Like their AFC peers Oakland and Houston, Miami have limped into the play-offs with their second-choice quarterback under centre, and that makes a trip to Pittsburgh all the more intimidating.
Ryan Tannehill was having his finest year as a professional before disaster struck four weeks ago, leaving Matt Moore to assume the post of starter. He saw the ‘Fins over the line with two victories in that role before they came unstuck against New England in week 17 and now they face a Steelers side buoyed by a seven-game winning streak.
“It’s a very tough team to go against, especially on their own turf,” said Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. “They’ll absolutely be ready for us, especially after the last time we played, I’m sure they’ll be ready to go after what happened last time.”
That last time was October 16 when Miami, then owning a 1-4 record, cruised to a surprise 30-15 success over the Steelers, who had been 4-1.
Running back Jay Ajayi ran all over the Steel Curtain that day, accounting for 204 yards on the ground and two touchdowns and so while Tannehill may be missing, Pittsburgh’s kryptonite three months ago is still very much a problem they have to solve.
Both teams are clearly very different, not least because of the quarterback change at Miami. The Steelers have morphed into a team more dependent on running back Le’Veon Bell than QB Ben Roethlisberger, while Miami too have rode Ajayi, who had not broken out before the previous meeting between these two.
The Steelers are stacked with previous Super Bowl winners and may just have the experience to see them through, but it is a shock to see the spread set at 10 points given Miami were 15-point victors in a meeting between the two not so long ago, and Pittsburgh have not managed to win by 11 points or more in any of their past five matches.
Surely Miami missing Tannehill and Pittsburgh’s home advantage does not translate to a 26-point swing…?