By Danny Cox
A seven-game win streak to end the season shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers are a legitimate threat, and that they’re serious contenders in the AFC. The Steelers are taking on the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs, and many Pittsburgh fans are feeling confident about this upcoming game against an opponent who was recently blown out by the New England Patriots in the regular season finale.READ MORE: Pleas To Release Terminally-Ill Washington County Man Awaiting Trial Have Failed
But, Pittsburgh players (and their fans) shouldn’t get too cocky—the Dolphins may actually be one of the most dangerous teams remaining in contention for a championship.
Miami Dolphins’ Season Record: 10-6
After starting out the season with a 1-4 record, Fins fans were already saying “maybe next year.” Since then, they went 9-2 to finish out the season, despite their starting quarterback missing the final few games of the year. The game that kick-started a six-game win streak was a big 30-15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 6.
Dolphins on Offense
Miami doesn’t have a very strong offense, despite having a number of big-time talents. Right now, the biggest question of the playoffs is if Ryan Tannehill will return to the starting line-up in place of Matt Moore. It is possible that he could come back from the sprained ligaments in his left knee, but the Dolphins aren’t saying what will happen just yet.
No matter who is under center, the Steelers will have to keep their eyes on Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker in the passing game. All three are big-time threats who know how to get behind the secondary and find the end zone—they have a combined 15 touchdowns on the season.
Dolphins on DefenseREAD MORE: Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Discusses District's Future With City Council Members
Despite having an offense in the bottom 10 of the league and the fourth-worst defense in the NFL, the Dolphins have somehow managed to have a great season and make it into the playoffs. Miami is giving up an average of more than 23 points per game and more than 382 total yards per game.
One thing the Steelers need to do is have Le’Veon Bell exploit the holes in a Dolphins unit that has given up more than 120 yards per game on the ground. With DeAngelo Williams healthy again, Pittsburgh should be able to get the running game going in a big way, which will then open up the passing game even more.
Dolphins Players To Watch: RB Jay Ajayi and DT Ndamukong Suh
Jay Ajayi: The Dolphins may not do a lot on offense, but in just his second season, they have found their running back of the future. Jay Ajayi still has some kinks to work out, and he only had four 100-yard games in 2016, but three of those four games were actually 200-yard rushing games and one came against the Steelers. He is a dangerous back who may need a few carries to get started, but once he’s rolling, he’s hard to stop.
Ndamukong Suh: He’s big, strong and extremely volatile. Ndamukong Suh is a force to be reckoned with at all times and the New England Patriots may have awakened a sleeping giant last week. Suh has gone seven games without a sack, but LeGarrette Blount calling him “dirty” after last week’s game may have rejuvenated this Dolphins’ defense. Suh’s teammates are rallying around him and that is not good for Ben Roethlisberger.
This could be one of the most difficult games to call in the first round of the NFL playoffs, as it could go to either team and neither really has much of an advantage. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins have had long win streaks this season and have surprised a lot of people with how well they have played, but someone has to lose this week.MORE NEWS: COVID-19 In Pittsburgh: Pitt Center For Vaccine Research Explains How Variants Form And What They Mean
If the Pittsburgh Steelers play the way they know how to play, a victory over the Dolphins is not out of the question. Everyone needs to forget about the season finale, which saw mostly back-ups playing. Pittsburgh needs to do everything possible to stop Jay Ajayi and prepare for either Ryan Tannehill or Matt Moore at quarterback. The game plan is simple, but it needs to be executed flawlessly.