Five Keys To Beating The Steelers

Posted Dec 7, 2013

John Congemi provides his analysis for what the Miami Dolphins need to do in order to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Miami Dolphins (6-6) will try and build momentum in the month of December on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) this Sunday in the steel city. It’s no secret that every win will build excitement and move this franchise closer to a playoff berth as the season winds down. The Dolphins must change their luck on the road against the Steelers because Pittsburgh has won five straight meetings and hasn’t lost at home to Miami since 1990.  Here are some of the keys to victory this week.

1) Contain Big Ben – Containing the quarterback and limiting his big play is probably the biggest concern for most defenses when facing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. His ability to extend plays with his strength and vision is something the Dolphins must control this Sunday. If defensive ends Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon can provide consistent pressure facing a patch-work offensive line, it will provide the big bodies in the middle chances to create negative plays in the Steelers backfield. I would look for defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to use rookie Dion Jordan in multiple sets and utilize linebacker pressure up the middle by Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. Mixing the looks will hopefully make it harder for the Steelers' offensive front to identify and hopefully will lead to breakdowns in pass protection. Ben looks outside for the big plays and touchdowns. Nineteen of his 21 touchdowns have been caught by wide receivers but the Dolphins secondary has only allowed one touchdown reception by an opposing wide out this season. Something has to give on Sunday.

2) Keep The Hammer Down – This offense is based upon balance and is most effective when the running game complements the passing game.  Saying that, the most important key is for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to protect the football and find rhythm in the passing game. Over the last two weeks, Tannehill has been able to get the football out on time and find success through the air. Miami had a season-high 453 yards against a very good New York Jets defense and Tannehill was able to spread the football equally to wide receivers Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and tight end Charles Clay. If Lamar Miller and Mike Gillislee can grind out yards on the ground, Tannehill’s job will be much easier against the Steelers defense and the elements of wind and wet weather on Sunday.

3) Start Fast – Nothing will help lead to a win more than playing with confidence on the road and winning the first 15 minutes of this game. This cannot be a game where you let a veteran team that has their backs against the wall easy yardage or turnovers in the first quarter at home. Miami must start by controlling the lines of scrimmage and making it difficult for Pittsburgh to generate any rhythm early. Getting points on the first offensive drive or changing the field position on defense will take the home crowd out of the game, and should give the Dolphins the jump they are looking for on the road.

4) Sturgis Needs To Be Money – Forget about everything that the rookie placekicker has done up to his point of the season, and focus on Sunday. Caleb Sturgis hasn’t been as consistent as everyone thought he would be after completing the pre-season without a miss.  That was a long time ago and really nothing matters except this Sunday inside of Heinz Field. It’s a very difficult place to kick and I’m sure that it will be no different this weekend.  Sturgis must be counted on to make the kicks he’s supposed to make, and come through when called upon from the 48 to 53 yard range down the stretch. That will make this offense go from 18 or 21 points on Sunday to 24 or 27 and that just might be enough to win!

5) Front FiveMcKinnie, Garner, Pouncey, Jerry and Clabo. If that’s the last time you hear these five names until Sunday night that means the Dolphins continue their march to the playoffs in 2013.  As much as we like to think that quarterbacks or wide outs can win games by themselves, it’s the big fellas up front that make it happen. Protection will be vital against a defense that loves to bring pressure from everywhere. Defensive coordinator Dick Le Beau is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators ever in the NFL, and will have a plan to attack and bring pressure like the Dolphins faced in the second half against New England a few weeks ago. If Miami can handle it up front, Tannehill and company will take advantage of the Steelers secondary and gash them for run after catch opportunities.

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