Tag Archives: Jay Ajayi

Steelers Avenge Ugly Early Season Loss

Steelers Nation knows they’ve got the best offensive weapon in the NFL. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Remember when the Miami Dolphins beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15 in week six? The Steelers avenged that ugly loss that started their mid-season 4-game losing streak, with a 30-12 domination in the Wild Card round.

It was the first postseason game the “Killer B’s” of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell played together. And they didn’t disappoint. From the first drive, you could see the explosion coming.

Bell, in his first postseason action of his 4-year career, ran for 11 yards for a first down on the first play. The 2nd play Roethlisberger threw a strike to Brown for a 7-yard gain. Two plays later, Big Ben hit AB on a screen-pass for what looked like it was going to be a 5-yard gain, but Brown showing the patience that we see week after week from Bell, set up a block from tight end Jesse James to spring for a 50-yard touchdown. His first postseason touchdown of his career. 5 plays, 85 yards in 2:45 minutes. Pittsburgh 7-0. 

The second drive, after the defense forced Miami to punt, went 6 plays, 90 yards and another six points for AB in 3:10 minutes.  Just that quick, 14-0 Pittsburgh, before Miami knew what happened. Brown had 3 receptions for 119 yards in the first quarter. He finished the game with 5 catches for a buck-twenty four.

From there offensive coordinator Todd Haley made a concerted effort to run down the throat of the 30th ranked rush defense. On the third Pittsburgh offensive drive, Bell carried the ball all 10 plays, for 78 yards and a touchdown to bleed 5:27 off the clock. 20-3, Pittsburgh. Bell once again showed why he’s the best back, and possibly best offensive weapon in the League.

I said in my preview of this matchup that Bell would touch the ball 25+ times. That’s the formula this team has followed during this 8-game win streak going back to week 11. Sunday versus the Dolphins he rushed 29 times for a Steelers postseason record 167 yards, and caught 2 passes for 7 yards. Down in South Florida, he rushed only 10 times for 53 yards down, and caught 6 passes for 55 yards. Anybody with any football knowledge knew that he wasn’t going to have only 16 touches again. 

While his two interceptions will be scrutinized over the next seven days, Roethlisberger set the table nicely for Bell to eat the way he did. #7 connected on a postseason career high 11 consecutive completions in the first half to keep the Miami defense off balance. In the first half he was 11 of 12 for 188 yards and those 2 touchdowns to Brown. He finished the game with 197 yards on 13 of 18 and a 105.3 rating.

While everyone will gush over the offense, it’s the defensive performance that gives Steelers Nation more confidence that a trip to Houston in February isn’t a pipe dream.

Keith Butler’s unit avenged their worse defensive performance of the season, when they allowed Ajayi to rush for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns, 8.2 yards per carry. Go back and watch the highlights of that embarrassing loss, and on those long runs by Ajayi you won’t see jersey numbers 92, 50, 48, 28 and 25 anywhere in the plays. That’s because they weren’t in the game at the time. They all were there in the Wild Card game, and he only carried the ball 16 times for 33 yards, for a 2.1 yard per carry average.

A more focused defensive unit showed up from the jump. The first drive they only allowed 16 total yards (-1 rushing) in 4 plays. The D that’s been brutally scrutinized all season long brought their A game.

James Harrison’s (10 tackles and 1.5 sacks vs. Miami) strip sack of Matt Moore, recovered by Stephon Tuitt, in the final seconds of the first half in the red zone killed any momentum the Dolphins were building to close the deficit from 20-13 or 20-9 before the break.

A strong positive drive to start the second half by Miami ended when another strip sack fumble, this time by Mike Mitchell, thwarted another ‘Phins scoring opportunity.

On the day they forced 3 turnovers (1 interception, 2 fumbles) by Matt Moore. He was sacked 5 times for negative 36 yards and hit a total of 9 times. Miami was 6-14 on third down and 2-4 on 4th down.

Pittsburgh is clicking on all cylinders, and backing up Bell’s comments that no one wants to see them in these playoffs. This is the most complete performance this Steelers team has had on both sides of the ball all season. Teams already feared the offense, but now the defense is playing complimentary football and that makes them even more dangerous.

The Steelers will attempt to avenge offensive coordinator Todd Haley against the team that gave him his first head coaching job, the Kansas City Chiefs, while trying to avoid allowing them to return the favor from the 43-14 week four beat down at Heinz Field.

Kickoff is Sunday at 1:05 pm in Arrowhead Stadium.

EXTRA POINTS

  • With the win, Pittsburgh won their 35th postseason game, an NFL record.
  • James Harrison became the second oldest player to record a sack in the playoffs.
  • Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass for the 44th consecutive game, the second longest active streak.
  • Bell 167 yards is a Steelers postseason single game rushing record.
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Wild Card Preview: Steelers Seek Revenge Against Dolphins

The Steelers were dominated by the Dolphins in October, 30-15. Their recent 7-game surge points to them returning the favor. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

One playoff win since 2011. A 30-15 loss in week six. 222 rushing yards. Those are some of the things the Pittsburgh Steelers will hear this week as they prepare for their rematch with the Miami Dolphins in their Wild Card round meeting.

They’ll also be told Miami has their number. The Steelers have lost the last two games to Dolphins, which includes a 34-28 loss the last time the ‘Phins visited the Steel City in December of 2013.

The AFC’s sixth seed in this year’s playoffs is the underdog coming into the matchup at Heinz Field. But, they’ll have plenty of confidence.  As they showed back on October 16th, they pose several problems for the Black and Yellow.

Even when the Steelers have struggled to stop the pass in recent years, they were still formidable in stuffing the run. Not that Sunday. The Steelers D gave up a total of 222 rushing yards, 204 to Jay Ajayi alone. That was the headline. But, they also made Ryan Tannehill look like an All-Pro. The 5-year Pro had a career day, throwing for 252 yards while completing 24 of his 32 pass attempts for a QBR of 97.4. More shocking, is that Miami didn’t punt once the entire game.

I’m sure Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler have the highlights, or rather lowlights, from that embarrassing loss on a constant loop in the meeting rooms at the practice facility.

The worse part of the loss to me was watching how dismal the team played on offense with all three of the Killer B’s on the field. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked twice and threw two interceptions, one of which he was injured on trying to make a tackle to prevent it from being returned for a touchdown. He was 19 of 34 for 189 yards with one touchdown on the day for a QBR of 57.1.

Le’Veon Bell rushed for 53 yards on only 10 carries. The leading rusher for the Steelers was Darius Heyward-Bey with 60 yards, and that came on one play, a reverse that went for a touchdown. Antonio Brown was targeted 8 times and caught only 4 passes for 39 yards.

However, this will be the first time since Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell have been on the Steelers roster that all three will play in a playoff game together. Bell was injured and missed the last four playoff games (three Wild Cards and one Divisional game).

Do we really think the Dolphins can contain this Steelers offense like that again? Do we think they can put up another 30 points? and in possibly twenty degree weather? The recent trend says no.

This Steelers team has done a complete 180 from the one Miami beat to start their midseason four-game losing streak. Since week eleven, the start of this winning streak, Pittsburgh’s defense has sacked opposing QBs 25 times, while only allowing 96.6 yards per game and 197 passing yards per game, with a +5 turnover margin.

Offensively, they’ve only given up 7 sacks in the streak, 4 of those came Sunday against the Browns without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey . On the season, the offensive line has only given up a total of 21 sacks, just missing the franchise record low of 20. The last seven games they’re gaining 375.9 total yards per game, 241 via the pass 134.9 on the ground. Miami is allowing 406.1 yards per game in their last seven-games, 250.7 passing and 155.4 rushing. What does that mean?

Bell will definitely carry the ball more than ten times, and with the expected forecast, it’s more likely to be around 25 times, plus at least 5 receptions which has been the norm during the win streak. The young core of receivers in Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton, Demarcus Ayers and tight end Jesse James have gained the confidence in themselves, and Roethlisberger, to make an impact if Miami decides to load up on Brown as they did in the first meeting. Oh, and tight LaDarius Green, who missed the October game, will likely be back from a concussion to give the offense another weapon.

I won’t be surprised if this game resembles the earlier season one, but in Pittsburgh’s favor this time. Kickoff is set for 1:05 Sunday.