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Statistical breakdown of the Steelers’ Wild Card win over the Dolphins

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A statistical analysis of the Steelers’ 30-12 win over the Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers began their postseason journey on Sunday afternoon by routing the Miami Dolphins 30-12 in Pittsburgh. For the Steelers, it was a revenge game since it was their Week-7 loss to Miami that started a four-game losing streak which almost torpedoed the entire season. Instead, the Steelers were able to turn the tables and send the Dolphins to the golf course much earlier than they wanted.

Below are all of the stats from the Steelers’ eighth straight win. All stats are official and from the NFL unless otherwise noted.

Running Game: Try not to be shocked at this next sentence: Le’Veon Bell had a phenomenal day running the ball for Steelers. In fact, it was a record-setting day by Bell who had 167 yards on 29 carries, a franchise record. Due to injuries, Sunday was Bell’s first career playoff game, and the star adapted himself nicely to the playoffs. This tweet from CBS Sports accurately sums up what Bell’s afternoon looked like:

Bell scored two rushing touchdowns in the win. He scored from one yard out in the second quarter and then from eight yards out in the third. As talented as the Steelers’ team is as a whole, it may not be a stretch to say this team will go as far Bell can carry them.

Passing: Due to Bell’s dominance, Ben Roethlisberger only had to throw 18 total passes on the day. Roethlisberger’s final line was 13 of 18 for 197 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Roethlisberger actually went into halftime with a mind mindbogglingly efficient 11 of 12 for two touchdowns and one interception.

Both of Roethlisberger’s TD passes went to Antonio Brown in the first quarter. Shockingly, these were the first two touchdowns of Brown’s postseason career. On Pittsburgh’s fifth play from scrimmage, Brown took a screen pass and sprinted fifty yards down the sideline to the end zone. From there, the Steelers never looked back. On their next possession, Brown caught a slant in full stride, then outran everyone to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Brown’s 119 yards in the first quarter were the most by a receiver in the first quarter of a playoff game since Gene Washington in 1969.

Brown’s five catches for 124 yards led the way for the Steelers and, thanks to the low number of attempts, the second leading receiver for the Steelers was rookie Demarcus Ayers with two catches for 21 yards. Le’Veon Bell took a break from being a dynamic two-way threat by catching only two passes for seven yards. So fans had to settle for only 174 yards from scrimmage in Bell’s playoff debut. In total, seven different Steelers caught a pass.

Defense: Last week, the Steelers’ defense appeared disinterested and overwhelmed at times by a hapless Browns team. It was fair for some fans to wonder if the poor execution could be blamed solely on the players being extra cautious, or if there was reason to worry. The Steelers’ defense put those worries to bed by playing a great game on Sunday. Matt Moore’s final stat line of 29 completions on 36 attempts for 289 yards with one touchdown and one interception may look respectable, but the bulk of those completions took place with the game well out of reach in the fourth quarter. In the first meeting between these two teams, the story of the day was Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi’s 200 rushing yards. On Sunday the Steelers held Ajayi to only 33 yards on 16 carries.

The Dolphins’ only touchdown of the day came with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Matt Moore found running back Damien Williams for a four-yard score. Miami then attempted to pass for a two-point conversion that was incomplete and well defended by Ross Cockrell.

As well as the offense played, it should be noted that the Steelers’ defense made plays all game long to keep Pittsburgh comfortably ahead. One situation that typified this effort occurred in the waning moments of the first half, when the Dolphins had 1st-and-goal from the Pittsburgh eight-yard line, trailing 20-6. A touchdown and successful extra point would have made it a one-possession game with the Dolphins receiving the ball to start the second half and, more importantly, having momentum on their side. Instead, James Harrison burst into Miami’s backfield to sack Moore and force a fumble that Stephon Tuitt recovered to preserve the fourteen-point lead and return momentum to the Steelers.

The Steelers’ defense ended the day with five sacks, seven quarterback hits, one interception, three forced fumbles, and three passes defended (Ryan Shazier, William Gay, and Jarvis Jones). The leading tackler for the Steelers was Lawrence Timmons with 14 combined tackles.

Efficiency: The Steelers were 4 of 9 on third-down conversions while the Dolphins were 6 of 14. The Steelers didn’t attempt any fourth-down conversions, but the Dolphins were 2 for 4. The Steelers averaged 6.8 yards per play compared to 4.9 yards per play for the Dolphins.

The Red Zone: The Dolphins were 1 of 2 in the red zone. The Steelers were 2 of 3.

Turnovers: The Steelers had three takeaways Sunday afternoon, and two giveaways.

James Harrison forced the first Dolphin turnover when his sack of Moore caused the quarterback to fumble at the end the first half.

In the third quarter, Mike Mitchell, again sacked Moore, who once again fumbled and this time L.T. Walton recovered the ball for the Steelers. The Steelers were able to add a Chris Boswell field goal on their ensuing drive.

On the first play of the Dolphins’ next series, Ryan Shazier intercepted a pass intended for Jarvis Landry and returned the ball ten yards to the Miami 25-yard line. The excellent field position led to Le’Veon Bell’s second touchdown of the game.

The Dolphins were able to earn two interceptions due to errant Roethlisberger throws. In the second quarter, Michael Thomas took advantage of a tipped ball that Antonio Brown should have caught and Thomas returned the interception 16 yards. Fortunately for the Steelers, the Dolphins didn’t convert the turnover into points on that drive. Then, with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Xavien Howard picked off Roethlisberger for the second time. But the Dolphins again failed to put points on the board after the turnover.

In the second quarter Al-Hajj Shabazz of the Steelers also forced a fumble on a kickoff, but the Dolphins were able to recover the ball to maintain possession.

Penalties: Each team committed six penalties. The Steelers surrendered 60 yards in penalties, while the Dolphins were slightly worse, surrendering 64 yards. It was encouraging to see that the Steelers didn’t let penalties become an issue on such a big stage. In fact, when tempers flared in the second quarter after a big hit from Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier was seen physically restraining his teammates to prevent anyone from taking a dumb penalty. It should be refreshing for the Steelers’ coaches to know they can count on leadership like that on the field going forward.

Under Pressure: The Steelers were able to get to Matt Moore often on Sunday, sacking the quarterback five times. Lawrence Timmons led the way with two sacks, while James Harrison, Bud Dupree, and Mike Mitchell also got in on the act. Dupree was a noticeable force throughout the game with two recorded quarterback hits, a half-sack, and several plays during the game where he just missed adding to those totals. Additionally, Ryan Shazier registered two quarterback hits.

The Dolphins only recorded one sack and two quarterback hits. Ndamukong Suh was able to sack Roethlisberger once, and Cameron Wake forced the second Roethlisberger interception by getting pressure on the quarterback. Other than those two instances, the Steelers’ offensive line deserves credit for providing enough room for Bell to run and keeping Roethlisberger upright.

Kicking: It may be nitpicking, but Chris Boswell is one of the only Steelers who had a rough outing on Sunday. Boswell hit three extra points and a 34-yard field goal, but he also missed his first extra point attempt of the year. On kickoffs, Boswell often left the ball short of the goal line where the Dolphins were able to get decent field position. The kickoff plan may have been by design but, with the dynamic Tyreek Hill fielding kicks next Sunday, it’ll be better if Boswell consistently kicks the ball out of the end zone.

The Steelers took care of business on both sides of the ball on Sunday, making the afternoon very stress-free for their fans. The only bit of troubling news is the potential injury to Ben Roethlisberger’s foot that he suffered on his final pass attempt of the game. But at press time, it looks like this injury is nothing to worry about. The Steelers travel to Kansas City next weekend, which always is a tough venue for visiting teams. But Pittsburgh should be feeling confident, as this is the same Chiefs team they beat handily back in October. Still, the Steelers need a focused week of practice and game planning if they expect to win their ninth consecutive game.