AFC Game Of The Week
(6) Miami Dolphins at (3) Pittsburgh Steelers
Dolphins: Well, here’s a shocker. You can’t sit here with a straight face and tell me that you had them finishing in second place in the AFC East and as the sixth seed in the AFC Playoffs. They would be locked into the five had they won on Sunday against the Patriots, but that didn’t happen. As I said last week, I’ve been all over the place with my coach of the year choice, but now, I’m set and Adam Gase has my vote. There are guys who are meant to be head coaches in the NFL and he’s one of them. After a 1-4 start, the Dolphins reeled off six wins in a row and this hot streak coincided with the emergence of Jay Ajayi who provided a much-needed spark for the offense. He recorded three 200 yard rushing games but was held in check for the rest of the season. Ryan Tannehill was having the best year of his career until a knee injury sidelined him. The last time the Miami Dolphins were in the playoffs, it was after winning the division title under then first-year head coach, Tony Sparano. Now, they’re back and have a rematch with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Steelers: To some, this was supposed to be the best team in the AFC this year and they were expected to be the team that would win the AFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl 51. They got off to a very hot start, a 4-1 start to be exact. Then, the injuries hit them at key positions. Ben Roethlisberger was sidelined with a torn meniscus and in the games he missed, the Steelers lost. That 4-1 record at one point turned into a 4-5 record and even when they looked down, I never counted them out, especially with that offense and how they can strike at anytime and score points. Other than Antonio Brown, we didn’t know who would be that second option for Big Ben. Now, we do and it’s Ladarius Green who brings a much different dimension to the offense from the tight end position. He’s a speedy guy that can run the seam route and be flanked wide as a receiver. The defense is a big question mark as these playoffs approach.
Dolphins Player(s) To Watch: The running attack- When the Dolphins last played the Steelers, this was the start of Jay Ajayi going ballistic. Last week in their finale against the Browns, Isaiah Crowell ran for 152 yards and the Browns as a team rushed for over 200. Watch the film and exploit what they can’t do and that stops the run.
Steelers Player To Watch: Stephon Tuitt– He missed the last two games with a knee injury, but he is expected to play on Sunday and give the Steelers the needed help it needs on the defensive line. He’s a big part of their run defense and in the second half of the season, the Steelers played better defense against the run.
Prediction: This is a much different Steelers team that the Dolphins will see on Sunday afternoon. They will all be 100 percent healthy. Le’Veon Bell, who’s missed the Steelers last two appearances in the playoffs will be making his playoff debut and you will automatically see the difference he makes when he’s on the field. I like the Steelers in this one. Steelers 31 Dolphins 17