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.
- 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.