Steelers dominate early vs. Dolphins, will face Chiefs

The Steelers are on to face the Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round after handling the Dolphins with ease in Sunday's AFC wild-card tilt. Here's what we learned from Pittsburgh's 30-12 win over Miami:

  1. This one felt over for Miami less than three minutes in when Antonio Brown turned a short catch into a 50-yard sprint down the sideline for the game's first touchdown. The All-Pro receiver feasted on Miami's banged-up defense, topping the 39 yards he had against the 'Fins in Week 6 in mere seconds:

Second drive? Rinse and repeat, with Brown taking a Ben Roethlisberger strike 62 yards to the house on a play that saw Dolphins safety Bacarri Rambo stationed badly out of position. Brown's 119 receiving yards in the first quarter were the most by any player since Minnesota's Gene Washington had 120 yards in the first frame against Cleveland way back in the 1969 NFL Championship Game. With 124 yards and two scores off five grabs, Brown is the kind of unusual talent who makes the Steelers a genuine threat to the Chiefs and Patriots.

  1. Coming into Sunday ranked first in touches per game (28) and scrimmage yards per outing (157), Le'Veon Bell topped both marks with ease during a juicy showcase of his on-field talents. Setting a single-game Steelers playoff record with 167 yards on the ground, Bell -- in his first postseason appearance -- shifted into workhorse mode on Pittsburgh's third drive, bursting and bobbing his way through Miami's confused defense for 83 yards off 10 straight runs capped by the first of his two touchdowns. The Bell-heavy march had a mean-spirited aura to it, with Pittsburgh basically telling the Dolphins, "You can't stop this offense." Recalling visions of the Bills lashing the 'Fins for 272 yards in Week 16, Bell toyed with Miami's front seven from wire to wire. He's the kind of player who makes football a joy to watch, with's Chris Wesseling drawing an appropriate comparison for Bell's style of play: Marcus Allen.
  1. Roethlisberger was seen in a walking boot after the game. The Steelers quarterback told scribes that he suffered an ankle injury on the second-to-last play against Miami, but promised he would be ready for the Chiefs. "We don't know anything yet, but well find out soon enough," Big Ben said of the injury. "You're always worried about being hurt, but I'll be out there next week." Against Miami, Roethlisberger opened a perfect 11-of-11 passing before lobbing an interception to Dolphins safety Michael Thomas on his final attempt of the first half. Operating behind an air-tight offensive line, Big Ben authored Pittsburgh's quick start before settling in to throw for 197 yards at a meaty 10.9 yards per attempt. The uber-reliable Steelers passer wasn't even touched until deep in the third quarter and wound up lofting just 18 passes all day. It's fair to ask why he played so deep into this contest.
  1. With starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill watching in street clothes, Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree sent Dolphins backup Matt Moore into another universe with a violent helmet-to-jaw collision in the second quarter. Replaced for a snap by backup T.J. Yates, Moore courageously returned to lead the offense on a field goal drive that kept Miami's fading hopes alive. One drive later, Moore had a chance to pull the 'Fins within a touchdown, looking for the end zone from Pittsburgh's 8-yard line with 27 seconds left in the first half. Instead of finding pay dirt, though, Moore was the victim of a vicious James Harrison strip-sack to end the half. It only grew worse from there, with Moore losing another strip-sack before tossing a pick to Ryan Shazier on Miami's first two possessions of the second half. Beyond the gaffes and grisly hits, the 32-year-old Moore played admirably, completing 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards with a touchdown.
  1. The disastrous early game script for Miami (Pittsburgh outgained them by an outrageous 258 yards to 55 out of the gate) kept Jay Ajayi (16/33) from making any sort of a difference. The Dolphins running back was held to just 12 yards over the first 23 minutes and never hit his stride.
  1. This wasn't a good day for the Dolphins, but their long-suffering base never imagined they'd be playing in January after a rough-and-tumble 1-4 start to the year. Three months later, Adam Gase looms as a Coach of the Year candidate after so many lost seasons spent searching for a promising leader. The big question in Miami is whether Gase will be able to retain coordinator Vance Joseph, who remains a hot name despite the play of his battered defense down the stretch.
  1. Pittsburgh's secondary allowed Moore to complete plenty of passes over the middle of the field, but Miami had no answer for the creative blitzes dialed by Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler, whose crew of madmen piled up five sacks and nine quarterback hits. The ageless Harrison, especially, was a chaotic whirlwind. When he wasn't blasting Moore himself, the attention he commanded allowed other Steelers to feast in the pocket.
  1. It won't be so easy next week, when Pittsburgh goes on the road to face a surging Chiefs team in Kansas City. Doubling as something of a revenge game for Steelers play-caller Todd Haley, next Sunday's showdown has the makings of a January classic. If the Steelers can keep their star players operating at this level for another fortnight -- and keep them healthy -- the sky is the limit for Pittsburgh.
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