MEMORABLE SERIES MOMENT
Steelers 13, Dolphins 3
Sept. 26, 2004 at Pro Player Stadium, Miami
Ben Roethlisberger was born in a crossfire hurricane, or close to it. The rookie made his first NFL start in a game that was pushed back from a 1 p.m. Sunday start to 8:30 p.m. that night because Hurricane Jeanne pounded South Florida on Saturday night with 120 m.p.h. winds. By game time, rain was still falling but the winds were down to 10 m.p.h as Roethlisberger, who had a reputation as an excellent bad-weather QB in college, completed 12 of 22 passes for 162 yards. His first drive ended with an interception but his 7-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward with 6:16 remaining gave him the first of 128 wins with the Steelers. He was asked this week what he remembers about that game: "It was very wet, just how much it rained," he said. "I remember the night before in the meetings we didn’t have power, so we had to use a flashlight. Just all kinds of craziness."
TALE OF THE TAPE
"Everywhere I go people keep asking me: Is this a trap game for the Steelers? I'm going to tell you why it's not going to be a trap game. When you look at the Dolphins, there are a lot of guys who can embarrass you because of what they've done in the past and you don't know whether they can bring it up on any Sunday, which they can. For instance, Alejandro Villanueva at left tackle isn't going to take Mario Williams lightly. Although Mario does not look like the Mario Williams of the past, he's still big, fast, quick and still a professional. If you're David DeCastro, you are not going to take Ndamukong Suh lightly. Ndamukong Suh can still be a dominant player, but he looks more intent on beating up the guard than he does making a play. If you're Chris Hubbard, you're not going to take Cameron Wake lightly. You are focused because of what Wake brings. Now, they don't use him every play. They rotate three outside guys and flip Williams over there. Everyone up front for the Steelers will have to buckle up, and I think they will. Individually the Dolphins look really good, but collectively they remind me of a bunch of mercenaries, hired guns; come in and do a job and let's be done with it. Because of that I think that's why they're not playing well. But anybody that watches these guys on film and really understands football knows that if they click, they can be really good defense. That's why I believe the Steelers will be fully focused." -- Steelers Radio analyst Tunch Ilkin.
Can the Steelers run on the Dolphins?
No doubt the Dolphins can rush the quarterback, but they're going to have to be ahead to generate consistent heat. For the Steelers to get ahead, they need to run the ball against a group that only worries about the run game on its way to the quarterback. And while middle linebacker Kiko Alonso has 50 tackles, he has difficulty getting off blocks. That's why four of the Dolphins' top six tacklers are in their secondary. So, if the Steelers can reach that Dolphins' defensive per-carry average of 4.2, they should win the game.
THREE QUESTIONS: With FS MIKE MITCHELL
Q: Has anyone even said 'Don't have a letdown this week'?
MM: "We don't really think about stuff like that. From the way that we prepare, we respect every opponent. There's no homecoming game, so we respect every opponent. We prepare the same way, win or lose. Monday's the day to get better; Tuesday's the day to get started on the game plan; Wednesday's the first day we apply it. So here we are today, we're applying our game plan for Miami, we've made our corrections from last Sunday's game and now, like I said after the Philly game, we're looking to put on display the corrections that we made and get ready to get a win."
Q: Was Philly more a matter of you not reaching your potential rather than taking them lightly?
MM: "That's what I said. And it showed the next week."
Q: But you guys have lost to some bad teams in the past, haven't you?
MM: "Yeah. If you fight enough you're going to get your ass whupped every once in a while, you know what I mean?"
What to look for from the Steelers today at Miami:
Sammie Coates may have a broken index finger as well as the laceration, but he's game. He wants to go up and catch any fastball he can get his hands on. But will the coaching staff let him? That's a 50-50 call at this point. Look for Darrius Heyward-Bey to receive plenty of playing time, regardless. He'll be opposite Antonio Brown with Eli Rogers in the slot and Le'Veon Bell as the wild card at either tailback or slot receiver. De'Angelo Williams should get more carries with Bell bolstering a WR position weakened by Markus Wheaton being out and the uncertainty over Coates.
Anthony Chickillo and Jarvis Jones form an interesting, or at least a fresh, tandem outside, while replacing the injured Cameron Heyward inside will be Javon Hargrave, Ricardo Mathews and L.T. Walton. This team truly does have depth. Look for nose tackle Hargrave to see plenty of action as a tackle in the nickel, a position they had in mind when they drafted him. Vince Williams is another solid injury replacement at ILB, but the area that's getting better is the secondary. The improvement of Artie Burns allows the Steelers to start him at outside cornerback and use a better slot corner in Will Gay, and strong safety Rob Golden is back. The Dolphins' threats are RB Jay Ajayi (3.8) and WR Jarvis Landry (34-403) with Kenny Stills (22.8) the deep threat. Steelers-killer TE Jordan Cameron has been ruled out with an injury.
The Steelers have lost to worse teams than these 1-4 Dolphins, but with New England and then the bye on deck, the Steelers understand the importance of winning another conference game and improving to 5-1. They will be focused because A.) They are banged up and B.) The Dolphins individually will no doubt have the Steelers' attention for the reasons Ilkin described above. Steelers, 27-17.
BY THE NUMBERS
15: Touchdown passes by Ben Roethlisberger this season to lead the NFL.
18: Touchdowns scored by the Steelers to tie for second in the NFL.
34: Receptions by Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry, projecting to 109 for the season on the heels 110 catches last season.
37: Receptions by Steelers WR Antonio Brown to lead the NFL.
44: Number of days between road games for the Dolphins, home the entire month of October.
85: Cameron Heyward's consecutive games streak, tied for third in the NFL among defensive ends, ends today.
* In the first 38 1/2 years of franchise history, the Dolphins had four coaches. In the last 12 years, they've had eight. Adam Gase is in his first year. The former offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears (2015) and Denver Broncos (2013-14) is the youngest head coach in the league at 38.
* To go with their new coach, the Dolphins have 23 new players since the end of the 2015 season. The Steelers have 10.
* In more roster fun, the Dolphins drafted 22 of their 53 players; the Steelers drafted 34. The Dolphins have 16 undrafted players; the Steelers have 17.
* With an 83.6 passer rating, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill ranks 21st in the league. He's largely been a disappointment since being drafted eighth in the 2012 draft, but Tannehill's 15,460 passing yards are third in league history for the first four years of a career behind Peyton Manning and Dan Marion. Tannehill's 62.1 career completion percentage is second in team history behind Chad Pennington.
* With Ladarius Green anticipating his emergence from the PUP list and onto the practice field next week, it should be noted that Jesse James is putting together a decent sophomore season. In five games, James has 18 catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns. That projects to 58 catches for 410 yards and 10 touchdowns. Heath Miller's average season was 54-597-4. "I just see continued growth," said Todd Haley. "A young guy like him, who was in a pretty limited system at Penn State, he really wasn’t asked to do a lot of the same things [he’s doing here]. You have to see him each and every day, getting a little bit better, a little more aware, a little more of a big-picture understanding. But he is continuing to grow and do a good job."
"We have another game coming up in a week and we have one coming up after that, and after that. It’s this week. I don’t care who you are playing this week or who you’re playing next week, it’s all about right now. " -- Ben Roethlisberger.