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Dolphins Face Daunting Task At Pittsburgh

Miami and Pittsburgh will face off in a Sunday Wildcard showdown.

NFL: OCT 16 Steelers at Dolphins Photo by JCS/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers have met three times in the postseason, with Miami winning 21-17 in the 1972 playoffs, and 45-28, in the '84 postseason. On December 30th, 1979, the Steelers prevailed, 34-14, at Three Rivers Stadium.

Unfortunately, barring a minor miracle, Miami will have a hard time coming away with a victory at Heinz Field this weekend, for several reasons. For starters, the Steelers are a better team than are the Dolphins, on both sides of the ball. Their respective approaches to the college draft each Spring stand as mirror images of one another: the Dolphins have expended five of their last six (and an NFL record eight of their last twelve) first round picks on offense, while the Steelers have employed the much more common, and successful, strategy of going with defense in the early rounds, having used five of their last six number ones on that side of the ball.

The Steelers, like most successful NFL teams, have been able to unearth star players on offense after the first round, with players like Antonio Brown, who played his high school ball in Miami, LeVeon Bell and Sammy Coates. The upshot of this approach is a tough, resilient Pittsburgh team that ranks 7th in the league on offense and 12th on defense, while the Dolphins are 24th and 29th, respectively. In short, the Steelers have been able to do more with less, picking after the Dolphins in each of the past six drafts, yet coming away mostly with better players. In addition to the indignity of finishing 29th in total defense, in a 32 team league, the Dolphins notched another dubious milestone during the 2016 regular season: they also managed to give up more yards than any other Miami Dolphins team in the more than half a century since the team was founded.

Just for good measure, the temperature at kickoff is forecast to be in the upper teens.

Despite all these disadvantages, could the Dolphins still manage a win? Of course they could, but the numbers suggest they probably won't. Of course, Miami beat Pittsburgh in impressive fashion at home back in October, but this set of circumstances is quite a bit different. The Vegas line has the Steelers favored by ten and a half points, and, as was the case a week ago, we look for the Dolphins' opponent to both win and cover.