Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football
Game Preview for Dolphins vs Steelers
(Sports Network) - For the Pittsburgh Steelers, this Monday's game provides an opportunity to get back on track. The Miami Dolphins, on the other hand, are hoping just to get untracked when the NFL's lone winless team visits Heinz Field for a Week 12 encounter with the current AFC North leaders.
Both teams brought in new head coaches during the offseason, but each has produced decidedly different results in their debut campaigns. The Steelers have won seven of their first 10 games under the direction of 35-year-old Mike Tomlin, while Miami has yet to achieve a single victory in year one of the Cam Cameron era.
The 0-10 Dolphins have actually dropped 13 consecutive contests dating back to last season. Ironically, the franchise's last win came last December against the New England Patriots, the team now flirting with a perfect record in 2007.
Miami has at least been somewhat competitive over the last month. The Dolphins lost to both the New York Giants and Buffalo by identical 13-10 scores in Weeks 8 and 10, respectively, and held a four-point halftime lead at Philadelphia last Sunday before surrendering a pair of second-half touchdowns and coming up on the short end of a 17-7 decision.
The Dolphins were done in last week by an offense that failed to get anything going under rookie quarterback John Beck. The second-round draft choice completed just 9-of-22 passes for 109 yards in his first NFL regular-season start.
Beck figures to face another tough challenge on Monday, as he will face a fearsome Pittsburgh defense that is holding the opposition to a league-low 156.3 passing yards per game. The Steelers also lead the NFL in both total defense (236.2 ypg) and scoring defense (14.5 ypg).
The Miami offense could get a boost from the possible return of running back Ricky Williams. The troubled former Heisman Trophy winner was reinstated from an 18-month suspension for repeated violations of the NFL's substance abuse policy last week and returned to Dolphins practice on Wednesday.
Williams hasn't played in an NFL game since the 2005 regular-season finale but has a chance to be activated for Monday's tilt, since No. 1 running back Jesse Chatman is dealing with a sprained ankle and could be limited in the game.
Pittsburgh returns to the friendly Heinz Field confines after last week's shocking overtime loss to the struggling New York Jets at the Meadowlands. Mike Nugent's fourth field goal of the day, a 38-yarder five minutes into the extra session, sent the Steelers home with a disappointing 19-16 defeat.
The Steelers are a perfect 5-0 at Heinz Field this season and have won 12 straight Monday night matchups as the host. Pittsburgh hasn't lost at home on a Monday since a 23-20 setback to the Giants during the 1991 season.
Monday's game will also serve as a homecoming for Miami linebacker Joey Porter, who spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Steelers before joining the Dolphins as a free agent in March.
The all-time regular season series between the Steelers and Dolphins is knotted, 9-9, with Pittsburgh evening the series by virtue of a 28-17 home win to kick off the 2006 season. Miami is 0-2 in the series since scoring a 21-0 home victory over the Steelers in 1998, and is 0-2 in Pittsburgh since last winning there in 1990.
Miami holds a 2-1 edge in the postseason series with Pittsburgh, claiming AFC Championship wins in 1972 and 1984 while dropping an AFC Divisional Playoff in 1979.
The Steelers' Tomlin and Dolphins' Cameron will be meeting each other, as well as their counterpart's respective team, for the first time as head coaches.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL
While Miami has had trouble putting up points recently, the offense has been able to generate a solid ground attack even after losing top back Ronnie Brown to a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. Chatman (392 rushing yards, 1 TD, 20 receptions) has averaged better than 90 rushing yards in his three starts replacing Brown, including a career-high 124-yard effort against Buffalo two weeks back. The stocky back's sore ankle could mean an increased role for the seldom-used Patrick Cobbs (37 rushing yards, 1 TD) or possibly Williams if the team deems him ready to play. The Dolphins have averaged a healthy 128.1 rushing yards over their last eight games.
Throwing the ball has been another matter for Miami, which ranks just 24th in the league in passing yards (188.0 ypg) and generated little through the air last week due to soggy conditions and the inexperienced Beck at the controls. The passing game has also suffered with the injury to Brown, an outstanding receiver out of the backfield, and last month's trade of wide receiver Chris Chambers to San Diego. Rookie Ted Ginn Jr. (12 receptions, 1 TD) has been making progress, as evidenced by a career-best four-catch, 52-yard performance against the Eagles. The former Ohio State star also scored the Dolphins' lone touchdown last Sunday with an 87-yard punt return. The team's most reliable receiver has been veteran Marty Booker (29 receptions, 1 TD).
Pittsburgh's usually stingy defense will attempt to rebound from a rare mediocre showing last week, in which the Steelers yielded a season-high 151 rushing yards to the Jets. The unit has been very tough to run on during the course of the year, however, ranking third in the NFL with an average of 79.9 yards allowed on the ground. The defense won't have Troy Polamalu (42 tackles, 7 PD) on the field on Monday, as the All-Pro safety will miss the game with a knee sprain, but other well-decorated standouts such as inside linebacker James Farrior (52 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and nose tackle Casey Hampton (16 tackles) will be around to lead a stout front seven. The Steelers also have a capable fill-in for Polamalu in eight-year pro Tyrone Carter (16 tackles, 0.5 sacks).
Expect blitz-happy Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to bring his charges early and often at Beck. The Steelers are skilled at generating pressure from an outstanding linebacking corps headed by James Harrison (67 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 1 INT), who's put together a Pro Bowl-caliber season as Porter's replacement. Opponents are completing a league-low 54.7 percent of their passes against Pittsburgh, which also possesses a good cornerback tandem in Ike Taylor (45 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) and Deshea Townsend (33 tackles, 2 INT). Townsend has been bothered by a tender ankle but is expected to be okay for Monday's test.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
Pittsburgh's grind-it-out offense has produced the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (147.5 ypg), with the speedy Willie Parker (925 rushing yards, 2 TD, 15 receptions) on the verge of recording a third straight 1,000-yard season and Najeh Davenport (318 rushing yards, 3 TD) having an excellent year as his understudy. Parker was held in check by the Jets last week, however, as he mustered just 52 yards on 21 carries in the loss. The 27-year-old was hindered by an off day by the Steelers' normally-sturdy line. The front wall failed to consistently open up holes and surrendered seven sacks to New York, which entered the game with only nine as a team.
Protecting Ben Roethlisberger (2215 passing yards, 23 TD, 8 INT) has been an issue for Pittsburgh at times, as the strong-armed quarterback has been sacked 30 times this season. But when Roethlisberger has received adequate time, he's been able to effectively get the ball to receivers Santonio Holmes (39 receptions, 7 TD) and Hines Ward (37 receptions, 4 TD) and standout tight end Heath Miller (33 receptions, 6 TD). Holmes will miss Monday's contest due to a high ankle sprain, with Nate Washington (16 receptions, 2 TD) the most likely replacement. Roethlisberger has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in Pittsburgh's five home games in 2007.
Parker should be licking his chops at the thought of facing a Miami stop unit that ranks last in the league in rushing defense (154.9 ypg) and was carved up for 202 yards on the ground by the Eagles last week. The Dolphins have clearly missed the presence of seven-time Pro Bowler Zach Thomas (52 tackles, 1 sack) at middle linebacker. The 12th-year veteran has missed five of the last eight games with concussion symptoms and has been ruled out for this game as well. Channing Crowder (60 tackles) has been moved from the weakside into Thomas' spot but has been merely adequate as a fill-in.
The Dolphins have allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards (181.1 ypg) this season, but that's partly because teams prefer to attack them via the run. Miami has compiled a paltry 12 sacks thus far, and the team's lack of a complementary pass rusher has made perennial All-Pro end Jason Taylor (31 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) less of a factor. Porter (40 tackles) was supposed to be that guy, but the outspoken linebacker has mustered just 1 1/2 sacks on the year. Season-ending injuries to starting safeties Yeremiah Bell and Renaldo Hill have also hurt the secondary, although former first-round pick Jason Allen (19 tackles, 2 INT) had a two-interception game against the Eagles and is showing improvement after being forced into an every-down role.
Although Parker's shown signs of wearing down from a heavy workload this season, the lightning-quick back should have a nice bounce-back game against Miami's leaky run defense. Roethlisberger, who seems to always excel when playing at home, is also worth a start and shouldn't be hampered too much by the loss of top wideout Holmes. Ward will likely be the go-to receiver on Monday and makes for a solid play, while Miller's red-zone skills have made him into a solid No. 1 tight end. The Pittsburgh defense will be smelling blood with the Dolphins throwing out a young quarterback who doesn't have a whole lot of offensive support, which will give the unit's owners a reason to watch what could be a one-sided game.
There really isn't a whole lot to look forward to fantasy-wise for Miami, although Ginn's production increased with Beck under center, and the rookie's return abilities make him a potential sleeper as a second wide receiver or flex. A hobbling Chatman about to face a stout Pittsburgh run defense is a very risky proposition, however. Beck's a good guy to have stashed away in a keeper league, but the BYU product is a long way from warranting a spot in your lineup.
Miami has been making strides on the defensive side and will pick up a victory at some point this season, but the Dolphins face a tough hill to climb in this one. Pittsburgh is going to be angry and focused after losing to an inferior opponent a week ago and has been a dominant home team this season. The Steelers should face little resistance from Miami's undermanned run defense, and Pittsburgh usually has success as a team whenever Parker has a big day. With Beck likely to receive a crash course in the zone blitz, the Dolphins are going to have to continue to run the ball effectively to make the rookie's job a little easier. That's a task easier said than done, however, against a Steeler defense that should be eager to atone for less week's subpar showing.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Steelers 31, Dolphins 6
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What bettors need to know: Dolphins at Steelers
‘Run, Ricky, Run’
The Dolphins need something to spark their season into life after a dismal 0-10 start. They might just take a chance on running back Ricky Williams, after he returned to practice this week following an 18-month suspension.
Miami’s prodigal son received the ban for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and hasn’t played in an NFL game since the end of the 2005 season. Williams is eligible to play against Steelers on Monday night, and coach Cam Cameron did not rule him out of contention after a “solid” day of practice on Thursday.
"We'll just see how he practices and continues to practice and see what the recovery looks like from day to day," Cameron told Florida Today. "Right now, here's a guy that's fresh. Now, when you get up tomorrow and after you've just kind of got to watch it evolve, take it one day at a time, and see what the recovery is like."
His teammates were openly enthusiastic about his return.
"He looked good," linebacker Channing Crowder said. "He was cutting and running good. We'll see, it might be 'Run Ricky, Run' again, like old times."
The big question surrounding Williams is whether or not he can recreate the form that saw him rush for a franchise record 1,853 yards in 2002. He hasn't played a full season since 2003, but says he feels good right now.
"I haven't played football in a year, and then to get on the field and feel it all come back so quickly was a little surprising," he said.
The Dolphins might actually be forced into using Williams due to injury problems. The team’s original starting running back Ronnie Brown is out for the season. His replacement, Jesse Chatman, was limited in practice on Saturday and is said to be a game-time decision with a sprained ankle.
Roethlisberger tired of being hit
Ben Roethlisberger is hurting. The Steelers quarterback has been sacked 30 times in just 10 games, admitting this week that his body is suffering.
"I'm a little more beat up, but that comes with the territory of being the quarterback and getting hit," Roethlisberger told the Washington Observer-Reporter. "I think we'll be able to shut that down real soon."
Pittsburgh’s offensive line showed no signs of shutting down the New York Jets in last week’s 19-16 loss. Roethlisberger was sacked a season-high seven times in that game.
"I can't necessarily pinpoint every sack and tell you what happened, but I will tell you they did have a couple of coverage sacks," Roethlisberger said after that game. "Guys were covered down the field.”
Miami has recorded just 12 sacks in 10 games. But the Jets had just nine in their first nine contests before meeting the Steelers last Sunday.
Roethlisberger is on course to be sacked 48 times this season. The previous team record is 51, set by Cliff Stoudt in 1983.
Work in progress
The Dolphins handed quarterback John Beck his first NFL start last week in Philadelphia. Despite losing 17-7, they were impressed with the rookie’s performance. He completed just over 40 percent of his passes for 109 yards, and showed good command of the football.
"Honestly, I think he played really well," tight end David Martin told Florida Today. "He was real poised. Of course, he wasn't perfect – nobody was. But he really spoke up and led that huddle. Those are the things you look for."
Beck’s numbers could, and probably should, have looked much better. Several of his incompletions were due to dropped passes by the receivers. Still, the young QB is hoping for a vast improvement this week.
"Because I am so critical of myself, I knew that after the game I was going to see things that I knew I needed to improve on, and see things that maybe I didn't notice in the game – stuff like my feet," Beck said. "I found things I want to work on, and that's why when I get on the practice field, I'm trying to fix them."
A trip to Heinz Field is a daunting task for a young quarterback who is considered a work in progress. The Steelers’ defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL, is a physical group that loves to intimidate opponents – especially rookie QBs.
"I'm quite sure (Beck has) seen the film," Pittsburgh linebacker Larry Foote said. "He knows our motto. We're going to come after him. He knows that. Monday night, we're going to come after him, and he's going to have to adjust on the run."
The Steelers’ ‘D’ is holding opponents to just 156.3 yards per game in the air, and has recorded 28 sacks for the season.
Double injury blow
Pittsburgh will be without an important player on each side of the ball for the clash with Miami. Safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Santonio Holmes both picked up injuries in last week’s loss to the Jets and have been ruled out for Monday.
Polamalu, who is struggling with a knee injury, is having a slow year by his standards. He has no interceptions and no sacks for the season, but his versatility is an important part of the defense.
Tyrone Carter, who was very quick to downplay fans’ expectations of him, will replace Polamalu.
"I can't be Troy out there," Carter told reporters on Friday. "I've just got to play my game. There are things he does well and things I do well."
Holmes, meanwhile, has a sprain in his upper right ankle. His absence is a major setback to a Pittsburgh offense that managed only 151 passing yards and a single touchdown against the Jets.
He leads the team in receptions (39), touchdown catches (7) and yards per catch (17). Nate Washington gets the job of filling his shoes.
"It's going to require multiple people to step up and fill the roles they provide for us, which is great," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the injuries. "This is a team, and it's the ultimate team game. We're looking forward to these guys stepping up and delivering for us."
Head to head
Pittsburgh has won, and covered, in three straight games against Miami. The Steelers are 6-4 ATS for the season, while the Dolphins have a 2-5-3 against the spread record.
The under is 4-1 in the last five meetings between these teams.
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished the NFL regular season with a winless mark of 0-14 in 1976, remaining the only team in history not to record a win or at least a tie over a season. In 1978 the NFL switched to a 16-game schedule and while nobody has posted the infamous 0-16 ledger, we have seen seven teams notch a 1-15 mark.
Miami (0-10 straight up, 2-5-3 against the spread) isn’t facing the record books yet, but Monday’s matchup at Heinz Field against Pittsburgh (7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS) might inch the Dolphins closer to history.
Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com opened the Steelers as 16-point home favorites in the primetime finale and the total at 42. The side has remained steady, but the total has dropped to 40 and might fall further due to the latest weather reports.
It should be noted that Heinz Field hosted four high school football championships on Friday, plus the Pittsburgh Panthers hosted South Florida on Saturday in a college battle. With the overabundance of events at Heinz Field, management decided to lay new turf on Sunday so that the playing surface won’t be poor on Monday. I’m not an expert on turf but most would expect some slippage with newly laid turf, right?
Both teams have to deal with the conditions and most games come down to talent anyway, something Pittsburgh has more of in this matchup – evidenced by the line.
The Steelers have been double-digit favorites three times this year, winning by an average of 17.6 points per game en route to a 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS mark in those contests.
Mike Tomlin’s team is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS at Heinz Field, winning four of the five by double-digits. The lone non-cover came in a 31-28 victory against Cleveland on Nov. 11 in a game the Steelers dominated in total yardage. Unfortunately, Pitt’s special teams gave up too many big plays and the offense set up the Browns with short tracks.
Pittsburgh understands it can’t overlook Miami on Monday, especially after falling to the lowly N.Y. Jets 19-16 in overtime last Sunday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked seven times by a pass rush that was ranked dead-last in the league. Also, running back Willie Parker was stifled to 52 yards and the Jets were ranked last in rushing yards allowed too.
“Including last week’s embarrassing loss to the Jets, Pittsburgh is just 4-3 in its last seven games with other setbacks to the Broncos, and Cardinals. This may be a sign that they tend to "play down" to the competition,” explains VI’s top-NFL handicapper Jason Johnson.
“While the Steelers have won three straight over the Fins, they haven't won any of those games by more than two TD's and Pittsburgh finds itself without its two playmakers this week, Santonio Holmes on offense and Troy Polamalu on defense.”
Holmes has been a huge target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, leading the Steelers in receptions (39), yards (664) and scores (7) from the wide receiver position.
Miami is banged up as well for Monday, with linebacker Zach Thomas (head) and running back Jesse Chatman (ankle) both expected to miss. Without Thomas, the Dolphins’ defense has given up a league-worst 155 yards per game, plus a 27.4 PPG too.
Offensively, the Dolphins have struggled but Chatman (392 yards) provided some stability for the injured Ronnie Brown. The Fins do return Ricky Williams for this game but head coach Cam Cameron hasn’t decided as of Sunday if he’ll play or not.
Quarterback John Beck gets his second start after losing to Philadelphia 17-7 last Sunday. The BYU product was 9-of-22 for 109 yards in the loss, but a lot of critics felt that Cameron handcuffed the youngster. The offense was held to 186 total yards to the Eagles, as another rookie Ted Ginn provided the only points with an 87-yard punt return.
Those offensive woes could be held in check again versus the league’s best defense in Pittsburgh. The unit has held opponents to 14.5 PPG and 236 YPG through 10 games and last week’s loss to the Jets was the first time they allowed a rusher to eclipse the century mark this year.
You can make an argument that Miami isn’t as bad as its 0-10 record, evidenced by the margins (10, 3, 3) in its last three losses. Actually, the Dolphins have five losses this year by a field goal.
If Miami doesn’t get it done Monday, then next week’s home tilt versus the New York Jets certainly seems that history could be avoided.
Dare we say that the Dolphins could be looking past the Steelers tonight?
Kickoff is slated for 8:30 p.m. EST, with ESPN offering national coverage.
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Thomas ruled out for Monday night against Pittsburgh
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas has been ruled out for his fourth consecutive game and will not play at Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Coach Cam Cameron also said defensive end Matt Roth (groin) and running back Jesse Chatman (ankle) were day to day.
Since Thomas suffered a concussion in September, the seven-time Pro Bowl player has missed five games. Thomas, 34, has said he hopes to return to the winless Dolphins sometime this season.
Thomas missed two games in September. In October, he was involved in a car crash after a loss to the New England Patriots. He suffered whiplash and recurring migraines.
``It's just something we have to deal with,'' Cameron said. ``I don't really look at it any other way. I know he's doing everything he can to stay in the condition if, in fact, he gets to the point where he can come back. He's in the meetings, he's involved in the practice and all those things. Just like I told him, let's not get ahead of ourselves.''
Cameron said Thomas was, ``doing everything but practicing.'' Thomas did not speak with reporters.
``The status - it has not changed - with migraines, those kinds of things,'' Cameron said. ``I think he's made it clear where he stands and we are on the same page.''
Although Chatman had a noticeable limp during Friday's practice, Cameron said he was not ready to completely rule out the running back who has averaged 91.6 yards rushing per game.
``It could come a long way by tomorrow,'' Cameron said. ``We've got a significant practice tomorrow and a walkthrough on Sunday. So we've still got some time.''
Cameron would not commit to starting running back Ricky Williams, who recently returned to the Dolphins after serving a 1 1/2-year suspension, if Chatman could not play Monday.
``He had another practice that was solid and we'll wait and see what tomorrow brings,'' Cameron said. ``Now he's had consecutive practices. We don't have to make any decisions today. We don't have to make any decisions tomorrow. We'll just continue to take it one day at a time, see how he feels as the week goes along, then we'll make a decision, probably a game-time decision.''
Williams has tested positive for marijuana at least four times since Miami acquired him in 2002. He rushed for 3,225 yards in the 2002-03 seasons after being traded to the Dolphins. Williams retired in 2004, but returned to the Dolphins in 2005, when he ran for 743 yards alternating with Ronnie Brown, who is out for the season with a torn knee ligament.
``I'm going to err on the side of caution because it's easy, in these cases, to get ahead of yourself,'' Cameron said. ``So why do that? Again, (Williams) had a solid practice and we'll see how it goes tomorrow.''
Williams said he would be ready to play with last-minute notice, if necessary.
``We're professionals here,'' Williams said. ``We're paid to get ready to play and that's my job.''
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Reverse perfection: Dolphins still winless going into Monday night game
November 25, 2007
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Thirty-five years after they became the only unbeaten Super Bowl champions in NFL history, the Miami Dolphins are getting nervously close to a perfect record again.
Perfectly awful, that is, with the zero as the first digit in their won-lost record. There would be no joyful popping of champagne bottles with this imperfect season, no favorable comparisons to Don Shula's long-celebrated 1972 team that began the season with no losses and ended it that way 17 games later.
The Dolphins' 2007 line score: 10 games, a lot of close calls, but a zero in the wins column going into Monday night's game in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers (7-3) are 5-0 this season while outscoring their opponents 150-54.
Only the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) have gone winless through an NFL season of 14 games or more. The expansion 1960 Dallas Cowboys (0-11-1) are the only other winless team of modern vintage.
The Dolphins will be reminded of this repeatedly if they keep losing, with each loss piling on more pressure to win before they go down in NFL history for all the wrong reasons - a full-season equivalent of former Vikings lineman Jim Marshall's famous wrong-way run. Miami's start is the worst since the 2001 Lions were 0-12.
If they didn't have enough to occupy them, the Dolphins also have these sideshows to deal with Monday night: running back Ricky Williams' possible first game action since 2005, and mouthy linebacker Joey Porter's return to Pittsburgh.
``People are going to say what they want about us,'' defensive end Jason Taylor said. ``They can say what they want. We're not playing real well. We're not winning any games right now, but I know what we're putting forward. I know what we're putting into it, and we'll get the results one day.''
If they don't win Monday night - and they are 16-point underdogs - the Dolphins' best chance might come next Sunday against the Jets. After that, they finish against the Bills, Ravens, Patriots and Bengals, a stretch that includes several winnable games but no guarantees.
Which is exactly what the Steelers learned last week during an improbable 19-16 overtime loss to the Jets, who went into the game 1-8. The Steelers looked flat, played sloppily and never found either a running game or a way to protect Ben Roethlisberger, who was sacked seven times.
Playing successive games against teams that owned one win between them until a week ago appeared to be the closest thing possible to a two-week bye, but the best the Steelers can go now is 1-1.
``If you don't go out and do what it takes to win, you can lose,'' cornerback Deshea Townsend said. ``We know that firsthand.''
The Steelers will be without injured wide receiver Santonio Holmes (sprained ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (sprained knee). Losing Holmes takes away Roethlisberger's best deep threat; losing Polamalu will alter defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's blitz package against inexperienced quarterback John Beck.
Beck played shakily in his first career start last week, going 9-of-22 for 109 yards in a 17-7 loss to Philadelphia. The blitz-reliant Steelers figure to come at him at every angle, something Porter no doubt has warned him to expect.
``You see them creating plays on defense, creating turnovers and not giving up a lot of yardage,'' Beck said.
Porter, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and a member of the Steelers' 75th season all-time team, signed with Miami in March after being let go by Pittsburgh in a salary cap move. He hasn't been in a winning game in 11 months, but his former teammates don't expect that 0-10 record will quiet one of the NFL's most habitual trash talkers.
``I hope he does (talk),'' cornerback Bryant McFadden said. ``That adds some excitement and enthusiasm to the game.''
So could Williams, who played in Canada last season following at least his fourth violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He practiced last week, but coach Cam Cameron isn't saying how much he will be used.
Dolphins running back Jesse Chatman averages 91.6 yards as a starter, but is questionable with a sore ankle. His injury may create the need for Williams to play only his 13th NFL game since 2003.
When he last played, Williams gained 280 yards in his final two games in 2005, including 172 against Tennessee. Neither the Dolphins nor the Steelers are certain what Williams is capable of following so long a layoff.
``I'm not really anticipating anything,'' Cameron said.
The Dolphins lost in Pittsburgh 28-17 last season as backup Charlie Batch threw three touchdown passes. Pittsburgh has won 12 consecutive Monday night home games dating to 1991, including a 38-7 rout of Baltimore three weeks ago.
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Miami Dolphins linebacker Derrick Pope says he feels better
November 25, 2007
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -Miami Dolphins linebacker Derrick Pope said Sunday he was feeling better after going to the hospital for medical attention.
Pope missed practice Saturday and his status for Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was questionable.
Neither Pope nor the Dolphins disclosed Sunday what exactly the fourth-year linebacker was feeling or what doctors found, if anything.
``Everything checked out and I feel better,'' Pope said in a statement released by the team. ``I appreciate everyone's concerns. I know our team physicians have been in touch with the hospital medical staff and are satisfied that everything is in order.''
Pope has started at outside linebacker in the past five games. If Pope cannot start, he likely will be replaced by Donnie Spragan, Cameron said.
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History within Fins' grasp
Picture Cam Cameron, who looks like William H. Macy in The Cooler, walking into the locker room just before the final game of the most wretched season South Florida has ever seen. His beaten warriors are waiting for inspiration. It is time for him to be a leader that history remembers. One last fight. Like the greatest generals, he makes the kind of speech that echoes through time.
''Men,'' he begins. ``You know what the glowing core is to any religion or passion or faith or cause? It is belief, absolute and unwavering, belief that does not sway even in the strongest of winds or stenches.''
``And I now believe, for the very first time, that you can do this.''
A hush falls over his players after an initial murmur. Cameron is stubborn, but they have finally conquered him. It is the only thing they have conquered all year. Cameron watched 300 and Gladiator to get ready for this speech, but it wasn't Sparta or Russell Crowe who spoke to him. It was Jim Belushi in Animal House.
''I know I was a little late to this party,'' Cameron admits with a knowing smirk as laughter cuts the tension in the room. ``I really didn't believe in your ability to do this at first. That's why I brought in an old quarterback and a furious Joey Porter. That's why I kept starting Cleo Lemon. That's why I told Wayne Huizenga at first that we'd contend for a playoff spot. But you have my heart now. All of it. You have earned it.''
Whoops break out around him. Cameron, palms down, tells his warriors to settle down with his hands.
''So now, today, we have a chance to be really special,'' he says. 'Uncommon. Remembered. Unique. Historic. Without precedent. A lot of warriors and a lot of teams have played a lot of games over a lot of years. But you have a chance to be different than anyone who ever came before you. You have `forever' right in your hands today.''
He reaches into the pocket of his beige pants -- past the Tums, the Maalox and the single rumpled packet of Alka-Seltzer. His breath smells of Milk of Magnesia and Pepto-Bismol. He pulls out an index card upon which he has scribbled himself some notes.
''The 1980 Saints were 1-15, and their fans wore paper bags over their heads to the game,'' he says. ``The 1990 Patriots and 1991 Colts were 1-15. So, too, the 1996 Jets and 2000 Chargers and 2001 Panthers.''
He puts the index card back in his pocket. Moved, he's going to speak from his heart the rest of the way. His voice rises a notch.
''But they didn't have what it takes to finish the task,'' he says, jabbing an index finger at his heart. ``They didn't have that special something that we have right here in this room. They weren't what this group is. They didn't have the kind of persistence and resilience and consistency that you need to arrive in the unprecedented place where we are today.''
Cameron feels his eyes stinging. Maybe it is the size of the moment. Maybe it is the combination of gurgling antacids again.
HARDEST PART OVER
''Men, you've gotten through the hardest part,'' he says. ``You somehow allowed five touchdowns to Daunte Culpepper at home and a career game to the son of Starsky and Hutch's Huggy Bear. You somehow lost to A.J. Feeley despite a three-turnover advantage in the game. You had fewer turnovers and twice the time of possession and rushing yards as Buffalo and still lost at home. You have what it takes to do this, absolutely. We all know it. Everyone does. I believe this in a way I have ever believed very few things in my life.''
Cameron remembers what happened a few days ago. A 35-point underdog at New England, his team allowed Don Shula's asterisk to be kicked all over the field. His eyes mist. He points to the locker-room doors.
''Out there, history awaits you,'' he says. ``You have a chance to be remembered in ways that Shula and Marino never were. You have a chance to do something that not only this proud franchise has never done but no proud franchise has ever done. Men, not everyone gets to be remembered for all time. You are 60 minutes away from immortality.''
Cameron is surprised to find himself shouting now.
''Men,'' he says, ``go get your final earned slice of forever!''
Re: Monday Night Football
Miami (0-10 SU, 2-5-3 ATS) at Pittsburgh (7-3 SU, 6-4 ATS)
The Dolphins travel to Heinz Field still in search of their first win of the season as they take on the Steelers in a nationally televised contest.
Miami, which is trying to avoid joining the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only winless teams in NFL history, is making its second trek to Pennsylvania in as many weeks. Last Sunday in Philadelphia, the Dolphins competed the entire game but still fell to the Eagles 17-7 as 9½-point underdogs. The Dolphins managed just 186 total yards against Philadelphia and their only score came on an 87-yard punt return for a TD by rookie Ted Ginn Jr.
Pittsburgh suffered a 19-16 OT loss to the Jets in New York last week, falling as a nine-point favorite. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak that had put the Steelers in charge of the AFC North.
Miami rookie QB John Beck gets his second career start for the Dolphins after going 9-for-22 for 109 yards in his debut against the Eagles. The Dolphins’ offense has produced just 27 points the last three weeks. Meanwhile, although the defense has given up just 43 points in the last three games, Miami still is surrendering an NFL-worst 154.9 rushing yards per game and 27.4 points per contest.
The Dolphins are 1-2-2 ATS on the road this season and 4-12-2 ATS in their last 18 games against AFC foes.
Pittsburgh is 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS) at home this season with the only non-cover coming two weeks ago in a 31-28 win over the Browns as 10-point favorites. The Steelers are outscoring their visitors by an average of 20 points per game (31-11), with the defense giving up just 184.6 total yards per game at home (67 rushing yards ypg).
These teams met in the season opener last September when the Steelers scored a 28-17 win at home as a one-point chalk.
Pittsburgh has been dominant at home on Monday nights, going 21-5 SU and 19-7 ATS, including a 38-7 rout of the Ravens as a 9½-point favorite three weeks ago. Meanwhile, Miami is just 6-15 (9-11-1 ATS) on the road under the Monday night lights.
The over is 38-13-2 in the Steelers’ last 53 home games (3-2 this year) and 11-4 the last 15 times the Dolphins have played on Monday night.
ATS ADVANTAGE: PITTSBURGH and OVER
Re: Monday Night Football
Monday Night Football Preview
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to bounce back from a bad loss when they take on the winless Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on Monday night.
Roethlisberger went just 15-of-25 for 195 yards passing last Sunday as the Steelers fell 19-16 in overtime on the road to the New York Jets. Big Ben threw a touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the second quarter, and was intercepted once. Jeff Reed accounted for the rest of Pittsburgh's points in the loss, booting three field goals in the second half.
Holmes had five catches for 75 yards against the Jets, but he'll miss Monday night's game with an ankle injury; Nate Washington will take his spot in the starting lineup. Hines Ward had a pair of catches for 47 yards last week, and Willie Parker was held to just 52 yards rushing on 21 carries. Najeh Davenport rushed eight times for 39 yards.
That defeat dropped Pittsburgh to 7-3 straight-up on the season, and 6-4 against-the-spread. The combined score was an UNDER play; the Steelers are now 5-5 on the OU.
The Dolphins opened the scoring against the Philadelphia Eagles last week with an 87-yard punt return from Ted Ginn Jr., but that was all they got in a 17-7 road loss. John Beck made an ineffective start for Miami in that contest, going 9-of-22 for 109 yards passing, with no touchdowns and no INTs. The rookie will get another shot on Monday.
Jesse Chatman ran for 72 yards on 22 carries versus the Eagles, but he's been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision against Pittsburgh. That could open the door for Ricky Williams to start at running back in his return to the league. Zach Thomas is out for the Monday nighter due to his head injury.
Losing to Philadelphia made the Dolphins 0-10 straight-up on the season, and they're only 2-6-2 against-the-spread. Last week's UNDER play put Miami at 5-5 on the totals.
The oddsmakers don't think the Steelers will have much trouble adding to the Dolphins' woes on Monday night - they're listed as 16-point favorites for the contest (with the total pegged at 40.5 points). Pittsburgh is 4-1 against-the-spread at home this season, and 6-4 ATS as the favorite. Miami is 1-2-2 ATS on the road, and 2-5-2 ATS as the underdog.
The last time the Steelers and Dolphins met was in Pittsburgh on September 7, 2006. The Steelers came away with a 28-17 victory in that contest, easily covering the 1.5-point spread. The combined score of the game went OVER the posted total of 34 points.
Here are the official injury reports for both the Dolphins and the Steelers for Monday
Joe Toledo G P-U-P List (foot)
Zach Thomas LB Out Week 12 (migraine)
Matt Roth DE Doubtful Week 12 (groin)
Jesse Chatman RB Questionable Week 12 (ankle)
Keith Traylor DT Probable Week 12 (ankle)
Santonio Holmes WR Out Week 12 (ankle)
Troy Polamalu S Out Week 12 (knee)
LaMarr Woodley LB Questionable Week 12 (hamstring)
Brett Keisel DE Probable Week 12 (shoulder)
Deshea Townsend CB Probable Week 12 (ankle)
After playing the Steelers on the road on Monday night the Dolphins will return home for Week 13 to take on the division-rival New York Jets. The Steelers will remain in Pittsburgh for their Week 13 game, which will see the Cincinnati Bengals come to town.
Re: Monday Night Football
New sod, rain to spice up Dolphins-Steelers game
Heinz Field may well be slippery tonight.
It’s raining in Pittsburgh today and weather forecasts call for more showers tonight when the Steelers host the Miami Dolphins.
Heinz Field maintenance workers installed new sod ahead of tonight’s game. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted stadium officials as saying the temporary surface was needed because the field had hosted seven football games in 11 days.
The National Weather Forecast for Allegheny County, Pa., calls for light rain this evening. The temperature late this afternoon was in the low 50s and dropping. Kickoff is 8:30 p.m. ET.
Re: Monday Night Football
NFL Inactives (Monday, November 26, 2007)
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The following is a list of inactive players for this week's NFL games.
MIAMI DOLPHINS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS, 8:30 P.M. (ET)
Dolphins - WR Kerry Reed, RB Lorenzo Booker, CB Jereme Perry, CB Tuff Harris, LB Zach Thomas, DT Anthony Bryant, DE Rob Ninkovich, DE Matt Roth.
Steelers - 3rd QB Brian St. Pierre, WR Santonio Holmes, RB Gary Russell, S Troy Polamalu, LB LaMarr Woodley, C Marvin Philip, G Darnell Stapleton, T Marvel Smith.
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