You’re going to hear a lot of talk in the coming days about how the Steelers own a decisive edge over the Dolphins in terms of playoff experience.
And for good reason.
Pittsburgh is in the postseason for the third consecutive season and the fifth time since 2010.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are ending a seven-year playoff drought.
And a few numbers that are even more telling:
There are 53 players on an NFL active roster. Of Miami's 53, just 12 have appeared in a playoff game. Of those 12, three own a Super Bowl ring: Jermon Bushrod, Byron Maxwell and Spencer Paysinger.
“You look at our roster and you go start tallying up the playoff experiences,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase acknowledged Monday. “It’s very minimal.”
But not all playoff experience is good experience.
Just ask Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert.
He was on the wrong end of the second-greatest comeback in playoff history.
Three years ago Wednesday, the Chiefs, with Albert at left tackle, raced to a 38-10 third-quarter lead over the Colts, only to see Andrew Luck rally Indianapolis to an incredible 45-44 victory.
“That game still hurts my heart,” Albert said Monday. “You've got to make sure you finish. That's all. A lot of injuries happened in that game. You just need guys to step up in that moment.”
Albert added: “I think each game is different. I know, going into Pittsburgh, it's going to be different than playing against Indianapolis in that game.”
Certainly, that’s the hope for the Dolphins, whose inexperience could be as much a blessing as a curse.
Sure, all but a handful of Miami players have no clue what they’re about to walk into Sunday at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.
“It’s another level,” Gase said. “They’ll know it. They’ll know it when they hit the field. Trust me.”
The Dolphins go into the playoffs with 13 rookies or first-year players. Sixteen more have just two or three accrued NFL seasons on their résumé.
But youth didn’t stop the Dolphins from becoming the 13th team since the merger to qualify for the postseason after starting 1-4.
“We don’t have too many guys that have playoff experience and so we just go out there and play like we have been, have fun and let it loose,” said receiver Kenny Stills, who reached the postseason with New Orleans in 2013. “We know that if we do our thing, that we give ourselves the best opportunity to win.”
Albert has appeared in two playoff games. Neither was a win. Three years before the Chiefs’ collapse in Indy, they were blown out at home by the Ravens 30-7.
Albert’s experience that day?
“You just realize how things pick up and how the intensity of the game, it's going to be ... Everybody knows what's on the line,” Albert said.
Albert is more of a lead-by-example kind of guy, but he might change up his approach this week and speak directly to his younger teammates. He already has been in the ear of rookie Laremy Tunsil, who lines up directly to his right on the offensive line.
“I was just telling L.T., the game, going down there, playing Pittsburgh, things are going to pick up,” Albert said. “It's a one-game elimination, and we've got to do what we've got to do. Concentrate on what we need to concentrate on. Each game from now on is big.”
▪ National football writer Rand Getlin reported on his Twitter account Tuesday that the Broncos and 49ers are lining up interviews with Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph for their open head coaching jobs. Joseph has also been linked by NFL Network to the Rams, Bills and Chargers.
Raiders at Texans
4:35 p.m., ABC/ESPN
Lions at Seahawks
8:15 p.m., NBC
Dolphins at Steelers
1:05 p.m., CBS
Giants at Packers
4:40 p.m., Fox