By Abe Gutierrez
On Wednesday, Adam Gase and the Miami Dolphins began preparations for Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers sans first-string quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Matt Moore will make his NFL playoff debut as Tannehill continues to rehabilitate an MCL sprain and an ACL tear in his left knee, and his return this season remains uncertain.
“He’s frustrated cause he wants to try to help,” Gase said of Tannehill following Wednesday’s practice session. “He wants to do anything he can to be a part of this, but at the same time I have to be smart with what we’re doing moving forward.”
Dolphins overly cautious with Tannehill
The former Texas A&M Aggie suffered the injury during Miami’s 26-23 win over Arizona (Dec. 11) on a low hit by Cardinals’ defensive end Calais Campbell. Even though Tannehill didn’t require immediate surgery, the Fins are treating his situation with kid gloves.
“I don’t want any setbacks,” added Gase. “I don’t want to jeopardize, whether it be his career, next season, put him in a position where he can’t defend himself on the field against a defense that’s playing really well right now. So, we have to be smart as an organization.”
Miami will travel to Heinz Field Sunday afternoon to face a Steelers team that closed out the season by winning seven straight ballgames. Thus, the importance of naming a starter and getting him the necessary reps to deal with the Steel Curtain was the first order of business for the Fins this week.
“We try and make the decision extremely early in the week,” said Dolphins offensive coordinator, Clyde Christensen, “because [then] you get into a situation where it’s hard to get two guys prepared.”
Fins must defy odds in Wild Card Round
The Dolphins are currently listed as 10-point underdogs against a Steelers squad that’s very tough to beat at home. Hoping for a huge upset, Miami will make its first playoff appearance in eight years with Moore under center, “unless something changes drastically,” according to Gase.
In Tannehill’s absence, the ninth-year man out of Oregon State has led the Dolphins to a 2-1 record, throwing for 721 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions for a passer rating of 105.6.
Matt Moore ready for first taste of NFL playoffs
“I’m preparing as I have the past couple of weeks,” Moore said. “I know Ryan is working his tail off to get to where he needs to be, but I think the guys, everyone’s focused on the game and our preparation doesn’t really change.”
In the Steelers, Moore & Co. will face a defense that’s ranked 10th in points per game (20.4), 12th in total yards (342.6), 13th in rushing yards (100) and 16th in passing yards per contest (242.6).
The last time these teams met, Miami stunned Pittsburgh, 30-15, on the strength of Jay Ajayi’s 204 rushing yards and Tannehill’s 252 passing yards.
It’s worth noting that the play of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was limited after suffering a knee injury during the first half of the game. Big Ben would struggle following the injury, and would close out the afternoon with 189 yards on 19-for-34 passing, one touchdown and a pair of picks.