Steelers-Dolphins Rematch Will Feature Two Totally Different Teams

This coming Sunday the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Miami Dolphins in an AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field and while the visiting team drubbed the black and gold back in Week 6 of the regular season, a lot has changed since that contest took place in early October in the state of Florida.

For starters, while Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi blistered the Steelers defense for 204 yards on the ground in that earlier season meeting between the two teams, it’s important to remember that that was the first game Pittsburgh played without defensive end Cameron Heyward. Additionally, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier also missed that game with a knee injury and rookie Sean Davis failed to play a single defensive snap as his transition from slot cornerback to safety was not yet complete. Oh, and outside linebacker Bud Dupree was still on the Steelers Reserve/Injured list at the time.

When it comes to the Steelers defensive players who did play in that first meeting against the Dolphins, the starters at outside linebacker were none other than Jarvis Jones and Anthony Chickillo. While veteran outside linebacker James Harrison did rotate with Jones during that game and wound up playing the most snaps of the two, he was still only on the field for 39 of a possible 70 plays.

With Shazier sidelined in Week 6, Vince Williams was forced into the starting lineup at inside linebacker but he gave way to rookie Tyler Matakevich in the fourth quarter due to cramps. If that’s not enough, linebacker L.J. Fort (1), safety Jordan Dangerfield (8) and cornerback Justin Gilbert (3) all played snaps on defense during that game.

It’s also worth pointing out that veteran cornerback William Gay started opposite Ross Cockrell in the Steelers first meeting against the Dolphins and while rookie cornerback Artie Burns also played, he was only on the field for 49 total defensive snaps.

When the Steelers host the Dolphins on Sunday, they’ll do so with a much different defensive unit than they had back in Week 6. For starters, Harrison and Dupree are both now every-down players at outside linebacker while rookies Burns and Davis are also now on the field all of the time. Shazier is also healthy and rookie defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is much more experienced. In short, it will be very surprising if Ajayi has the same kind of success on Sunday that he did the last time he played the Steelers in Week 6.

While the Steelers defense will have a different look about them this coming Sunday at Heinz Field than they did back in Week 6 against the Dolphins, the same goes for the teams’ offense. The last time the two teams faced each other, tackle Marcus Gilbert was forced to sit out with an ankle injury and that meant Chris Hubbard had to start in his place.

If that weren’t enough, fullback Roosevelt Nix was still attempting to get his legs underneath him as he only logged 4 offensive snaps in that Week 6 game. Additionally, while young wide receiver Eli Rogers did see action against the Dolphins, it was his first game back after overcoming a toe injury. Rogers recorded four receptions in that game with three of them coming with less than four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Steelers trailing the Dolphins 23-8.

Let’s also not forget that Week 6 was the first game that wide receiver Sammie Coates played in with the two broken fingers that he had suffered the previous week and while he did play 17 offensive snaps in that contest, he was a huge non-factor as he failed to catch any of the four passes thrown to him by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who by the way, suffered a knee injury late in the first half that would ultimately force him to miss the Steelers next game against the New England Patriots.

Lest we forget that Steelers tight end Ladarius Green was still on the team’s Reserve/PUP list at the time and that resulted in the team primarily using Jesse James and Xavier Grimble on offense and the two combined to catch 3 passes for 24 yards.

In Sunday’s rematch between the Steelers and the Dolphins, Gilbert will be back at right tackle and Nix will see increased playing time. Additionally, Green is expected to start against the Dolphins assuming he’s able to overcome a concussion that has kept him out of action the last two games. As for Rogers, he’s producing now on a weekly basis and so is rookie wide receiver Demarcus Ayers following his promotion from the team’s practice squad a few weeks ago.

Did I mention fellow wide receiver Cobi Hamilton? The Week 6 game against the Dolphins was his first with the Steelers and he only played 12 offensive snaps.

While the Steelers will certainly have a different look about them than they did back in Week 6, so too will the Dolphins, only not in a positive way.

For starters, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is expected to miss the Wild Card game with a knee injury so veteran backup Matt Moore will likely get the start. His center will be none other than Kraig Urbik, a former Steelers draft pick, as Mike Pouncey is now on Reserve/Injured. Pouncey, by the way, played every snap against the Steelers in that Week 6 game and if memory serves me, played quite well. Urbik has started four games for the Dolphins this season and Sunday will mark his third one at center.

The Dolphins also look a lot different on defense since they last played the Steelers as both of their Week 6 starting safeties, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Reshad Jones, now reside on the team’s Reserve/Injured list. By the way, both players intercepted Roethlisberger back in Week 6. Safeties Bacarri Rambo and Michael Thomas are slated to start against the Steelers on Sunday but it’s worth noting that former failed to practice on Wednesday because of a chest injury.

This rematch between the Steelers and Dolphins will also take place in a different venue and in much colder weather. While it’s hard to measure what kind of advantage those two things will give the Steelers, it has to count for something.

In closing, it probably shouldn’t be a big surprise that the Steelers are currently double-digit favorites to beat the Dolphins on Sunday at Heinz Field because of all of the reasons I outlined above. This rematch should and will have a different outcome.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Dolphins got offensive starters back for week 6 while we played with a depleted and young defensive side of the ball. Now with the experience of the young guys and a much healthier offense. This is stating the obvious but If the Steelers can control both sides of the LOS I’ll say the Steelers win 28-14. I’m saying that also because I think BB saves his best football for the playoffs

  • Jason

    Statistics say otherwise about Bens playoff football. 60% comp with 22td and 19int. Definitely not his best. I do think he has a good game Sunday though.

  • Chris92021

    The stats would disagree with you about Big Ben saving his best football for the playoffs. Last four playoffs for Big Ben (meaning this decade so
    2015, 2014, 2011, 2010):

    2015:
    @DEN: 24-37, 339 yards, 0 TD/0 INT. OK to solid performance in a loss.
    @CIN: 18-31, 229 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, great catch by Bryant in the end zone and of course, the Bengals melted down to allow the Steelers and an injured Big Ben to get the ball inside field goal range. Once again, OK to solid performance.
    2014:
    BAL: 31-45, 334 yards, 1 TD/2 INT, team played like garbage but given it was the first time all season playing with Le’Veon Bell, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Big Ben played badly in this game.
    2011:
    @DEN: 22-40, 289 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, defense played like garbage against Tim Tebow and Big Ben was not great as he was outpassed and out-TDed by Tim Tebow against an 8-8 Denver squad.
    2010:
    GB in the Super Bowl: 25-40, 263, 1 TD/ 1 INT, that pick six to Nick Collins was a killer. Big Ben did not play well in this game either.
    NYJ in the AFC title game: 10-19, 133, 0 TD/ 2 INT. Rashard Mendenhall and the defense won this game. Big Ben was not very good in this one.
    BAL in the divisional round: 19-32, 226, 2 TD/ 0 INT. This was the last game where I can say Big Ben played great. Sure, that fumble return by Redding could have been a killer but Big Ben led us back from 14 down and threw a gutsy deep pass to then-rookie Antonio Brown that pretty much sealed the deal.

    22 passing touchdowns, 19 interceptions in the playoffs. No, our wagon is clearly hitched to Le’Veon Bell. If he stays healthy, this team can go all the way. Even Big Ben told Bell earlier this week that Bell will have to be Terrell Davis to Roethlisberger’s John Elway. Defense holds up and Bell stays healthy, this team can do it. I for one am not counting on Big Ben having a run like Joe Flacco did in 2012. Thankfully we won’t have to this season.

  • Jason

    Unless u meant u think he saves his best this year, in that case disregard negative previous post.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I’m scairt. All this is stacking up t the Steelers being strong favorites playing against a weaker team – you know what that means.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Not in the playoffs! Don’t be scairt!

  • Chris92021

    Don’t be. You know I’ve been a Captain Killjoy earlier this season and now, I believe the Steelers are primed for a deep playoff run. I fully expect our offensive line to establish dominance early in the game and set the tone. Remember, when Ajayi ran wild against us, the Dolphins had their projected starting offensive line back and they showed they were a good group. Now, they are missing Mike Pouncey and he is as important to them as his twin brother is to us. Also keep in mind, this was our first game without Heyward and we were trying to figure out how to play without him. Anthony Chickillo and Jarvis Jones started at OLB for us along with Vince Williams at ILB. Now we have James Harrison, Bud Dupree, and Ryan Shazier starting in those spots along with a motivated and healthy Stephon Tuitt. I didn’t think this team was clutch until I saw them come back from double digit deficits in three consecutive games to finish the year with 7 straight wins. If we have all to most of our guns firing, no one will stop us. No one.

  • Jason

    Can u imagine the number of comments on the winners/losers list article if we lose this game?

  • Sam Clonch

    If we lose I’m not looking at a sports website until the combine.

  • Orlysteel

    I expect a team that expects to make a serious Super Bowl run and that is playing at home with a franchise quarterback to deliver.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Now I’m really scairt;)

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Chris92021 would head the loser’s list and Steelers Depot dare not have anyone in the winner’s list should that happen.

  • pittfan

    +1.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Hey Chris thanks for the stats but I was just giving an opinion not facts based . Even though he hasn’t played great this season t think he puts it together for this run. Ben has all the weapons this year LB AB Green and supporting cast. In the past he hasn’t had the full compliment of those guys. I trust BB to get us to #7. I’ll see you here next week with some humble pie for you especially

  • Douglas Andrews

    Yes I was just speaking about this year only. As Tomlin would say ” I based that decision on my gut”

  • Brian Miller

    I wish I had your faith brother….here’s to hoping!!

  • Chris92021

    If we win because Big Ben played great, I will be the first to state as such. However, his recent playoff history hasn’t been too great. I want to see it become great.

  • Chris92021

    Oh I would put myself on the loser’s list if we put up an egg. However, I don’t see it happening. I think by now, we are over the whole “playing down” to competition, not that the Dolphins are slouches because they aren’t. We have something that I haven’t seen in years: an identity that can be sustainable for an entire season. That is why I am confident.

  • Craig M

    I believe if we stop their run game and control the clock- it’s ours.

  • DirtDawg1964

    As much as the standard for a Steeler fan is usually “Super Bowl or nothing”, I was happy when we bounced Cincy last year and even happier with bouncing Baltimore this year. I wouldn’t be happy with a loss to the Fish but it’s been an entertaining season.

    Having said that, the competition looks weak (relative terms) this year right across the board. The Pats might be 14-2 but they haven’t looked as dominating as in years past. I don’t know that we are better than them but I think if things fell the right way we could find ourselves competing for ring #7.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Brian the hardest part was getting to the playoffs. We’ve got all the weapons we didn’t have over the past few years plus Green. If BB protects the football we can beat the Dolphins and KC or Oakland. I’ll admit when we play the Patriots i’ll be sweating but we can win it all.

  • ND_Steel

    One game at a time…Dolphins defensive front is still pretty stout. They gave a pretty game effort against NE. O Line will need to be on their game. Our Defense worries me as they have been so up and down all year. I’ll predict 27-23 Steelers with Miami scoring late to make it close.

  • Daniel

    In 2015 bell didn’t play in playoffs

  • Chris92021

    Did I write that Bell played in the playoffs in my post?

  • Yeshaya

    “it’s important to remember that that was the first game Pittsburgh played with defensive end Cameron Heyward.”
    With or without Cam? Was he back from an injury or was it right after he got hurt?

  • Charles Haines

    I don’t know, the game winning drive vs Bengals last year with his arm hanging off was pretty tremendous. Following that up with 24/37 339 yards against the #1 D on the road, without AB, Bell, D.Williams and Pouncey? He was a Fitz fumble away from one of the greatest playoff wins in team history.

  • Chris92021

    You mean the drive where the Bengals gave the Steelers 30 free yards?

  • Iulo

    Hi! I’m not sure but just that you are talking about rematches something came to my mind.
    If everything goes well for PIT it could be that PIT plays 7 teams two times in a season! It might be the first time in NFL history I think.

    Regular season:
    vs Cleveland
    vs Cincinati
    vs Baltimore

    Regular season + Post season:
    vs Miami
    vs Kansas
    vs New England
    vs Dallas / New York

  • Red dog

    I too feel confident about getting the win this weekend. With that said, can any of you remember the last playoff game that wasn’t a nail biter and Tums type game?

  • T. Heflin

    No way we should lose this game…..NO WAY!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Stick to your guns. I like it.

  • Brian Miller

    Agree and I love your outlook and optimism!!

  • Charles Haines

    Same one.