Game 6 Matchup: Steelers vs. Dolphins

Gerry Dulac breaks down Steelers' second trip to Florida


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GAME PLAN

When Dolphins have the ball: The Dolphins are slowly morphing from a running team that featured Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to a passing team that is relying on WRs Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess. Because of that, they are de-emphasizing the wildcat package. Brown (299) and Williams (240) have combined for 539 yards on 123 carries (4.38 ypc), but only one TD. They will be facing the league's No. 1 rush defense that hasn't allowed a back to gain more than 42 yards this season. In the past three games, QB Chad Henne has completed 63.6 percent of his attempts for 899 yards and six TDs. The offensive line has been in flux since C Jake Grove was cut in training camp. Their best lineman is LT Jake Long, a former No. 1 pick who might be the best at his position in the league.

When Steelers have the ball: In his return following a four-week suspension, QB Ben Roethlisberger passed for 257 yards and three touchdowns with a 112.7 passer rating against the Browns. Look for the Steelers to use WR Mike Wallace to attack CB Jason Allen, who, despite leading the team with three INTs, gets turned around and out of position on deep passes. LB Karlos Dansby is second on the team with 33 tackles. The return of ILB Channing Crowder (groin) has strengthened a run defense that held the Packers to 76 yards. OLB Cameron Wake leads the team with six sacks and eight tackles for losses. Rookie DE Jared Odrick, their first-round pick from Penn State, broke his leg in practice and has been placed on injured reserve.

DATA

Game: Steelers (4-1) at Miami Dolphins (3-2), Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.

When: 1 p.m.

TV: KDKA.

Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970) and the Steelers Radio Network.

Favored: Steelers by 3.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

WR Davone Bess ... The Packers used Pro Bowl cornerback, Charles Woodson, to shadow Bess, not Marshall, such is the respect they have for Bess' impact on the game. A shifty receiver who gains separation at the line of scrimmage, Bess has 10 of his 26 catches on third down. Last year he set a club record with 35 catches on third down. However, he has only one touchdown and his longest reception is 21 yards.

INTANGIBLES

The Steelers have won four in a row and five of the past six against the Dolphins, including the past two in Miami. They are 2-0 on the road and have won their past three games on the road, dating to last season. Curiously, the Dolphins are 3-0 on the road and 0-2 at home, where they have allowed an average of 36 ppg. Since the 1970 merger, the Steelers (376-243-2) and Dolphins (375-244-2) have the best regular-season records in the NFL.

KEYS TO VICTORY

To win, the Dolphins must ...

1 Crowd(er) the middle. RB Rashard Mendenhall has been a workhorse for the Steelers, averaging 23.2 carries and 99 yards rushing per game.

2 Have Chad be bad. Henne will have to make plays in the passing game against a defense that can shut down the run.

3 Make it a Long day. The Dolphins' left tackle has to be able to handle James Harrison, who has had a tumultuous week.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1 Brand Marshall. CB Bryant McFadden has to keep the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver -- and the ball -- in front of him.

2 Get Brown on the ground. He is the player who makes the Dolphins' wildcat package effective, even though they don't use it quite like before.

3 Keep Cameron in his Wake. The former Penn State linebacker disrupts plays in the backfield with his size (6-3, 260) and speed.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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