Miami Dolphins

Five things to watch: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers

Dolphin fans Bill Yarger, Kathy Damato and James Wiley, left to right show their support as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, December 24, 2016.
Dolphin fans Bill Yarger, Kathy Damato and James Wiley, left to right show their support as the Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field in Orchard Park, NY on Saturday, December 24, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

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Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates after scoring in the second quarter as the Miami Dolphins host the 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens on Sunday, November 27, 2016. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com
 

1. Can Jay Ajayi do it again? It was shocking when Jay Ajayi eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark against the Steelers in the teams’ first meeting and that could never happen again, right? Well, Ajayi actually has three 200-yard games this season and in two of those — against the Bills — he did it to the same team. So that defeats the idea that a team always learns from the problems and mistakes of the previous game. Ajayi did it twice to the Bills, and now he’s going to try to do it a second time to the Steelers. Of course, even if he doesn’t, the Dolphins are hoping to ride Ajayi enough that they have balance on offense.

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Miami Dolphins Kraig Urbik (60), Jay Ajayi (23), Mike Pouncey (51), Anthony Steen (65), and Branden Albert (76), block the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, October 16, 2016. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com
 

 

2. If the Steelers concentrate on stopping Ajayi, will that benefit the passing game? In theory the answer is absolutely yes. Ask Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry how much easier his job gets when the defense is worried about the Miami running game. “It allows us to get one-on-one coverage down the field. Teams are more likely to come up, step up on the play-action fakes. So, for us, man, we have to find a way to make this game as balanced as we can.”

 

3. Which team will be better prepared?: There has actually been some grumbling in Pittsburgh about coach Mike Tomlin. He is 6-5 in the playoffs and hasn’t had a winning record in the postseason since 2010. Amazing but true. The Dolphins have a young coaching staff that is playoff tested but never playoff tested at their level. Adam Gase will be coaching his first playoff game as a head coach. So the answer of which team will be better prepared will play a role in the outcome of this game.

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Miami Dolphins free safety Michael Thomas (31) reacts after stopping Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Justin Gilbert (24) as the Miami Dolphins host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hard Rock Stadium on Sun., Oct. 16, 2016. AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

4. Can the Dolphins win at the line of scrimmage? That is where they authored their October victory over the Steelers. The Miami defensive front had two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger, hurried him so often that he threw two interceptions, and actually got him out of the game with a knee injury. They won the battle up front. Offensively, the Dolphins similarly dominated up front, although the Pittsburgh defense was missing key players. That won’t be the case this time.

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Linebacker Jelani Jenkins does linebacker drills during the second day of Dolphins training camp on July 31 at the team‚ training facility in Davie, Fl. Maria Lorenzino Sun Sentinel

5. Can any Dolphins linebacker cover Le’Veon Bell? Well, the assignment will fall to Jelani Jenkins, who will be playing for the first time in three weeks and who has missed a lot of practice time with a knee injury. The Dolphins linebackers this season have struggled in coverage and if that happens with Bell, who gained over 600 receiving yards out of the running back spot, then the Dolphins are likely going to have a long day on defense.

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