Sportswriter's Notebook: Dolphins-Steelers

The Steelers need to play better in K.C. and they know it. Jim Wexell breaks it down.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who thinks the Steelers must play better in Kansas City than they did Sunday if they want to play for the NFL championship in New England:

* Yes, I do believe the AFC is the far superior conference this season.

* And, yes, I do believe the Steelers can go the distance if they're not fooled by their performance against the Dolphins. The players agreed.

* "This win is nothing to be excited about," said Ramon Foster. "No disrespect to the Dolphins, but we've been here before. I'm not excited. Not until we get to Houston."

* "We can be better," said Ben Roethlisberger. "It is a little bit of a false positive because we started out so well. We went down and scored the first three series and you're kind of doing whatever we wanted to." 

* But ...

* "I know, and it'll be addressed this week," Roethlisberger added. "That sounds harsh, but we'll talk about it. I know the line has some things they want to say to the guys. Just the little things. I mentioned before this game that the 'My bads' are usually not good. You can't usually correct 'My bads.' You can't have em. That's just the way it is in the post-season. And I think in the second half we had a little bit too much of that."

* Roethlisberger was part of it. Steelers fans and media may, of course, be spoiled by his performances over the years, and then again by his first two series Sunday. But his last drive of the first half, which should've put the Dolphins away, included one pass that should've been intercepted and another that was.

* Luckily for the Steelers, James Harrison can still get after the passer. He turned a first-and-goal at the 8 into a turnover that spared the Steelers. A completely dominant first half could've just as easily turned into a one-score game.

* Yes, spoiled. Count me in. After all, Roethlisberger DID finish with a 105.3 passer rating.

* Just saying he'll need at least that to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead.

* As for Harrison, the Dolphins tried running Jay Ajayi at him early and found him to be a brick wall. Makes you wonder if they watch tape.

* I see no reason for the Steelers not to bring him back Harrison as a 39-year-old next season.

* Draft a pass-rusher and have him learn at the knee.

* And in the weight room. That's where Jarvis Jones hasn't taken advantage of Harrison.

* As Harrison trudged up the steps and into the locker room, Tomlin hollered, "Jimmy!" They shook hands, bro-hugged, and Tomlin said, "See you tomorrow morning." Yeah, only if Tomlin's in the weight room at 5 a.m.

* Bud Dupree gets better every game. His athleticism in the open field is still more impressive than his bend around the edge, but even that's getting better. Dupree's wicked blast on Matt Moore did include a bit of helmet to helmet but was unintentional. Dupree's closing speed was impressive, even shocking. That's probably why he was flagged.

* Speaking of over-officious, Eli Rogers was flagged for a beautiful block that was deemed in violation of the Hines Ward Rule. Rogers of course disagreed. "Hines Ward came from further back, didn't he?" Rogers asked.

* I'm just impressed that a young player knows the specific Ward block in question. 

* Maybe I'm not that old after all.

* Speaking of blocks, Antonio Brown's block got Le'Veon Bell into the end zone to finish the Steelers' third touchdown drive. 

* I could always count on Ward to say that a block which sprung a touchdown run was just as satisfying as scoring the touchdown himself. Brown, though, gave me a look like I was crazy.

* Javon Hargrave casued me to remember Kraig Urbik flailing away during one-on-one drills during his rookie training camp when he was with the Steelers.

* And Stephon Tuitt can play a bit. Just a bit.

* When Tuitt, who had been hammering Dolphins all over the field, walked up to Tomlin at the locker room entrance following the game, Tomlin showed his most excitement in shouting something along the lines of "How about chasing that ball my man!!"

* It's an Aaron Smith thing that became a Brett Keisel thing that became a Cam Heyward thing that's now a Tuitt thing. 

* And a Hargrave thing, if you noticed early Sunday.

* Just keep passing these little things down the line, because they're actually very big things.

* The stat I liked coming into the game was that backs who gained 200 yards against a team during the regular season, and played that same team in the playoffs, averaged 44.7 yards in the rematch. Ajayi went under the number with 33 yards.

* Another key defensive play occurred after an injured Sean Davis left the field. So Mike Mitchell figured that was a good time to blitz and left Davis' replacement, Jordan Dangerfield, alone in the deep end. Moore must've been wondering how he got so lucky, when he was hit by Mitchell and fumbled.

* Lawrence Timmons shook off the embarrassment of getting sick on national TV during the Dolphins' rout earlier in the year by getting the last laugh Sunday. He ragdolled Moore on back-to-back sacks on the final two Miami pass attempts of the game. He was a proud Law Dawg leaving the locker room.

* I'm still not convinced this defense will shut down a mistake-free QB on the road. Alex Smith, for as mediocre as he's been throughout his career, isn't as mistake-prone as Moore was. He could have an easy time of it throwing into the Steelers secondary.

* Then again, as Roethlisberger said, "Give me a night to enjoy this, eh?"

* That's fine. Just hit that 30-point average again. It will be necessary.


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