7 year Playoff drought. Big underdogs. Limited respect outside the fan base. Injuries on both sides; no Tannehill. Young team vs. Playoff-seasoned team. Cold weather. A rare repeat/non-division game.
There are plenty of overarching story lines to dramatize this game, but this game, in my humble opinion, will come down to what it usually comes down to: running effectively, winning turnovers, and winning the trenches. We accomplished all 3 in the first duel in Miami, but over the ebb and flow of an NFL regular season, Pittsburgh has a much better case in remedying their Week 6 flaws.
We had an enlightening discussion with the opposing side on Phinsider Radio this week, and, ladies and gentleman, it’s time to shock the world. I’ve already mentioned my main 3 battles: establishing the run game, being on the plus side of the turnover margin, and winning the trenches. Here’s 3 other important match-ups to consider (I think it’s a foregone conclusion we need to limit Le’Veon Bell):
3) Dolphins Punt Coverage Vs. Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown has only fielded 15 punts this year, but my suspicion is he’s back there. As much as I’d like to not have to punt, eventually we’ll have to punt. We need to make Pittsburgh earn everything they get on offense, and not allow the scoreboard to swing on a big play on special teams.
Brown has had a punt return TD in each of the last 3 seasons, but none this year thus far. It’d be chub-deflating to see AB take one to the house.
2) DeVante Parker Vs. Artie Burns
Despite Pittsburgh’s defense playing at a higher level during their win streak, I believe their secondary is still vulnerable. If the trenches hold up for Matt Moore, I look for Parker to be the go-to big threat. I have an inkling Kenny Stills could have a big day as well.
The downfall of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been tackling, and Parker is a guy who can break/elude tackles in the open field. Artie Burns is a hometown boy, so it’ll be interesting how the rookie fares in Playoff action.
1) Miami Dolphins Vs. The 1st Quarter
Heinz Field will be a swarm of buzzing black-and-yellow, and there’s no better way to sedate them than punching them in the mouth early. Our resilience has been a theme all year, but early momentum validates our belongingness in the Playoffs and inspires a young, hungry team. From there, I believe our collective confidence helps pull the upset, but we need to taste the silence of Heinz Field first...preferably that comes early.
What key match-ups do you see Phinsider Nation? Let’s hear it in the Comments!