Dolphins Watch

January 2, 2010 12:34 PM

Dolphins try to eliminate champs

BEN.bmpThe Miami Dolphins try to hold onto their slim playoff hopes, and at the same time, eliminate the defending champs in a game against Pittsburgh Sunday in Miami.

The last two games have seen a disturbing trend emerge for Miami, as Tennessee jumped out to a 24-6 before Miami rallied two weeks ago, only for the Dolphins to lose in overtime.

Last week, it was even worse, as Houston raced out to a 27-0 lead before the Dolphins once again made a futile comeback, ultimately falling 27-20.

Now, with the playoffs a near impossibility, they will try to finish the season at .500, and at the same time with a win could knock the mighty Steelers out themselves.

For the Fins to make the postseason, four teams ahead of them in the AFC Wild Card chase have to lose.

While Miami has gotten off to poor starts to derail its playoff dreams, Pittsburgh has been undone by a surprisingly porous defense.

The last two seasons, the Steelers ranked first in the NFL in defense, but injuries -- specifically to All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu, who has missed the last seven games and 11 contests so far this season, have left them reeling.

Pittsburgh has allowed 121 fourth quarter points -- second-most in the NFL, and only Minnesota and Arizona have allowed more fourth quarter passing yards and TDs than the Steelers, who rank 16th in the NFL in pass defense -- down from first a year ago.

Polamalu may not play Sunday, so Chad Henne and the Dolphins' young receivers have some matchups they can exploit.

The Steelers still play the run very well, ranking third in the league in that category, but the Dolphins may be without Ricky Williams, who injured his shoulder last week.

Lex Hilliard will take over the running duties if Williams is out, and he had a nice debut last week, scoring two TDs in Ricky's absence.

The injury bug has hit Miami hard all season, and middle linebacker Channing Crowder will miss this game with a foot injury sustained against Houston.

Backup Reggie Torbor struggled in pass coverage, which has been an overall theme for Miami this season, and that must make Ben Roethlisberger's mouth water.

Roethlisberger has had his most prolific season so far, passing for a Pittsburgh record 4,108 yards, to go with a 66.6 completion percentage, 23 TDs and 12 interceptions.

He has plenty of weapons, ranging from Super Bowl MVP and Florida native Santonio Holmes (tied for third in the NFL with 1,243 receiving yards) and Hines Ward (13th with 1,106 yards) to newcomer Mike Wallace (692 yards and five TDs), tight end Heath Miller (733 yards and five TDs) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (1,014 rushing yards and seven TDs).

This Steelers team is the most explosive in recent memory, and that, coupled with the fact Henne and his receivers are still going through their growing pains, tips the scales in Pittsburgh's favor.

Steelers 27, Dolphins 21.

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