GAME DATE: 11/26/07
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 22nd meeting. Dolphins lead series, 11-10, including 2-1 in the playoffs, but have lost the last three of four in Pittsburgh. The most historic meeting between the teams was the 1972 AFC Championship Game, when the unbeaten Dolphins topped the host Steelers 21-17 on two second-half touchdown runs by Jim Kiick. The Dolphins then beat the Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete their historic 17-0 season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Dolphins know they'll see a plethora of eight-man fronts with rookie QB John Beck being dared to beat teams with his arm. ... Teams are doing a good job of taking away Steelers RB Willie Parker (42 and 52 rushing yards the past two games) and coming after QB Ben Roethlisberger. Coach Mike Tomlin has made protection a top priority with Roethlisberger on pace to be sacked 48 times. Parker should have more success creating short passing downs against the league's worst running defense allowing 154.9 yards per game.
FAST FACTS: Dolphins OLB Joey Porter returns to Pittsburgh, where he played his first eight seasons. ... Steelers WR Hines Ward needs one touchdown reception to tie John Stallworth's (63) franchise record.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
In his first two NFL starts, Dolphins rookie quarterback John Beck has gone from the frying pan into the fire, but this time the world will be watching as 0-10 Miami visits the 7-3 Steelers on Monday Night Football.
In Beck's debut last week, he had to deal with blustery conditions in the hostile environment of Philadelphia against a strong Eagles defense that rushed Beck into a nine of 22 outing for 109 yards in which he was unable to put up any points in a 17-7 loss. The only Dolphins' score came on Ted Ginn Jr.'s 87-yard punt return touchdown.
Now, he has the Steel Curtain at Heinz Field where the Steelers boast the top-ranked defense in the NFL and are 5-0 while outscoring opponents 153-54.
"I've gotten to know some of the veteran guys on this team, and they say, 'Beck, you're getting it done right as far as your first couple in the NFL," Beck said. "You play away at Philly and then you play Monday night in Pittsburgh.' But those guys help me feel comfortable on the football field. I felt very comfortable when I was out there this last game, and I expect to feel that same comfort level and just go out with my teammates."
Beck didn't look comfortable as he displayed happy feet in the pocket and invariably overthrew open receivers as well as putting too much velocity on the ball when throwing passes of 10 yards or less.
However, Beck did avoid turnovers and sacks in his debut, two positives that impressed coach Cam Cameron, but he's looking for more production this week.
"I thought the ball went where it was supposed to go. That's the first thing you have to do. When the ball is going to the right place, then you just can improve your accuracy, and that's what I told John," Cameron said.
"Now you've just got to continue to improve the execution, the trust between John and our receivers, which is going to take a lot of work."
The Steelers are ranked first in pass defense and much of that has to do with their blitz packages, led by linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison, who have 12.5 sacks between them. Beck and the Dolphins do catch a break with the absence of Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu.
"I think it's good for our whole offense just because Philly did bring pressure on us and Pittsburgh is going to do the same thing, and maybe even a little bit more. We prepare as best we possibly can and definitely the looks we are getting in practice by our practice squad help us," Beck said.
The expected return of running back Ricky Williams should also take some pressure off of Beck, both in the rushing attack and short-passing game.
"He definitely had a spring in his step today," Beck said Wednesday. "I don't think that I'm the only one who noticed that. We're happy to have Ricky on our football team. This is my first time being with him on the team, but I've heard from players on this team that he's a very hard worker, and that he's going to give us his all. That's what we expect with him. From the time I've been with him on the practice field so far, I can tell he wants to help us and he wants to work hard."
For the third time this season, Pittsburgh will play the worst defense against the rush in the NFL when the Miami Dolphins visit Heinz Field Monday night.
The Steelers hope they don't meet the same fate from their previous two contests against the No. 32 defenses against the run.
Denver ranked last on Oct. 21 but the Steelers rushed for just 119 yards and lost in Mile High, 31-28. The New York Jets were last when the Steelers tumbled last Sunday to them, 19-16 in overtime.
It's been a perplexing problem for the No. 2 rush offense in the league that they could not dominate on the ground against the worst run defenses.
"We just ain't doing the little things, man," said Willie Parker, who leads the AFC with 925 yards rushing.
"That's one of those ones you probably look back at the end of the season and try to figure out what went wrong," said guard Alan Faneca.
"We have to put hats on hats," said tackle Willie Colon, "and do a better job than that. We're going to click, but this is the time we have to do it now."