Game Preview: Pittsburgh at Miami

The Dolphins can establish themselves as bona fide AFC contenders when they play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team many consider to be the best in the league right now. We break down the matchup.

WHO: Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) at Miami Dolphins (3-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SITE: Sun Life Stadium

SURFACE: Natural Grass

TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

PREDICTION: Steelers, 19-10

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins have two blitz-beating receivers. Brandon Marshall's size causes problems and Davone Bess, a slippery first-down machine, darts through traffic with relative ease. The pressure falls on QB Chad Henne to correctly decipher when the Steelers will drop off and when they'll shoot inside gaps. The Dolphins don't want to fall behind here — the Steelers give up only 12 points per game — and that means limiting big plays and erasing the deep ball to Mike Wallace. QB Ben Roethlisberger keeps plays alive an extra second but showed significant rust in his return last week; he'll have to be aware of LB Cameron Wake (six sacks) when he rolls out of the pocket.

FAST FACTS: The Steelers have won three straight on the road; they've also won four straight overall against Miami. ... Henne has four 300-yard games in his last five home games.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Steelers:

James Harrison returned to practice with the Steelers on Thursday after missing Wednesday's practice over a $75,000 fine levied by the NFL for what the league ruled was an illegal hit Sunday on Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.

Harrison did not talk but issued a statement that claims the hit was legal and that he's not going to allow the league office to prevent him from playing. Thus, he was not going to retire.

"I cannot and will not let the league office stop me from playing the game that I love," Harrison wrote. "I am all for player safety and I agree that some of the rule changes that have been made are good for the game.

"As far as my situation, I believe the hit against Massaquoi for which I was fined was legal and well within the scope of the rules. I feel the real reason for the fine was the statement I made after the game wherein I said that I try to hurt people, not injure them. In the same sentence I attempted to clarify my meaning."

Harrison also claimed that other big hits Sunday combined with widespread media coverage of his hit, which Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also maintains was clean, helped prompt the NFL to fine him.

"I will not retire from the NFL. I will continue to play the game with the same passion, intensity and focus with which I have always played, and let the chips fall where they may," Harrison wrote.

Tomlin has not backed down from his statement Sunday that Harrison's hit was clean, as was another that knocked Joshua Cribbs from that game.

"Legal hits, not fineable hits; he played good football," Tomlin said. "James is always ready to deliver for his teammates. That's why they have so much respect for him. He's a good football player, man. He always delivers timely performances when you need them. Talking to a lot of young players, they want to know the recipe for being a dominant, great player. It's not only delivering plays but delivering plays at a timely manner, significant plays. And he does that for us for the most part."

Dolphins:

At 6-5 and 241 pounds, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has Aaron Rodgers by three inches and more than 20 pounds.

"Big Ben" also possesses a brute strength in the pocket that has the Dolphins eliminating all thoughts of another big ankle sack this week, which is how Cameron Wake brought down Rodgers in overtime at Green Bay.

"He's a big joker," Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder said. "You grab Roethlisberger's ankle, he's going to kick you in the head and take off running."

That's not to say Roethlisberger can't be toppled. He's been sacked 189 times the past four regular seasons, a league-high average of 47.3 times per year.

Some of Roethlisberger's greatest plays have featured him shrugging off pass rushers the way a horse sheds flies, then firing downfield to beat a secondary that can't possibly hold up that long in pass coverage.

It happened to the Dolphins in January in a 30-24, season-ending loss. Big Ben went down three times in that game, but it could have been several more.

"We had some opportunities to get him down, and we didn't get him down," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "He can kill you when that doesn't happen. We've got to get this guy down on the ground."

Doing that comes down to fundamentals, starting with staying in the rush lanes and continuing right on through proper form tackling.

"You have to make sure that you're not grabbing for feet there," Sparano says, "and that you've got both arms around him."

PERSONNEL NEWS

Steelers:

-- G Doug Legursky, who replaced injured G Trai Essex, will make his fourth straight start despite spraining the MCL in his left knee last Sunday.

-- DE Nick Eason will start for injured DE Brett Keisel (hamstring) on the right side. Eason started five games last season, three more than he had in his previous five seasons in the league combined.

-- NT Chris Hoke, a backup to Casey Hampton for seven seasons, has been practicing at right defensive end the past week. He, and not 2009 No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood, would back up Eason on the right side Sunday in Miami.

-- C Maurkice Pouncey, the team's No. 1 draft pick, is the only player to play every snap on offense through the first five games. Starting RG Doug Legursky would move to center if something were to happen to Pouncey.

Dolphins:

-- Rookie DE Jared Odrick will miss the rest of the season with an injury to his left foot suffered at the end of Wednesday's practice. Odrick, who opened the year as the starter before suffering a hairline fracture of his right fibula in Week 1 at Buffalo, was a first-rounder out of Penn State.

-- FS Chris Clemons has yet to be credited with a single pass deflection, much less an interception, in his first year as a starter, but defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has no qualms with the way he's playing his position. "I'm getting close," Clemons said.

-- With Odrick out, practice squad DE Cliff Geathers got a quick talk from Sparano at the start of Thursday's practice. Geathers could be the one called up to the 53-man roster, which is where he opened the year after coming over on waivers.

-- Young TEs Mickey Shuler and Jeron Mastrud are improving in practice, coach Tony Sparano said. They are getting closer to earning more of his trust in two tight end sets during games, which is something the Dolphins have largely abandoned in recent weeks.


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