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The Miami Dolphins: Taking the starch out of the Steelers/Patriots marquee match-ups since 2016

For the second year in a row, an epic Steelers/Patriots match-up at Heinz Field has been tainted a bit. And we can thank the Miami Dolphins for that.

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

If you're anything like me, you had the Patriots flying into Miami on Monday night and taking it to the Dolphins for 60 methodical minutes, thus setting up 11-2 vs. 11-2 this Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

But, as you know by now, that didn't happen; Miami was the methodical squad and sort of had its way with the Patriots in a 27-17 victory.

So, yes, the luster is lacking just a bit for this Sunday's game now that New England will be coming to town with a slightly less impressive record than the Steelers.

And you know what that means?

Everyone knows what that means. As Steeler Fever pointed out in the comments section of my Wednesday article involving the Steelers, Patriots and Dolphins, New England is 36-4, coming off a loss since 2003—although, to be fair (and without doing any real research on the matter), I think it's safe to say the Patriots have had plenty of 36-4 stretches for various reasons over the past 14 years or so.

In other words, the Patriots can't lose this week, because Miami came along and stole the only defeat they were willing to give up between now and next September.

But it could be worse if you're a Steelers fan.

Instead of coming along and stealing the hidden vigorish that was meant for the Steelers, Miami could have damaged quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's knee.

Thankfully, the Steelers didn't play in Miami this year, because this is exactly what happened the last time they traveled there for a regular season game, which just so happened to be the last time the Steelers and Patriots were a week away from engaging in a mega-match-up of epic proportions.

That last time was Week 6 of the 2016 campaign—October 16, to be precise.

The 4-1 Patriots were in the process of destroying the Bengals to improve to 5-1, which, in theory, Pittsburgh, also 4-1, should have been doing to the 1-4 Dolphins at that exact same moment, to improve to the exact same record.

The following week was going to be epic.

5-1 vs. 5-1.

Big Ben vs. The G.O.A.T, Tom Brady.

Only, things didn't unfold quite that way for the Steelers.

With the game being played in 80-degree weather, Miami wisely forced the Steelers to don their black jerseys.

Lawrence Timmons threw up (again), running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards, Chris Hubbard finally made us realize why he was a backup offensive lineman, and Sammie Coates began his slide into wide receiver oblivion, as the Dolphins had their way with Pittsburgh, in a 30-15 beat-down.

But that wasn't what turned the following week's affair against the Patriots at Heinz Field into a foregone conclusion—in the visitor's favor.

What did that was a torn meniscus suffered by Roethlisberger in the second quarter, an injury that required surgery and thrust Landry Jones into the starting role vs. New England.

So, instead of being a two or three-point favorite, New England was suddenly favored by more than a touchdown in this Week 7 match-up of AFC heavyweights in-which Pittsburgh was significantly lighter in the quarterback department.

The Steelers were also lighter on the defensive line, thanks to the ongoing hamstring ailment for star defensive lineman Cam Heyward, who missed the previous week's game in Miami, which probably helped explain those 204 yards Ajayi posted on the ground.

It may also explain the 127 yards former Steelers running back (and former bad influence on Le'Veon Bell) LeGarrette Blount recorded in what turned out to be a 27-16 victory at Heinz Field for the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots.

As of this writing, the Patriots are still minor favorites for this Sunday's game, but, coming off a loss, they don't seem as beatable as they would have been at 11-2.

Does that seem weird to you?

It should, and we can thank the Miami Dolphins for that, as they've taken the luster off of a Steelers/Patriots match-up at Heinz Field for the second year in a row.