Dolphins vs Steelers: Three Key Matchups

Let me start off by saying first that Lousaka Polite was robbed and it's a damn shame. He should be a Pro Bowler this season and it's a joke that he was snubbed. It's a complete joke.

Anyways, while many want to look ahead to the offseason already after back-to-back losses that all but ended Miami's playoff hopes, the players are sure to keep grinding - that's just how this team was built; it's what these players do. So like them, we'll keep on grinding as well. And we'll kick off our coverage of Sunday's game with our usual Wednesday article: three key matchups.

Dolphins offensive line vs  Steelers pass rush
While Pittsburgh's secondary has been average at best for most of the season (in large part because of Troy Polamalu's absence), they can still get to the quarterback as good as any team. Their 44 sacks on the season ranks  second in the entire NFL. Just last week, the Steelers recorded four sacks against a Ravens team that had given up less than two per game heading into the game.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, have struggled to protect the quarterback of late. The offensive line has only allowed four sacks over the past two. But Chad Henne has been under a lot more pressure than the stats lead you to believe.

The two interesting battles will be at the end of each line. We'll see Jake Long and Vernon Carey against James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Those two have combined for 21.5 sacks this season. And as good as Jake Long has been - surrendering just one sack since the first game of the season - Vernon Carey has been struggling of late. His back and/or knee is obviously an issue. But hopefully he can hold up for this last week and keep Henne upright in the pocket on Sunday.

Vontae Davis/Sean Smith vs Hines Ward/Santonio Holmes
Every week it seems like Miami's two rookie corners - Vontae Davis and Sean Smith - have to face another great receiver or two. This week is no different as two 1,000 yard receivers (and two Super Bowl MVPs) come to town - Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.

Together, the two have combined for 165 receptions and 2,349 yards receiving. Both present some difficult matchup problems for the rookies, too. Ward is the savvy veteran who is a terrific route runner and is very physical. Holmes is the burner of the two.

It'll be interesting again too see which rookie gets matched up with which receiver. The Dolphins used Davis to defend Randy Moss in two games this year while Smith was matched up on Andre Johnson just last week.

Dolphins kick return unit vs Steelers kick coverage unit
Here's what we know. The Dolphins kickoff return team has been terrible the past couple of weeks. I'm not sure any returner gets worse blocking than what Ted Ginn gets. But Ginn is still dangerous if only he can get a lane - rather than see no opening and then curl up into the fetal position.

The Steelers could be just what the doctor ordered. No team has allowed more kickoff returns for touchdowns than the four that Pittsburgh has allowed. In fact, the four kick returns for a touchdown the Steelers have allowed in 2009 is the most in a single season since the Vikings also allowed four back in 1998.

Ginn has played very well as receiver the past couple of weeks and it would be a great confidence builder for him to have both another solid game receiving and a big game returning. But he'll need some blocking in front of him if he wants to break a long one.

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