By Jeremy Hritz
For as much controversy and frustration that emanated from last week’s game, there were several positives about the Pittsburgh Steelers performance to take away. Firstly, playing and winning in Baltimore is not a simple task, and doing so in prime time on a national holiday only compounds matters. Considering how competitive the Steelers were in a stadium where visitors rarely win, some solace can be taken. Sure, you can argue that if they were a better team, they would have won, and that may be true. But history indicates that the Steelers and Ravens have a tendency of splitting during the regular season, and 2013 proved to be no different. Ultimately, had the Steelers of played better in the first half, the outcome may have been entirely different, as the second half offensive output was solid. There are signs that the offense is continuing to develop, especially as a result of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. While this would be expected to continue this week, with Kelvin Beachum and Fernando Velasco out of the lineup, the recent above the line play of the offensive line may be compromised.
Week fourteen of the season is here, and the glimmer of an opportunity still exists for the Steelers to earn a playoff berth. Had they defeated the Ravens on Thursday Night, they would have been in control of their own destiny for the remainder of the season. Now, with five wins and seven losses, they will not only need to win four straight, they will also have to have help, most importantly losses by Baltimore.
Regardless, the focus for the Steelers is on their business at hand and that is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are coming off of a solid victory against a bad Jets team, 23-3, a game in which Ryan Tannehill threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns while only being sacked one time. The Dolphins enter the game 6-6, looking to make their own push for the playoffs, and they will be seeking to do so at Heinz Field, a place where now Dolphin Mike Wallace built his reputation. While there isn’t much to be certain about in this game, you can be assured that there will be an intense chorus of boos that hammers down on Wallace every time he makes a reception, which hopefully is infrequently.
Though the offensive line will be battling with one arm behind its back this week, the defense will be getting outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley back, creating an interesting scenario as far as where he will be lined up come the first defensive series. All signs point to Woodley returning back to the right side with the on-fire Jason Worilds sliding back over to the left. What will be interesting to see is whether or not Worilds can carry his momentum from the right to the left side and whether or not Woodley can play at a high level coming off of an injury. If Worilds can maintain his momentum, and if Woodley can pick up where he left off, the Steelers could showcase a pass rush that harasses Tannehill, the QB in the NFL that wears the title of “most sacked,” having being taken down 45 times. If the Steelers can get pressure, they can disrupt the Dolphins passing game and hinder Wallace and his deep routes.
The Steelers offense will have to show that they can absorb the losses on the offensive line if they are to continue to progress, but with a new center and left tackle, the QB/center exchange has the potential to be messy and Ben Roethlisberger’s blind side could be vulnerable, which doesn’t bode well for the Steelers. Combine this with a defense that couldn’t get off of the field last week on third downs, and this game could be closer than it should.
However, in the end, with Roethlisberger and a surging Bell, who I believe will go over the 100 yard mark this week, the Steelers will earn their sixth win to stay alive. Steelers win.
Steelers 26 Dolphins 19