“It’s a very good football team we are playing Sunday, a very well-coached team,” Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin told reporters yesterday referencing the team’s opponents this upcoming Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers. “ We are going to have to certainly improve upon our performance last week to play well as a team.”
Philbin met with the media following the Dolphins’ practice, a workout he characterized as a “good start” in preparing for the Steelers. “It’s a tremendous organization,” he explained. “The ownership is outstanding. Coach (Mike) Tomlin has done a great job there as a coach. He has an excellent, experienced staff and they have very good players. They are a good football team. There are a lot of tough environments in the National Football League, and again our focus will be on ourselves, getting our team ready to play as well as possible.”
The Dolphins last won in Pittsburgh in 1990, having lost the last three times they have made the trip to the Steelers’ home. The Dolphins are 11-13 all time against Pittsburgh, and have lost the last five meetings between the clubs, most recently an October 2010 23-to-22 contest in Miami. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was drafted by the Steelers in 2004, is undefeated in his career against Miami.
“He’s an excellent quarterback overall,” Philbin said of Roethlisberger. “He can make every single throw that you want to make. He is a big man. He has outstanding awareness in the pocket. He’s hard to get on the ground because he’s big and physical. He does a great job of extending a play, but still look downfield and find a guy at maybe the last second. I think he’s this far from crossing the line, and all of the sudden he locates the receiver and puts the ball on them. He’s a very, very good player.“
The Steelers have the league’s eighth ranked passing offense, throwing for over 261-yards per game. Miami’s pass defense, meanwhile, has rounded into form, and it now ranked ninth in the league against the pass. Roethlisberger’s favorite target, wide receiver Antoino Brown, could cause problems for the Dolphins’ defense, however. Brown has 85-receptions for 1,103-yards, and six touchdowns on the season.
“He’s an excellent route runner,” Philbin responded when asked about Brown. “He’s very good (with) yards after the catch. He’s a guy that you (have) to get 11 hats to the ball. We are going to have to tackle well, wrap up and accelerate our feet on contact. He’s got some of those instincts as a receiver that are impressive to watch on film. Obviously he is a very good ball-catcher. He catches the ball with his hands. He’s going to be a handful for us. He’s a very good player.”
Pittsburgh’s talent is not only on the offensive side of the ball. Safety Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh’s first round pick in 2003, is a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All Pro. He’s someone who can disrupt a play anywhere on the field, from leaping over the offensive line to cause a sack before the quarterback can even take a step back, to blowing up receivers deep down the field. Philbin was asked how much the Dolphins offense must track Polamalu, and if they need to know where he is on the field all the time. “He’s an impact player,” Miami’s head coach replied. “He can change the game. He’s an excellent blitzer. He is a very good tackler. He has a history of getting the ball out on people, so we are going to have to be very aware of him.”
This offseason, the Dolphins signed Mike Wallace in free agency after the Pro Bowl wide receiver spent four years with the Steelers. “Obviously some of their defensive backs, (Wallace) was with for four years,” Philbin said of any advantage Wallace can bring the Dolphins as they face his former team. “A lot of those guys are still playing, so he’s got a good feel and he can communicate those types of things to the receivers and staff. I think that will be helpful for us.”
The Dolphins (6-6) and Steelers (4-7) kick off at 1pm ET on Sunday.