The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the Miami Dolphins’ season, after bouncing them from the AFC Playoffs following the 30-12 Pittsburgh win at Heinz Field on Sunday. Following the game, you look back and analyze the outcome. Sure, the Steelers dominated, but there still were some personnel worthy of a Loser tag.
After every game we give a Winner or Loser grade depending on individual performances. Take a look at those labeled accordingly after the AFC Wild Card game.
It seems a regular feature to find Harrison on the Winners list, and that’s not because he’s an older player playing at a high level, it’s because he’s a player performing out of his mind for any age. Harrison was a demon on the field both in run support and as a pass-rusher. Harrison had 10 tackles, 6 solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for loss and two quarterback hits. It wasn’t just the stats but also when they took place. Harrison setting the edge totally limited the Dolphins’ running game, and his strip sack of Matt Moore at the end of the first half was a game-changing play.
Brown’s overall statistics in terms of receptions were rather mundane. He had five catches on nine targets, but those five catches went for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Brown was at his best in the first half when he took two passes to the house, marking the first time in his career that he hit pay dirt in the postseason. Brown was electric, and that’s what the team needs if the Steelers want to make it past the Kansas City Chiefs and into the AFC Championship game.
I could just write the following: Bell set a new franchise record for rushing yards in postseason history. But that wouldn’t do his performance justice. Bell’s 167 yards on 29 touches and two rushing touchdowns were things of beauty. There isn’t much else to say about just how good Bell was playing in the first postseason game of his career.
The Steelers knew if they could stop the Miami rushing attack, they’d be able to get pressure on Matt Moore. They did just that to the tune of five sacks, six tackles for a loss and nine quarterback hits. Lawrence Timmons was a demon on the field, racking up two sacks and a team-high 14 tackles. In terms of getting after the QB, it was a total team performance.
The numbers for Brown and Bell are amazing. You can get caught up in the touchdowns and the celebrations, but nothing would be possible without the offensive line doing its job in the trenches. Ben Roethlisberger had tons of time, was only sacked once, and Bell had enough room to run. The team was allowed to really put their foot on the gas and let the linemen pave the way. Kudos to the hogs up front.
Whether it’s the intentional, or unintentional, short kickoffs, the inability of the Pittsburgh return men to know when to let the ball go into the end zone, or the endless number of penalties, special teams have been an issue this entire season. It doesn’t have to be complicated, they just need to avoid stupid decisions. Kneel the ball on kickoffs, don’t get foolish penalties and give the Steelers’ offense and defense a chance to succeed without being behind the 8-ball.
Coaches playing with fire
The decision to keep Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown on the field deep into the fourth quarter of a game well in hand came back to bite the Steelers in the rear end. Roethlisberger’s injured ankle could have (and should have) been avoided, but instead, one of the team’s most important pieces of the puzzle now has a questionable injury heading into the Divisional Round of the playoffs. It’s maddening to think that this all could have been avoided by pulling Ben when the game’s outcome no longer was in doubt.