in Week 16 for the division crown, and then rested all their main players and beat Cleveland the following week. The Steelers are the much more talented team and are the healthier team. The trio of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown is better than any trio in the NFL today. It will be hard for the Dolphins, who even when healthy, would struggle to go blow for blow with the Steelers offense.
Miami’s offense isn’t much to get excited about, even if Tannehill is healthy. They have a good, but inconsistent and young running back in Ajayi. He has the potential to go off, but after his fast start, he has not been able to get much going. In addition, the Steelers don’t have to worry about much except for Ajayi, so the Steelers will look to load the box. He might be effective, but will probably be limited by the Steelers defense. Ajayi is the only hope for a Miami victory, but if the Steelers entire focus is him, I trust Pittsburgh’s ability to shut him down.
#23 Jay Ajayi runs for 204 yards against Pittsburgh on October 16th, 2016
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The defenses are also mismatched. Even though the Steelers are having a down year on defense, they still are much better than the Dolphins. The Steelers rank 10th in the NFL in points against (20.4 ppg) and are 12th in yards against (342.6). The Dolphins rank 18th in points against (23.8 ppg) and rank 29th in yards against (382.6). It is easy to spot the discrepancies between the two defenses. The Steelers should dominate the defensive matchup.
One last thing to note, the Dolphins did beat the Steelers in Miami 30-15. Ben Roethlisberger was dealing with a knee injury and Jay Ajayi had a monster day running for 204 yards and two scores. This game is definitely worrisome for Pittsburgh fans, but Roethlisberger is now healthy, the Steelers will have a better game plan to deal with Ajayi, Miami will be without Tannehill, and will be on the road. I think there was a lot going against the Steelers in that game, and it was an aberration. I would be shocked if that game had any resemblance to one we are going to see Sunday morning.
In the end, there isn’t a lot to discuss in this game. One team has more talent, is healthier, has the better quarterback, is at home, and has playoff experience. The Steelers don’t have most things going for them in this matchup, they have everything. I would be shocked if this game stays close for very long.
Pittsburgh 31 Miami 13
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.