Steelers ready for Dolphins, wildcat

For the second consecutive Sunday the Steelers are prepared to face a wildcat offense -- this time it's that of the Miami Dolphins.

The Steelers had a plan to stop the wildcat offense last Sunday, but the alternative worked just as well.

"That ended the wildcat," James Harrison told teammates after he knocked Josh Cribbs out cold.

But the kings of the NFL's wildcat offense are on deck, and the Steelers have dusted off last week's plan for action today in Miami.

"They're the originators in this league of that attack with what they do with Ronnie Brown," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "He is special and different from most wildcat runners because he is a runner. He is a tailback. He's a force to be reckoned with in that offense."

Brown missed last season's game between the teams with an injury, and the Steelers won in Miami, 30-24.

Brown was replaced by Ricky Williams and the wildcat was held in check (99 rushing yards) as the Steelers pulled out to a 27-10 lead.

Brown is healthy this season and has rushed for 299 yards. Combined with Williams's 240 yards, the Dolphins have a two-headed wildcat approach that's rushed for 539 yards at a 4.4 per-carry clip. Little wonder the approach caught on around the rest of the league.

"Like everybody says, this is a copy-cat league," said Brown. "If you find something that works and throws teams off, everybody has got to start using it. Fortunately for us, we were able to do it first and let everybody else catch on, and everybody has their own twist to it."

The wildcat uses an additional blocker instead of a quarterback in the offensive chain, and the ball is snapped directly to the wildcat runner. If that runner can throw – such as Cribbs, an ex-quarterback – he adds an additional threat. Brown, a 230-pound tailback, has thrown 11 career passes and completed only four, but two went for touchdowns.

Last week, however, the Dolphins did not use their wildcat offense for the first time with Brown healthy. They found a better way to beat Green Bay, where quarterback Chad Henne threw 17 times to 6-4, 230-pound wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The Pittsburgh native (East Liberty) caught 10 passes for 127 yards at Green Bay. Marshall has 37 catches for the season and has been targeted a whopping 63 times.

"He‘s a physical matchup problem for anyone in your secondary," said Tomlin. "There are a lot of big receivers, and what makes him unique is his ability to run after the catch. He's got little-man quickness in terms of his ability to drop his weight and change direction. He's got great balance. He's a tough guy to tackle once he catches it. He's an easy target down the field."

The last time the Steelers faced Marshall, he played for the Denver Broncos and he caught 11 passes for 112 yards, but the Steelers won, 28-10.

"You just try to minimize the amount of damage," Tomlin said.

In spite of their terrific run-pass combo, the Dolphins only rank 12th in the league offensively. They're a bit better – 9th – on defense, thanks to the emergence of pass-rusher Cameron Wake (8½ sacks) and cornerback Vontae Davis, whom Tomlin called "an emerging, elite corner in this league."

Special teams have been the main problem area for the Dolphins, who fired someone – their special-teams coach and two special-teams players – after each of the last three games. The Dolphins are 31st in the league covering kickoffs and 29th in net punting.

At 3-2, the Dolphins are looking for their first home win and many believe that today they'll put together their finest effort to date.

If they do beat the 4-1 Steelers, the Dolphins will not only knot the series between the teams at 12-12, but they'll tie the Steelers for the best NFL record since the merger in 1970.

The Dolphins have much for which to play, and they certainly have the weapons on offense to get it done. Unless, of course, James Harrison says no.


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