Preview of Steelers wild card game against Dolphins

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Oct 16, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates his touchdown run during the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins won 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sunday, January 8, 2017, 1:05 p.m. (ET)

Key Matchup 

Ben Roethlisberger vs. the Dolphins weakened secondary. The Steelers had their share of injury problems when they faced Miami on October 16–including a hamstring injury to defensive end Cam Heyward the week before  the game and a torn MCL suffered by Roethlisberger during the game. It looks as if the Dolphins will enter Heinz Field with similar injury issues this week. Not only has quarterback Ryan Tannehill been ruled out once again, but cornerback Byron Maxwell is also listed as doubtful to play on Sunday, which adds to Miami’s secondary woes regarding injuries in 2016. Even without Martavis Bryant and perhaps tight end Ladarius Green, who may miss his third-straight game after suffering a concussion in Week 15,  Roethlisberger could have enough weapons to prey on the Dolphins weakened secondary.


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The Steelers Win If…

See above. But, also, see Miami’s rush defense, which finished 30th, allowing 4.8 yards per carry in 2016. One of the many criticisms levied at head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Todd Haley following Pittsburgh’s ugly 30-15 loss to the Dolphins three months ago was an under-utilization of running back Le’Veon Bell. Fortunately, Haley and Crew came to their senses during the Steelers seven-game winning-streak, and Bell is now clearly the focal-point of the offense. It could be a pick your poison scenario for the Dolphins: gang-up to stop Bell or roll coverage to receiver Antonio Brown, albeit with less than stellar defensive backs. Either way, the Steelers offense figures to stack yards and points against Miami on Sunday.

As for the defense, it’s probably quite simple: don’t let running back Jay Ajayi rush for 204 yards (or anything close to this), which is what he did on October 16. To be fair, the Steelers defense that took the field on that hot day in Miami wasn’t playing at anywhere near the level it has been lately.  Matt Moore is the Dolphins quarterback and a backup at that. He shouldn’t be able to have his way with any defense–including the Steelers. If Ajayi is shut down, so are the Dolphins.

The Steelers Lose If…

The Dolphins defense may be decimated by injury, but game-time temperatures are supposed to hover around the 15 degree mark. While this should favor the team from the North, this could also favor less offense. If it does, and Miami gets to play a game of ball-control, all it could take is an ill-advised interception for two from No. 7 (unfortunately, he’s prone to those from time-to-time) to allow the visitors to exit with an upset victory.

Fantasy Tip

If you’re still playing fantasy football, starting Bell seems like a no-brainer.

What’s At Stake 

It’s the playoffs, so everything. If the Steelers win, they’ll travel to Kansas City the following week for the divisional round. If they lose, fans will be calling for Tomlin’s head, after falling to a 10-point underdog at home.

Odds-makers 

Line: Steelers -10

O/U: 47 1/2

Money Line: Steelers -450/Dolphins +355

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