PITTSBURGH (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Miami Dolphins are going to have their hands full in the team’s first playoff game in eight years.
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak and tied for the most postseason victories (34) in league history, but they are not focused on their string of successes.
Instead, the Steelers will be looking to atone for one of their worst performances of the season when they host the Dolphins on Sunday in an AFC wild-card matchup.
Pittsburgh secured the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the conference with its strong finishing run, which partly was necessitated by a four-game losing streak that started with a 30-15 drubbing in Miami on Oct. 15.
While the Steelers will be at home in the rematch and temperatures are expected to peak at a frosty 20 degrees on Sunday, offensive coordinator Todd Haley did little to douse the revenge angle by proclaiming: “We’re thankful we get another crack at a team that kicked our butts.”
The Dolphins won nine of 10 prior to a loss to New England in the regular-season finale to nail down their first postseason berth since 2008, but they lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury in Week 14 and will be forced to go with veteran Matt Moore versus Pittsburgh.
“I feel real good,” Moore, who will be making his first career postseason start, told reporters. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity. … This is my second time ever being part of a team that’s going to the playoffs, so I’m excited.”
TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Steelers -10. O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (10-6): No matter who is under center, Miami’s game plan figures to follow the blueprint of the mid-October matchup, when running back Jay Ajayi tore through Pittsburgh’s defense for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
It was the first of three 200-yard rushing performances this season by Ajayi, which is why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stressed that Pittsburgh’s defense cannot act like his dominant game “was by no means a lightning strike.”
Moore, who had just 30 pass attempts in his previous four seasons with the Dolphins, put up solid numbers in his three starts (674 yards, eight TDs, three interceptions) and has a trio of talented wide receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.
Miami’s defense ranked 30th against the run (140.4 yards per game) but limited Steelers rushers to 53 yards in the first matchup.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (11-5): Le’Veon Bell ran a season-low 10 times against Miami, but he recorded at least 20 carries in each of his last six games before sitting out Week 17 and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December/January after rushing for 569 yards and four touchdowns while catching 18 passes in four games.
“This is going to be my first playoff game in my fourth year in the league. I’m going to be pumped, and I need that,” Bell told reporters. “I obviously want to go out there and show some people what I can do.”
Bell is one of two elite weapons for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has two Super Bowl championships on his resume and one of the league’s top wideouts in Antonio Brown – the conference leader with 12 touchdown receptions who surpassed 100 catches for the fourth straight season.
Pittsburgh’s defense led the league with 21 sacks from Weeks 11-16.
- Roethlisberger is 11-6 in the playoffs, tied for the seventh-best all-time winning percentage.
- Landry and Beckham are the only two receivers with at least 80 receptions in each of their first three seasons.
- Brown has 481 receptions in the past four seasons – the highest total in any four-year span in history.
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