The last time the teams met was in 2013. Steelers fans may remember the final play of that game as Antonio Brown nearly turned a razzle-dazzle hook and lateral into a game winning touchdown. He barely stepped out of bounds, however, enabling the Dolphins to escape with a 34-28 win.
About the opponent:
The Dolphins finished a disappointing 6-10 last season, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
Yet, they've made a number of questionable moves this offseason. They took on a big contract to the tune of 13.5 million in guaranteed money by trading for Philadelphia cornerback Byron Maxwell. They also resigned 34 year-old defensive end Cameron Wake. Wake is also coming off ACL surgery and his ability to return to his prior form, particularly at this stage in his career, is up in the air.
It was these moves, and others, that prompted ESPN writer, Bill Barnwell to give the Dolphins a D+ for his offseason grades.
As for the draft, the Dolphins selected highly touted tackle, Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss in the first round. The fact that Tunsil lasted until pick number 13 surprised many draft pundits; however, Tunsil was embroiled in some pre-draft controversy due to a video that surfaced showing him smoking marijuana with a gas mask.
In the later rounds, the Dolphins went after athletic projects, such as cornerback Xavien Howard from Baylor in round 2 and running back Kenyan Drake and receiver Leonte Caroo with their two picks in round 3.
According to the Miami Herald, the Dolphins are apparently betting that the aging players they've resigned and acquired this offseason will have enough left in their tanks to bridge the gap to their new talent. It's a tenuous gamble at best, one that may backfire and ensure that the Dolphins will spend much of the 2016-17 the season looking up at the rest of the NFL.
Despite the gloom and doom in Miami, the team isn't without it's strengths. They still have a capable quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. The former number-one pick is 27 and entering his fifth season as Miami's starter. In five season, Tannehill has passed for over 15,000 yards and 92 touchdowns. Not bad numbers at all. However, Tannehill has yet to prove that he can crack the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks. Right now, he's definitely looked at as second tier. A good quarterback, but not elite.
Fortunately for Tannehill, the Dolphins have brought in a "quarterback guru" as their new head coach. 37-year old Adam Gase helped turn around the career of Jay Cutler in Chicago and worked with Peyton Manning during his tenure in Denver.
He faces a difficult chore getting the offense to improve. Last season, the Dolphins failed an astounding 13 times to score more than 20 points. Also astounding is that the team failed to sign two of its more potent offensive weapons from last year: tailback Lamar Miller and wide receiver Rishard Matthews.
Defensively, the Dolphins ranked near the bottom of the league in several major categories, giving up 24.3 points per game (19th), 376.2 total yards per game (25th), 250 passing yards (21st), and 126.2 yards rushing (28th).
New defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, is tasked with getting the unit to improve. To do so, he's incorporating a new style of play. In May, he told the Miami Herald, "We're going to be an attack-style defense from every position — from the D-line, corners, safeties, linebackers. Every position."
The Bottom Line:
The Dolphins are seemingly in a rebuilding mode this season. They've hired a new coach, the youngest in the league. They're also putting in new systems and attempting to fill major holes on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball while waiting for their new draft picks and younger players to blossom. While victory is never a guarantee, it's difficult at this juncture to pick against the Steelers. Granted, anything is possible; this is only June after all. That being said, the Steelers would appear to possess too much firepower for the Dolphins to handle.