Dick LeBeau beats quarterbacks he hasn't played previously. He's 28-12 since 2004 against passers in their first start against him. That stat increases in his favor quite a bit the younger the quarterback is. It's a complicated defense to figure out, and when a passer does not have the benefit of an outstanding offensive line (more on that in a minute). he can struggle quite a bit.
If there has been a team that's protected its passer worse than the Steelers, it's the Miami Dolphins. Not only will they continue to be down a quality offensive guard (Richie Incognito), they simply allow too much pressure for this offense to really get moving. The Steelers will see the return (and probable rotation) of outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, giving them a chance to reach four or five sacks with 10-plus hurries.
Adding the first two together, LeBeau's defenses are designed to force teams into one phase of the game - in this case, passing - giving the Steelers a chance to tee off on that. Miami is one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL, and while there's concern about the deep speed of wide receiver Mike Wallace, through four quarters, the Steelers defense can choke this Dolphins team out.
Return of Heath
Miami has locked down opposing wide receivers this season, but have been gashed by tight ends. The Steelers will see the return of tight end Matt Spaeth for the first time this season. Inside the red zone, having him available to help in protection alongside Mike Adams (making his first start since Week 4) will give the offensive some room in moving Miller around the end zone.
Home Sweet Home
It's cliche but it's true. The Steelers play better at home. Winners of three straight at Heinz Field, including their 37-point outburst against Detroit in Week 11 (the highest points total they've had under offensive coordinator Todd Haley). It wasn't a perfect win, but it saw the total shutdown of a passing game that's far better than what Miami boasts and has plenty of reason to think it can do the same Sunday.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Dolphins vs. Steelers: Everything you need to know
- Steelers will lose a draft pick, according to a report
- Tannehill facing unique challenges against Steelers
- AFC Playoff Picture: Week 14 games to watch
- Nuts and bolts of how to watch Dolphins at Steelers game
- Dolphins vs. Steelers: A game where play action passing shouldn't be expected
- Steelers game plan vs. Dolphins is to get yards after the catch
- Steelers injury report: Woodley will play, Beachum is doubtful