Pittsburgh Steelers 5 Keys to Victory vs. Miami Dolphins
Pittsburgh Steelers' 5 Keys to Victory vs. the Miami Dolphins
Statistics don't lie, and sometimes neither does history. History states that the Miami Dolphins have not defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers since Dan Marino quarterbacked the once proud franchise, and that trend could certainly continue as two evenly matched football teams face one another this Sunday at Heinz Field.
There are a lot of storylines heading into this matchup. The "one trick pony", Mike Wallace, returns to Pittsburgh for the first time since entering free agency and signing with the Dolphins this past offseason. Will Wallace's return be more feast or famine?
The Steelers' revolving door at the offensive line position continues as Pittsburgh looks to possibly start two linemen who have yet to play a snap of football this season for the Steelers. More important than the players playing will be their ability to block. Can the Steelers not allow a sack for the third straight game?
Rookie Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell looks to be cleared for play after a devastating hit against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night. Will he be able to be the every down back he has been for Pittsburgh this season or will fans see more Jonathan Dwyer and Felix Jones to help alleviate any setbacks for the young running back?
The biggest storyline of all is the fact that both teams desperately need this victory. If the Steelers lose then their season is essentially over. If the Dolphins lose their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread as they are slated to play the New England Patriots the following week. If the Dolphins drop their next two games then they could essentially have been lost in the muddy AFC Playoff Picture.
It is a win or go home game for the Steelers and a near must-win for the Dolphins.
Let's talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers' five keys to victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz
5. Run the Football
It has long been told that when an offensive line is struggling, running the football is the key to success. These is no need for blitz pickups just downhill, smash-mouth football. That is what the Steelers will have to attempt this Sunday with an offensive line that might require name tags to get through the game.
The bigger question isn't the offensive line, but who will be carrying the football. Le'Veon Bell looks to be on track to starting, but with a concussion anything can happen on any given day. Bell has passed all appropriate protocol to this point but will have to remain in the clear from the medical staff before he suits up on Sunday.
The Steelers will need Bell to help legitimize the running game, and its Bell's patience at the running back position that will make him effective even with a patch work offensive line.
If the Steelers cannot run the football, the Dolphins' pass rush will be able to pin their ears back and get after Ben Roethlisberger.
4. Pressure the Quarterback
There has been a lot of attention paid to the Ike Taylor vs. Mike Wallace match up, but in the grand scheme of things the Steelers' defense will have a big say in whether or not Wallace even has the opportunity to be a difference maker or not for the Dolphins.
The Steelers have registered 12 sacks in their last four games all after struggling mightily to get to the quarterback early in the season. The most damage has been done with Lamarr Woodley out of the lineup and Jason Worilds in at left outside linebacker. Worilds has been the biggest contributor to the defense in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback.
If the Steelers' pass rush can get to Ryan Tannehill Mike Wallace's deep play threat will be neutralized. If the pass rush is unable to get to the second year signal caller then look for Wallace to be the difference maker that Steelers fans watched for four years when he started his career in the black and gold.
3. Win the Turnover Battle
There is no surprise that as the Pittsburgh Steelers have won five of their last eight games they have been winning the turnover battle throughout that stretch. The most important aspect is that the Steelers aren't shooting themselves in the foot. Ben Roethlisberger hasn't thrown an interception since the November 10 meeting with the Buffalo Bills. Just as there hasn't been an interception, the football hasn't been put on the turf either. This has kept the Steelers playing straight up football and not putting the defense in a difficult situation.
The benefit from the offense not putting the defense behind the eight ball is that the defense is forcing teams to drive the football on them to score points. It is when the offense isn't given a short field that they can mix their calls and confuse opposing teams. Throughout the confusion is when the Steelers are able to create turnovers.
If the Steelers win the turnover battle it will greatly increase their chances of victory, but more important than just creating turnovers is to create points off of those turnovers. A huge advantage will go to the team that wins the turnover battle in this matchup.
2. Keep Big Ben Clean
For the first time in nearly a decade the Pittsburgh Steelers have not given up a sack on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in two football games. The last time Roethlisberger was sacked was against the Detroit Lions on the November 17.
A ton of credit goes to the offensive line, but at the same time a lot of credit has to go to Todd Haley for not only changing the offense to a quick hitting offense that primarily works the underneath routes and gets the ball out of Roethlisberger's hands quickly but also to gives Roethlisberger the opportunity to utilize the no huddle offense to his advantage.
Roethlisberger has never been known as a quarterback that can diagnose and dissect a defense, but that is exactly what he has done the past three weeks against stellar defenses. Roethlisberger has been able to see the blitzes and call the correct protections to keep him clean.
The Dolphins have a great defensive front, and keeping Roethlisberger upright is a huge key to success for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. Convert Red Zone Chances to Touchdowns
The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the worst red zone teams in the NFL throughout the first quarter of the season, and it is no surprise that they were 0-4 during that stretch. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars had a worse red zone offense during that time.
The Steelers' red zone offense has improved throughout the last three weeks, and last week's Thanksgiving Night matchup against the Baltimore Ravens might have been their best red zone performance of the season. In three trips to the red zone the Steelers scored three touchdowns. It doesn't get much better or more efficient than that.
There is little doubt that the Steelers will be able to move the ball on the Miami Dolphins defense, but will they be able to score touchdowns and not just settle for Shaun Suisham field goals? Maximizing opportunities will be a huge advantage in this game and a key to success against the Miami Dolphins.
This matchup Sunday will be an interesting one based on the importance of the game for both teams and how these two teams are very evenly matched. Look for a big play or two to decide the outcome of the game.