The Miami Dolphins are coming off of a hard fought win against the Green Bay Packers while the Steelers are coming off of a week filled with the drama of the NFL league office for the hits dished out against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. This game starts a 3 game road trip for the Steelers and winning the first one will be huge in setting the tone heading into New Orleans next week to play the defending champs. Below are what we deem to be 7 keys to the game for the Steelers to beat the Dolphins in week 7 down in South Florida.
Wrap Up The Marshall Plan – Head coach Mike Tomlin hit on it during his Tuesday press conference that the Steelers will not be able to shut down Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall completely. The Steelers just need to make sure he is wrapped up quickly on catches he does make and limited to just a few yards or less after the catch. Marshall owns the NFL record for receptions in a game with 21 and is also one of only five players in NFL history to catch at least 100 passes in three consecutive seasons. Cornerback Bryant McFadden will likely draw Marshall the most in coverage and must avoid playing him too tight as well as playing too far off the ball. Marshall can catch 10 balls on the day as long as he is kept out of the endzone and doesn\’t bust any long plays. Look for the Steelers to use the same type game plan they used against the Falcons Roddy White in week one of the season.
Watch Out For The Wake – Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake has been on fire this year and his coming off a three sack performance against the Packers. Wake went right through Packers rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga last week, but this week gets Flozell Adams. Wake bull rushes mostly, but that will not work on Adams. He will need to use his speed and quickness to get around the Hotel instead of going through him. How the Steelers handle Wake will go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. You could see tight ends Matt Spaeth and Heath Miller lined up quite a bit on the right side to help Flozell out.
Run Right – As good as Wake is as a pass rusher and as good as Adams is as a straight ahead run blocker, the Steelers should be able to run right on the Dolphins with Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. This goes hand in hand with the slowing down Wake in the nugget before. He can\’t pass rush you if he is busy stopping the run. The Steelers have had great success running right this year off right tackle and right end so it should be the priority top run well and suck those safeties up of the Dolphins in run support.
Deebo Take A Long Ride – If Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne is pressured, he will make mistakes. The Steelers must have a strong pass rush especially on 3rd downs where Henne has a 112.9 passer rating thus far. We all know the week tumultuous week outside linebacker James Harrison is coming off of and he must channel that anger in getting past one the NFL\’s best left tackles by the name of Jake Long. This will be no easy task for Deebo coming off of the week he has had, but if anyone can overcome the challenge, it is him.
Give Vontae Davis Nightmares – Mike Wallace is averaging 25.1 yards per catch with three touchdowns so far this season and most of his damage as usual is over the top. Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis on the other hand is an up and coming physical defensive back. The Packers were able to take advantage of Davis with Greg Jennings double move for a long touchdown last week and the Steelers will look to build on that. Jennings is fast, but not as fast as Wallace. When Davis is matched up on Hines Ward, it will be physical on physical and Ward tends to get under the skin of these types of corners. Look for the Steelers to try to attack Davis and make him prove he is all that.
Be More Special – We certainly can feel the pain of the Dolphins special teams problems this year. It was on full display a few weeks ago against the Patriots and cost them the game. The Dolphins have since fired special teams coach John Bonamego and replaced him with special teams assistant Darren Rizzi. Regardless, most of the personnel is still there on the field. The Steelers are greatly improved this year and can play a big role in this game by exploiting some of the Dolphins protection issues on kicks. A blocked punt or field goal can instantly turn a game on a dime.
Mixing It Up On 1st Down – Ben Roethlisberger got his rust knocked off against the Browns and now it is time to mix in a few more passes on 1st downs now that the band is back together. By my calculations the Steelers have run 71% of the time on 1st downs and 10 yards to go opportunities. That is fine and good considering the quarterback situation through these first 5 games, but now it is time to get the Dolphins guessing on 1st downs more. Running on 1st down is fine with a back like Mendenhall, but ideally a 65% run/pass ratio would be ideal now that Big Ben is back.
Steelers Dolphins Game Prediction – Make no mistake that the Dolphins are a good team and well coached by Tony Sparano. They are however not as deep of a team as the Steelers are. The heat and humidity should not be as big of a problem this week as it was in the 1st few road games the Steelers had. The Steelers are 3 point favorites in this game and I see it being decided by more than a touchdown. As long as turnovers are not made by the Steelers, it should be a black and gold win. Special teams will make a splash play in this game as will the Steelers defense.
Final Score: Steelers 23 Dolphins 13