MNF preview: Steelers looking to rebound against Dolphins

The Steelers were upset by the Jets last week, but that might work in their favor in Week 12. The Steelers (7-3) have responded to their two previous losses this season with great defensive efforts the following week. They shutout the Seahawks after a loss to Arizona and they surrendered just one touchdown in a win over the Bengals after falling to the Broncos.

Pittsburgh will be without its heart-and-soul defensive player, Troy Polamalu, but I expect a very aggressive game from the Steeler defense.

Veteran defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will likely attack Miami rookie quarterback John Beck, who is making only his second career start and hasn't seen a defense like the Steelers. Pittsburgh has 28 sacks from 10 different players and it will be difficult for Beck to see where the pressure is coming from.

Miami would like to run the ball but they face the league's No. 1 defense and have running back Jesse Chatman limping around with a bad ankle. But Miami is going to have to throw the ball more than it wants to and that should put too much stress on the offensive line and a young quarterback.

The Steelers are trying to regain the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture and stay ahead of the Browns, while the Dolphins are trying not to go 0-16 this season.

IF YOU LIKE THE STEELERS

1. The Steelers are No. 2 in the NFL running the ball and the Dolphins rank last in stopping the run.
2. The Steelers have the No. 1 defense in the NFL.
3.Ben Roethlisberger is 20-5 at home.
4. The Steelers are 5-0 at home, averaging 31 points a game.
5. Pittsburgh's No. 2 third-down offense vs. Miami's No. 31 third-down defense.

IF YOU LIKE THE DOLPHINS

1. The Dolphins are third in the NFL in yards per rush.
2. The Dolphins (No. 14) have given up less sacks than Pittsburgh (No. 31).
3. The Dolphins are the No. 3 ranked punt return team in the NFL.
4. The Dolphins are the No. 4 defense in the NFL in passing yards per game.
5. The Dolphins are the No. 9 offense in the red zone and have scored points on 25-of-29 trips.

KEY MATCHUPS

1. Miami left tackle, Vernon Carey vs. Pittsburgh outside linebacker James Harrison: Harrison has been red hot the past few weeks with 4 1/2 sacks in the last three games. Carey will have his hands full and could use some help from a back or tight end but Pittsburgh will key any help and send other players that would be unblocked.

2. Miami center Sam Satele vs. Pittsburgh nose tackle Casey Hampton: Satele is a rookie and holding his own. He is strong and can match the power of Hampton, but can he move the big nose tackle? Hampton will force a double team and that will free either James Farrior or Larry Foote to make a tackle. The two inside linebackers already have 95 tackles and eight sacks between them. If Satele could handle Hampton alone, then the guards could get right up on the linebackers.

3. Miami defensive end Jason Taylor vs. Pittsburgh left tackle Marvel Smith: Taylor is not having a great year but he is still the best defender on the Dolphins. Smith is part of an offensive line that has givin up 30 sacks and is a big concern to the Steeler coaches. Smith will give up a sack or two to Taylor.

4. Miami cornerback Michael Lehan vs. Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward: Pittsburgh will be without wide receiver Santonio Holmes and that means more balls thrown to Ward. Lehan will have more than he can handle and has to be careful about being too aggressive on stopping the run because the Steelers are always capable of throwing an option pass from a guy like Ced Wilson to Hines Ward.

5. Miami strong side linebacker Joey Porter vs. Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller: Porter returns to Pittsburgh and it has to be tough to come come in with the winless Dolphins. Porter is a talker and isn't playing as well as he did with the Steelers. Look for Pittsburgh to run right at Porter with tight end Heath Miller being the primary blocker. Play-action passes to Miller will also cause stress for Porter who will be looking to make a big play and could take the bait.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

Pittsburgh will come out and play a very physical brand of offense. Willie Parker will be featured early and often, which is no secret. Parker has the speed and power to take advantage of the worst run defense in the NFL. It wouldn't surprise me to see him go over the 150-yard mark. One of the best run schemes in the NFL is the Steeler 'G' power to their right side. On that play, Alan Faneca pulls and leads with the fullback on the off tackle play right. With Miami's starting left defensive end, Matt Roth, out with an injury the Steelers will waste little time getting into this play call.

Ben Roethlisberger will have excellent play-action opportunities, allowing Miller and Ward to combine for 12-15 receptions and a few touchdowns. Nate Washington starts for the injured Holmes and will get a few deep ball opportunities.

Miami wants to work their left defensive side against Willie Colon and hope to get to Big Ben. Look for Roethlisberger to step up in the pocket more rather than letting himself get flushed to his left where Taylor will be waiting for him. Miami will struggle to keep this Steelers offense under 30 points.

WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL

Miami may have to activate Ricky Williams in order to have enough running backs to have a ground attack. Williams took reps with the first team on Friday; it will make for a big story if he plays. I would be very surprised if he could be effective against the Steelers. If Miami tries to run the ball with recently-signed Patrick Pass, they will wind up throwing it closer to 35 times -- which is a bad situation for Beck.

Beck was 9-of-22 for 109 yards last week against the Eagles and can get the ball out of his hand fairly quick but a dink and dunk pass attack will not be effective against the Steeler 3-4 defense.

The Dolphins are counting on another big game from first-round draft pick, Ted Ginn, Jr. Last week, he had a 203 yard all purpose game and he needs to have a big punt return or two to give Beck a short field. The Steelers have made their coverage units a point of emphasis in recent weeks especially the punt coverage unit which is 26th in the league. Right now it doesn't look like the Dolphins can generate the points required to stay up with Pittsburgh. Keep in mind the Steelers rank first in scoring defense, allowing 14.5 points per game.

CONCLUSION

Pittsburgh's loss to the New York Jets last week was the worst thing that could have happened to the Dolphins. The Steelers got the wake up call that should prevent another "trap" game again in 2007. Miami will beat someone before the season is over but to ask a rookie quarter with a third-string running back and Zack Thomas still on the bench to come into Heinz field and win is just too much to ask. I see the Steelers winning by two touchdowns.

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