The Steelers started fast and finished strong in a thoroughly convincing 30-12 victory over the Dolphins in the AFC wild card game at Heinz Field on Sunday.
There’s no question the Killer B’s (Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell) are going to be the key to any Pittsburgh playoff run (at least on offense) and the trio came through today.
On the Steelers fifth play on offense, Roethlisberger hit Brown with a quick pass to the left, and the all-world receiver picked up a couple of key blocks and raced 50 yards for a touchdown.
Just like that, it was 7-0.
After a four-play possession by the Dolphins, Roethlisberger and Brown teamed up for another score, when the quarterback hit the receiver with a pass over the middle near midfield, and the receiver out-raced everyone to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 6:50 left in the first quarter.
Miami responded with an Andrew Franks 38-yard field goal to make it 14-3, but the Steelers offense was red-hot in the first half and responded by marching 83 yards in 10 plays and scoring its third touchdown of the first half, thanks to a one-yard plunge by Bell with 12:39 left in the second quarter to make it 20-3. (Chris Boswell’s extra point was no good after defecting off of the right upright.)
The big play on the drive came two plays earlier, when Bell raced 26 yards down to the goal line and appeared to score. However, upon further review, it was determined the running back didn’t get in, only delaying the inevitable score.
Midway through the second quarter, Dolphins’ quarterback Matt Moore escaped pressure and scrambled to his right and unleashed an incomplete pass just before taking a vicious hit by outside linebacker Bud Dupree. Despite Moore being out of the pocket, Dupree was still called for roughing the passer after delivering a shot to the quarterback’s head.
The foul would have set Miami up at the Steelers 17, but running back Jay Ajayi was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after scuffling with Dupree in-between plays, and the Dolphins were pushed back to the previous line of scrimmage, only it was first and 25.
This ultimately set up another field goal by Franks–this time from 47 yards out–to draw the visitors to within two touchdowns.
Late in the first half, the Steelers had the ball at the Miami 34 and looked poised to run away with things. However, Roethlisberger’s pass intended for Brown was intercepted by safety Michael Thomas, who returned it to the Dolphins 27.
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Miami quickly moved 60 yards on four plays, with the game gainer coming on a 37 yard pass from Moore to receiver DeVante Parker down to the Steelers eight-yard line. However, two plays later, linebacker James Harrison, the 38-year old phenom who may have had his best game of the season, sacked Moore from behind, forcing a fumble that Stephon Tuitt recovered at the 13, to keep the advantage 14 points at the break.
Early in the third quarter, after advancing to the Steelers 37, Miami turned the ball over again, when safety Mike Mitchell came on a blitz and forced a fumble by Moore that defensive end L.T. Walton recovered at the Pittsburgh 41.
Pittsburgh turned this takeaway into a score, when Boswell connected from 34 yards away to make it 23-6.
One play later, the sharks were in the water, when linebacker Ryan Shazier picked off a Moore pass and returned it 10 yards to the Dolphins 25.
The Steelers ultimately turned this takeaway into a touchdown, but not before getting some help from Miami. Facing a fourth and three from the 18, Boswell came on to attempt his second field goal, but Tony Lippett was called for encroachment, setting up a first and 10 from the 13.
Three plays later, Bell took it in from eight yards away to make it 30-6, effectively ending the competitive phase of the game with 2:05 left in the third. On the score, Bell reached 165 yards on the day and broke the franchise’s single-game rushing record in a postseason match-up.
For the day, Bell carried 29 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while Roethlisberger completed 13 of 18 passes for 197 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The two scores when to Brown, who caught five passes for 124 yards.
As for the defense, after getting gouged by Ajayi to the tune of 204 yards back on October 16, Keith Butler’s crew limited him to 33 yards on 16 carries.
As for the veteran Harrison, he recorded 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
Next up for the Steelers is a trip to Arrowhead Stadium, to take on the Chiefs in the divisional round next Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.