By Abraham Gutierrez
With just four weeks remaining in the 2013 NFL regular season, this is usually the time when contenders start separating themselves from the pretenders. In the case of Miami and Pittsburgh, desperate times call for desperate measures, as every game from here on out will be treated as a “must-win.”
Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will be the site for this AFC intraconference showdown between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Opening kickoff for this Week 14 match-up is scheduled for Sunday 1 p.m. EST live on CBS4 (Miami).
If the postseason started today, both Miami and Pittsburgh would be sent home packing. With four games left, and their divisions all but out of reach, both teams’ last hope is for a Wild Card berth.
Miami was able to help its cause last week, going into the Meadowlands and coming away with a gutsy (23-3) victory over the New York Jets. The Steelers, on the other hand, did themselves no favors, as their fourth-quarter rally fell short (20-22) Thanksgiving night versus their longtime rival Ravens.
American Football Conference Playoff Standings (Week 14)
- (10-2) Denver Broncos
- (9-3) New England Patriots
- (8-4) Indianapolis Colts
- (8-4) Cincinnati Bengals
- (9-3) Kansas City Chiefs
- (6-6) Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers on Offense
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into Week 14 ranked eighth in passing yards (261.8), 15th in total yards (338.6), 22nd in points (21.9) and a disappointing 31st in rushing yards per game (76.8).
Mike Tomlin’s offensive coordinator is former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, who’s certainly on the hot seat with his dink-and-dunk offensive scheme and stubborn play-calling.
While injuries have certainly played a key role in Pittsburgh’s disappointing start, Haley’s decision-making has been a very a hot topic of conversation in the Steel City this year.
Most would argue that his offensive scheme, which is predicated around slowly moving the sticks with short runs/passes and a heavy dosage of screenplays, doesn’t allow quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to showcase his play-making/extending abilities.
Instead, there have been plenty of (third-and-long) instances in which Haley has dialed up bubble-screens rather than allowing “Big Ben” to do what he does best.
Steelers Key Offensive Players
- (QB) Ben Roethlisberger: 461/297, 3375 yards, 21 TDs, 10 INTs, 92.4 QBR.
- (RB) Le’Veon Bell: 159 carries, 528 yards, 5 TDs.
- (WR) Antonio Brown: 85 catches, 1103 yards, 6 TDs.
- (WR) Emmanuel Sanders: 54 catches, 604 yards, 4 TDs.
- (TE) Heath Miller: 46 catches, 468 yards, TD.
- (WR) Jerricho Cotchery: 36 catches, 509 yards, 8 TDs.
Pittsburgh Steelers on Defense
The “Steel Curtain” defense is not only responsible for two Vince Lombardi Trophy trophies in 13 years, but is also the main reason why Pittsburgh is even listed in the AFC’s “Still In the Hunt” category.
Charles Richard “Dick” LeBeau is not only a Hall of Famer, but he’s arguably the greatest defensive coordinator in the history of the National Football League. And while the current version of the Pittsburgh “D” isn’t as sturdy as it has been in years past, it is the heart and soul of this organization.
LeBeau is the creator of the revolutionary “Zone Blitz” defensive scheme, which allows teams to pressure opposing quarterbacks while maintaining safe coverage behind the blitz. Over the years, this defense has been notoriously difficult to learn, especially for young players. Nevertheless, when the Steelers are on the same page defensively, no one in the NFL executes it better.
Steelers Key Defensive Players
- (LB) Lawrence Timmons: 98 tackles (64 solo), 1.0 sacks, forced fumble.
- (FS) Ryan Clark: 82 tackles (44 solo).
- (CB) William Gay: 49 tackles (41 solo), 1.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.
- (SS) Troy Polamalu: 55 tackles (39 solo), 2.0 sacks, 3 forced fumbles.
- (LB) Jason Worilds: 49 tackles (31 solo), 6.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.
- (LB) LaMarr Woodley: 33 tackles (19 solo), 5.0 sacks, forced fumble.
- (DE) Cameron Heyward: 37 tackles (22 solo), 3.0 sacks.
Dolphins vs. Steelers Head-to-Head
Sunday’s game will mark the 25th meeting between these storied NFL franchises. The Dolphins come in trailing the Steelers in the overall head-to-head series 11-13 and are winless since 2004. The last time they met dates back to the 2010-11 campaign, when Pittsburgh came away with a one-point victory on October 24. Coach Joe Philbin and the Fins will need all hands on deck to pull off what would be a huge upset, as they try to snap a five-game skid in a very hostile environment.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise makes him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .