Scouting the Steel Curtain


I contacted Brian Miller of the Miami Dolphins website www.Phinphanatic.com earlier this week to talk about writing previews on each other’s web sites. I also suggested we place some sort of crazy bet on the outcome of the upcoming Steelers-Dolphins Monday night football game where the loser has to write something embarrassing on their forehead for posting on the winner’s site. Mr. Miller responded, ‘as far as the “writing” something on their forehead…Im a freaking Dolphins fan, I wear a hat with their logo on it, what more do you want……LOL.’ You’ve got to appreciate Mr. Miller’s sense of humor. Brian Miller’s article follows.

-John Cihon

Brian Miller

The Miami Dolphins will venture into the steel city for the 2nd consecutive year only without the anticipation of last year. John Beck, thrown into the fire against the blitzing Eagles, now faces the daunting task of improving against a very solid Pittsburgh Steelersdefense. If that is not bad enough, he will have to do it without his number one running back, Ronnie Brown, and possibly his number two running back Jesse Chatman. That leaves journeyman Patrick Cobbs and the currently sober Ricky Williams.

Williams will be the story for the Dolphins on Monday night, and considering the Dolphins record and ESPN, the announcers will likely spend more time talking about Williams and the off-season destination of Jason Taylor than the game itself. Still, regardless of the off-field conversations, there still is a game to be played.

Last week: The Steelers ran into the 1 win Jets last week, and in all likelihood spent the week looking ahead to their matchup with the Dolphins. O.k., maybe not Miami, but they were obviously looking somewhere as they were shocked by the Jets in overtime. The Dolphins however managed at least 3 quarters of a close game again before losing to the Eagles in John Beck’s debut.

The Match-Ups:

When the Steelers have the ball:

The Steelers will likely work to take advantage of the Dolphins defensive line, or the piece meal line that they employ. In fact, Willie Parker should be started in every fantasy league this week. The Dolphins have had a rough go of it this year stopping the running game of its opposition and this week will likely be no different. Parker should have no trouble getting to the outside or up the middle for that matter.

The Dolphins will be without middle line-backer Zach Thomas for a 6th straight game. Thomas has been hampered by migraine headaches and dizziness since an auto accident following the New England Patriots game in Miami. Thomas originally suffered a concussion in week 2 against Dallas. With Thomas out, the Dolphins will keep Channing Crowder, the weak outside linebacker, in the middle. Replacing him on the outside will be Derrick Pope who was just released from a south Florida hospital on Sunday morning.

If missing Thomas was not enough, the Dolphins will also be without 3rd year DE, Matt Roth who recovering from a groin injury. With the DE and the MLB both out, Big Ben should have plenty of time to make his progressions.

The passing game should be open as well for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger should have time to find his open receivers and despite the absence of Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington should be able to find the cushions needed to make positive yardage at critical times. Despite the Dolphins high pass defense rankings, teams have been able to throw the ball on them, as most of the low yardage is due to team’s ability to run with little resistance.

The Dolphins defense will have to match up with an offensive unit that easily plays beyond their talent. Not to say their talent is less than it is, but they get the most out of their players with a winning attitude. For some Dolphins defenders, they have never felt victory at the NFL level. Miami has a different mentality, and it does not fire them up.

When the Dolphins have the ball:

The Dolphins are a patchwork unit on offense right now. Starting 4 rookies, Center Samson Satele, FB Reagan Mauia, QB John Beck, and WR Ted Ginn, the Phins offense is now a “get the experience” offense. The playbook has been scaled down to give Beck the best opportunity at success, and the number 1 WR was traded days before the deadline to San Diego. For the Dolphins, rebuilding has officially started.

The Dolphins biggest surprise this year has been the play of the offensive line. The Phins have had a strong running attack, but often have found themselves playing from behind which of course has taken that part of their game away. Against the Steelers, look for the Dolphins to try and set up the run with their passing game. The Steelers have struggled the last few weeks with their pass defense and the Dolphins may try and exploit that, to set up a rushing attack that otherwise would be difficult at best against the front 7 of the Steelers.

With Troy Polamalu out for the game, the Phins may be able to find some mid range yardage patterns open, the problem is that the Steelers should be able to put enough pressure on Beck to keep him from setting up and making throws. Beck is good at checking off his receivers and following his progressions, but as witnessed last week, his inexperience shows when he is rushed. Beck often threw off his back foot which left the ball in the dirt, or on the run which let the ball sail over the intended target.

The Steelers need to put pressure on Beck the entire game. The only way the Dolphins can score is through the air and John Beck does not have the experience to make that a serious threat. With Ted Ginn on the outside, the Dolphins will try to open the field by throwing long; the question is how often will they try? Ted Ginn is one of the fastest men in the NFL, but, it has yet to be seen if he can consistently get open or outrun speed corners. Expect the Steelers to roll up coverage on Ginn while leaving Marty Booker 1 on 1.

The Dolphins lack a true pass catching TE so expect LB coverage on him, while utilizing blitz packages and stunt schemes to confuse the offensive line.

Overall:

There is little reason to think that the Steelers will be anything but the 13 point favorites that the line has thrown up. The Steelers are a solid football team, who is coming off a shocking loss to a team they easily should have beaten. They will not make the same let down mistake again. On offense, the Steelers should be able to pick and choose what they want to run, either in the air or on the ground. On defense, the Steelers need to put constant pressure on John Beck. If John Beck can get into a rhyme, then he can gain some confidence. On a team with no victories, confidence could be the worst thing that could happen to their opponent.

This game should be over with by the 4th quarter if not mid way through the 3rd. The Dolphins have been very good at keeping the game close; they just can’t play the whole game at the same level. The Dolphins have lost 5 games of 3 points or less this season.

Prediction: Steelers 35 – Dolphins 10

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