When watching the Dolphins openly fool themselves into thinking that they could handle the sub-freezing temperatures, give them a shirtless Ryan Shazier, totally unaffected by the temperatures, out there having a good time during pregame warm-up. When their slow safeties, Bacarri Rambo and Michael Thomas, who aren’t good for much more than playing in a Crackerjack box, are lined up close, expose them to a full dose of Antonio Brown, who drew first blood almost immediately. When they’re miserably cold, trailing by 14, and the last thing they want is to hit or be hit, turn loose the Juice behind a line full of revenge seeking roadgraters. The Dolphins offered the Steelers little in the way of resistance, on a frigid Sunday afternoon, in which the Steelers dominated in every way during a 30-12 wild card win.
The talk all week leading up to the game centered around Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins vaunted rushing attack. Could the Steelers could slow it down? Ajayi after all, had gashed the Steelers run defense for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns in a week 6 win that turned the Dolphins season around. Some people actually had the audacity to think that Ajayi could repeat that performance and help extend their season by one more week, but this was not the same Steelers team the Dolphins faced in week 6. This was a Steelers team that had Ryan Shazier and Bud Dupree this time, and one where everyone has gotten incrementally better on both sides of the ball every week since that loss. Simply put, the Steelers handed out justice yesterday, and put the Dolphins back in their place, extending their own season in the process.
Part I: Attack of the Killer B’s
For the first time since they have been together, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell were healthy and on the field together for a playoff game. It didn’t take long either, for the league’s best set of triplets to wreak havoc on the Dolphins defense. This game was nailbitingly close up until the opening coin toss, which the Dolphins won and opted to defer, and as it turns out, the coin toss is the only thing they would win on the day. No sooner had the Steelers offense taken the field following the opening kickoff, Antonio Brown was taking a screen pass 50 yards to the house. Following a quick 4 play Miami drive, the Steelers started their second possession from their own 10. Following two passes to Darius Heyward-Bey and Demarcus Ayers that netted 21 yards, and a 7 yard burst up the middle by LeVeon Bell, the Ben to Brown combination struck again.
On 2nd and 7 from the Steelers 38 yard line, Roethlisberger hit Brown on a quick slant with a perfect pass. As Antonio Brown raced through the Miami secondary on his way to the endzone, he gave a polite wave to Bacarri Rambo, waving bye-bye to Rambo as much as he was to the Dolphins season. With a quick 14-0 lead, the Steelers were in total control early, and for all intents and purposes, this one was already over. After the Fins responded with a field goal to make it 14-3, it was LeVeon Bell’s turn to put his own stamp on the game. On a 10 play 83 yard drive that literally consisted of Bell to the left, Bell to the right, and Bell up the middle to finish it off, the Steelers took a commanding 20-3 lead. Bell would later score his second touchdown on an 8 yard carry. He finished with 167 yards on 29 carries, setting an all-time postseason rushing record for the Steelers. Antonio Brown finished with 5 receptions for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.
Part 2: Defensive feeding frenzy
Like a school of great white sharks, the Steelers defense prowled the waters around the Dolphins looking to feed. Feeding is exactly what they did, on running back Jay Ajayi and quarterback Matt Moore. For anyone who expected a repeat of Ajayi’s 200 yard performance against the Steelers back in week six, the Steeler defense put the kibosh on that notion quickly. Outside of his game high 8 yard carry, all Ajayi could muster against the Steelers was 25 yards on his remaining 15 carries. For all of his efforts, he ended up leaving the game with a sprained AC joint in his shoulder. As for Matt Moore, he spent most of the game with an “I wish Steve Tanneyhill was healthy” look on his face. Moore was sacked 5 times, losing two fumbles, and was knocked down half a dozen other times. Apparently, after the vicious hit by Bud Dupree, Moore almost had TJ Yates talked into taking his place, until Yates saw the replay of the hit and staunchly declined the offer.
With the Steelers about as healthy as they have been all year, they appear to be peaking at just the right time. Their performance against the Dolphins resulted in their 8th win in a row and may have been their most complete performance during the current winning streak. Next, they travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, who they beat 43-14 at home in week 4. According to Mike Tomlin, the Steelers suffered no significant injuries, which includes the foot injury that had Ben Roethlisberger in a walking boot after the game. If the Steelers take their nasty disposition with them next week, and play with the same attitude as yesterday, All that will remain between them and a ninth trip to the Super Bowl will be the New England Patriots, who no one actually believes will lose to the Texans.