White hot Steelers hosting Fins in wild card round

Steve Mitchell—USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16

The NFL playoffs are in full swing, but the Dolphins and Steelers matchup is a throwback to earlier in the season. Sort of — the two teams squared off back in October 16, with Miami stunning Pittsburgh 30-15. Things have changed dramatically for both franchises since then.Miami was struggling in Adam Gase’s first year, but the win over Pittsburgh turned things around and sparked the Dolphins on a six-game winning streak that vaulted them into the playoff race. They’re not the same team, though, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill won’t play with a knee injury. Veteran Matt Moore takes the keys to a car that will focus heavily on running back Jay Ajayi.For the Steelers, this represents a real opportunity to keep an exceptional streak going; falling to the Dolphins kicked off a four-game losing streak, but after dropping a highly-viewed game to the Cowboys on Nov. 13, the Steelers haven’t lost since.Ben Roethlisberger will get Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell healthy and together in a playoff game for the first time since the two became starters.Keys to the game: The Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs in Bell’s rookie season in 2013. The Steelers made the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 but had to play without Bell, who had season-ending knee injuries both seasons. They also had to play without Brown in the divisional round in Denver last year after he was concussed in a wild-card game in Cincinnati.But the Miami defense gets the Steeler’s triplets, ready to go, especially after the Dolphins won during the season.Bell is the biggest threat: He rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns and also caught 75 passes for 626 yards and two scores. The Dolphins kept Bell under control in October (108 yards from scrimmage). He will be a load for Miami’s 30th-ranked run defense.The Steelers’ run defense will have its hands full with Ajayi. He is one of four players (joining O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Tiki Barber) in NFL history with three games of 200 rushing yards in a season. He ran for 204 yards and two TDs against the Steelers.Matchups to watch :• Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry vs. Steelers CB Artie Burns. The rookie cornerback is going to have his hands full against Landry, who finished the season with 94 catches for 1,136 yards. The Steelers’ pass defense has been susceptible at times this season, and Burns has been beaten for some big plays. With the Steelers focusing on stopping Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins’ running game, this matchup on the outside will be a big key.• Steelers OL David DeCastro vs. Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh. The Steelers have to establish the running game, and this matchup of former All-Pros in the trenches will be important. The Dolphins have sunk a lot of money into their defensive front seven, including more than $100 million on Suh, but it hasn’t produced results. The Dolphins enter the playoffs 30th in the NFL against the run. DeCastro will look to exploit that weakness by winning his matchup against Suh.Player spotlight: Steelers LB Ryan Shazier. The third-year inside linebacker missed the regular-season meeting against the Dolphins because of a knee injury. The Dolphins took advantage as running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards. With Shazier’s ability to run sideline to sideline and fill gaps in the middle of the defense, the Steelers stand a better chance to keep Ajayi in check in the rematch.The Sports Xchange/Reuters contributed to this report.