A six-pack of Dolphins playoff nuggets on a Wednesday:
• Already without their two starting safeties for the duration of the season, the Dolphins practiced on Wednesday with neither their lead cornerback nor their No. 3 safety – worrisome developments as they prepare to face Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense.
But here’s the good news: Safety Bacarri Rambo, who missed practice with soreness in his chest, vowed that he will play Sunday.
And the Dolphins remain hopeful that cornerback Byron Maxwell will return from an ankle injury that sidelined him the past two weeks, though there is hardly any certainty there.
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We feel good about our secondary; adding him into the mix, we'd feel better,” Gase said. “But he only can do what he's able to do right now. That's why he's day-to-day.
“Some days he feels good, and we feel like we're looking good for him to go and some days he doesn't feel so good. We really have to see how the rest of this week goes. It's been a couple of weeks now. I'm not really sure how that one's going to work out.”
Miami held Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 189 yards passing (19 for 34) and a 55.9 passer rating in the Dolphins’ 30-15 win on Oct. 16.
Maxwell covered Pittsburgh Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown in that game but did not shadow him, as Maxwell has done with the Jets’ Brandon Marshall and a few other receivers this season.
Tony Lippett covered Brown when Brown shifted sides of the field.
Both corners had success against Brown, limiting him to four catches and 39 yards, which was tied for his lowest yardage in a game this season.
Overall, Maxwell knocked down four passes in eight
throws against him that day and allowed only 29 yards on four catches. Lippett permitted only three of the seven passes thrown in his coverage area to be caught, for 15 yards.
“Byron Maxwell is a great player,” Brown said in a Wednesday conference call with Dolphins reporters.
But Brown volunteered, unprompted, one advantage he believes the Steelers have.
Speaking of Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Brown said “we know his tendencies” from his years coaching defensive backs in Cincinnati.
“Third down, they’re going to be double zone, 22 man,” Brown said. “I’m excited to have another crack at [Miami].”
• Roethlisberger’s ability to scramble creates two problems: Defensive backs (and linebackers, in some cases) need to stay in coverage longer because of his ability to extend plays.
“Receivers redirect to him and we have to redirect to him,” Lippett said.
The other problem: Roethlisberger, who’s listed at 6-5 and 240 pounds, often has been able to escape defenders trying to sack him.
“He’s one of the harder guys to tackle,” Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. “You get [only] one hand on him, it’s going to be tough [to sack him]. Even when you wrap around his waist, he’s still going to try to get away. If one guy gets him, we all have to jump in.”
• The Dolphins practiced in full pads on a Wednesday for the first time in weeks.
“After watching what we put out there last week, we needed to do something different,” Gase said. “We're not going to stay the same.”
Said center Kraig Urbik: “I liked it. We haven’t had a practice in pads in weeks. Guys were surprised. But I thought it was great to hit.”
• More lack of respect for the Dolphins: ESPN’s power index gives the Dolphins only a one percent chance of winning the AFC. Even the Raiders – who are playing third string quarterback Connor Cook against Houston – are given a better chance (three percent).
On the lack of respect from national media, Gase said:
“It's just like every other week. I don't know how many games we've really been favored to actually win. I don't know if our guys pay attention to that. They're focused on what they have to do.”
• Mike Hull played alongside Kiko Alonso for the first time last week (only eight snaps), with Hull shifting to weakside linebacker, a position he played some at Penn State.
“They’re trying to get me some work,” Hull said. “I played well whenever I was in there.”
• Despite fumbling again on Sunday (his fourth fumble as a returner), Jakeem Grant said Wednesday: “I’m very confident. Every time I get it, I feel I can return it all the way.”
He said finally getting the ball on offense on Sunday (he carried once, for one yard) “was very pleasing. [The Patriots] played it well.”
• The Dolphins’ coaching staff has made this very clear to players this week:
“Our preparation and focus have to be picked up; our coaching staff reminds us [of that],” Jermon Bushrod said. “Attention to detail has to be better.”
The other thing coaches have said repeatedly this week? “Everybody has to do their job,” as defensive end Andre Branch said. Players kept echoing that line today.
In that 30-15 win against Pittsburgh, “everyone had a sense of desperation,” safety Michael Thomas said. “We have to get back to that.”
For lots of UM and Heat notes from today, including an update on UM’s QB battle, please click here.