4-2. That's what the Dolphins are going for on Sunday. To get there, they'll have to knock off one of the most physical teams in the league.
That's where our weekly recipe for victory begins:
1. Out-bully the bullies. The Dolphins pride themselves on being a tough, physical football team. Last week the Dolphins went into Lambeau Field and left with a win because they were the tougher team. In the locker room during the post-game celebration, head coach Tony Sparano basically told his team just that - proclaiming, "They eat the weak. They praise the strong."
This week, though, one of the historically strongest and toughest teams in the league come into Sun Life Stadium. Ronnie Brown compared the Steelers to a school yard bully on Thursday, saying that they feel like they are the biggest and baddest - and stating "that's how it is until someone proves them differently."
"If you show up and show him you're not scared, then it goes away," says Ronnie. "But until you do that, you're going to get the same result. So why not attack it full head on?"
That's exactly what the Dolphins have to do. They have to be the aggressors on Sunday and punch this team right in the mouth. If the Dolphins can be the tougher, more physical team on the field, they can come out of this game victorious.
2. Don't be afraid to put the game in Chad Henne's hands. I know you all are probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about. After all, the Dolphins showed in their two previous home games this year that they have no problem letting Henne throw the football. Henne even attempted 44 passes against the Jets a couple weeks back. So why would the Dolphins be afraid to put the game on Henne's right arm?
How did those two games turn out? They're the only two losses for this team right now. But Dan Henning showed confidence in Henne last week in Green Bay, allowing Henne to attempt 39 passes despite coming off of that ugly three interception game against New England. Henne responded with a solid day - and a win.
The Steelers have the number one rushing defense in the league. And though the it's important for the Dolphins to not get away from the run, they have to let Henne take his shots against the 24th ranked pass defense in the NFL. Assuming the offensive line can keep this pass rush (17 sacks on the year, 6th in the league) in check, Henne will have opportunities down the field.
Last week, rookie Colt McCoy completed 69% of his passes for 281 yards in his NFL debut. Last year, Henne completed 16 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers in the regular season finale before missing the second half with an "eye injury." Armed with a better receiving corps and more experience, there's no reason why Henne can't put this offense on his back on Sunday.
3. Pressure Big Ben. In five games this season, the Steelers have allowed only nine sacks - tied for ninth fewest in the league with a number of teams (Miami included). That's a far cry from the 50 sacks they allowed in 2009 - the second most.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are tenth in the league with 14 sacks in their first five games. But five of those sacks came last week against Green Bay's very poor offensive line. Three more came back in week one against Buffalo's equally poor offensive line. In their other three games, the Dolphins have struggled to get consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback - Cameron Wake not withstanding.
But you know that Pittsburgh will make it a point to double team Wake - who is tied for the AFC lead in sacks. The aging Flozell Adams, Pittsburgh's right tackle, will likely get help when Wake rushes from the left side of the defense - as he does most often. On the other side, Max Starks has had a much improved year pass blocking, though I'd imagine he would get help against Wake as well. Both of the Steelers' tackles are in the 340 pound area and don't exactly match up well with a speed rusher like Cameron. So expect to see these two get help.
What that means for Koa Misi on the other side is that he will have opportunities. He's not as quick as Wake. But he is primarily a speed (and hustle) rusher who can give bigger, slower tackles fits. I also expect to see Mike Nolan bringing blitzes from guys like Karlos Dansby, Yeremiah Bell, and the occasional corner blitz. It'll be important for the Dolphins to make Ben Roethlisberger uncomfortable in the pocket, especially since he's only making his second start since his suspension.