- Pittsburgh’s Killer Bees dominated just as Mike Tomlin expected they would.
In dominating the Dolphins, the Killer Bee’s in premier Pittsburgh echoed in almost perfect rhyme with Steelers history, harking back to the Steelers and Dolphins playoff matchup of 1979. It was fitting then that the Steelers formula for success over the Dolphins today was as simple as it had been in heyday of the Super Steelers: Impose your will.
’16 Steelers Open in Lockstep Step with ’79 Predecessors
Resarch into the Steelers postseason history against the Dolphins brought to light a gem penned by legendary NFL scribe Vito Stellino who compared the first quarter of the 1979 Steelers playoff win over the Dolphins to Michaelangelo’s work of art in the Sistine Chapel. Those 1979 Steelers amassed 180 yards in jumping to a 20-0 first quarter lead, over a Dolphins that had lost its sea legs.
- After 18 minutes, the Steelers held a 20 to 3 lead and already had 200 yards in total offense
OK, so use of “Lockstep” in the headline might be an exaggeration, but not by much. During those first 18 minutes, the playoff experience gap between the two teams, revealed itself. Pittsburgh did it whatever it wanted, while the Dolphins looked dumbfounded.
If sideline looks provide any indication, some members of the Dolphins were wondering if they even belonged there…
Steelers Turn the Tables as Bell Bludgeons Dolphins
Accepting a job as an NFL offensive coordinator means accepting a life of being second guessed. The Pittsburgh Steelers October loss to the Dolphins was difficult for many reasons, but one of those was Todd Haley’s decision to abandon the run despite Le’Veon Bell running with sufficient authority to take over the game.
- Todd Haley didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Pro Football Reference classifies the Steelers offensive scheme as “Erhardt-Perkins” and the Steelers game plan echoed Ron Erhardt’s philosophy of “Throw to score, run to win” to a T.
- The Steelers first two touchdown drives featured 7 passes and four runs
- The Steelers third touchdown drive saw Le’Veon Bell run the ball 8 straight times
You can do that when your running back is averaging just under six yards per carry. While it is accurate to argue that the Steelers imposed their will on the Dolphins, Le’Veon Bell revealed that successful rushing is about more than just brute force. Certainly, the Steelers offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, but time and time again, Le’Veon Bell patience in allowing holes to develop is what added direction and meaning to the line’s force.
As the photo leading off this article suggests, for much of the game, Le’Veon Bell ran and the Dolphins could do little more than watch him.
Steelers Defense Earns Redemption Against Ajayi
Few things demoralize a defense more than getting run on consistently. Sure, getting burned on long pass plays hurts and is humilating, but they’re kind of like getting a Band-Aid ripped off. Even if it opens a new wound, the process starts and ends quickly.
- Getting run on means you get beaten up physically on one play after another for an entire afternoon.
In their first meeting, Jay Ajayi became the first running back to run for 200 yards on the Steelers defense since the Clinton administration. The question going into the playoff game was, would Ajayi be able to do it again?
- The Steelers defense took the field determined that the answer to that question be “no.” And they delivered.
Jay Ajayi managed a paltry 33 yards against the Steelers defense, as Sean Davis, Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison, Ryan Shazier and L.T. Walton all penetrated through the Dolphin’s offensive line to force tackles for a loss.
The Steelers defense matched their impressive effort against the run by mustering the turnover producing killer instinct needed to eliminate any Miami attempt to build momentum:
- James Harrison hit Matt Moore with one of his patented strips sacks before the half,
- Mike Mitchell strip-sacked Moore to end Miami’s first drive of the second half,
- Ryan Shazier limited the Dolphin’s next drive to one play by intercepting Moore’s next pass
- Stephon Tuitt tackled Moore from behind on its next drive as it sought to convert on 4th down
By that point the Steelers had built a 30 to 6 lead, and everything else that followed was little more than window dressing.
Steelers Set Sights on Kansas City
While Steelers pleased their head coach with their performance over the Dolphins, Mike Tomlin noted that “the road narrows from here.” The Steelers manhandled the Kansas City Chiefs in October, but the Chiefs have been nearly unstoppable since then.
- On top of that, Ben Roethlsiberger was seen wearing a walking boot at Heinz Field after the game.
Suffice to say, the challenges that the Steelers face will get stiffer with each win. But the Steelers Wild Card win over the Dolphins shows that this group of players has arrived at the postseason ready, willing and able to win.