|NFL Week 12: Dolphins at Steelers Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Sunday, 25 November 2007 15:15|
Steelers Try to Recover
One loss to a struggling AFC East team may have served as a wake-up call for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Another one this week might be considered inexcusable.
The Steelers return to Heinz Field following another surprising road loss as they face the winless Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Pittsburgh -16 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 41 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 51% of bets for this game have been placed on Miami +16 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Pittsburgh (7-3) had won its third in a row by defeating Cleveland 31-28 in Week 10, and appeared to be on its way to running away with the AFC North. But for the third time this season, the Steelers followed an impressive home victory with a loss to a seemingly inferior team on the road, falling 19-16 in overtime to the New York Jets last Sunday.
It was their first defeat in four games since a 31-28 road loss to a Denver team which had dropped its previous three contests by a combined 102-37 score. The Steelers' first loss came after their 3-0 start, falling 21-14 at Arizona.
Pittsburgh went into last week's game with one of the league's top-ranked rushing attacks (151.4 yards per game) and was facing a defense that had allowed an average of 152.2 yards on the ground - worst in the league. But the Jets shut down Willie Parker, the AFC's leading rusher, limiting him to 52 yards on 21 carries, and held the Steelers to 112 yards on the ground.
Compounding the Steelers' stalling ground game was their inability to protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He was sacked seven times by a New York defense which entered the game with a league-low nine sacks.
"We've got to come out and play Steelers football," said Roethlisberger, who was 15-of-25 for 195 yards with a touchdown and an interception. "I don't feel we did that (in New York). They were probably the more physical team. I think it showed."
Roethlisberger, whose 107.5 passer rating is second in the league, has been sacked 26 times in the last seven games. Some feel he's holding on to the ball too long in the pocket, but it's hard to deny he's been under an inordinate amount of pressure.
"We win together, and we stink it up together," coach Mike Tomlin said. "You could finger point, but we all accept responsibility for this one."
Pittsburgh is expected to be without a key playmaker on each side of the ball against Miami. Santonio Holmes, who leads the team in receptions (39), yards (664) and touchdowns (7), suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jets. Safety Troy Polamalu sprained his knee, and is listed as doubtful along with Holmes.
The Steelers' defense, the league's best in points (14.5) and yards (236.2) allowed per game, let Thomas Jones rush for 117 yards last Sunday - the first player in 35 games to crack 100 against Pittsburgh since Edgerrin James did it for Indianapolis on Nov. 28, 2005.
Miami (0-10) is trying to avoid the infamy of joining the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only winless teams in league history, but the Dolphins have inspired little confidence in the initial 10 games of Cam Cameron's tenure as an NFL head coach.
The Dolphins' defense has allowed a league-worst 154.9 rushing yards per game, and has given up an average of 27.4 points to rank among the NFL's worst.
Cameron's team has often stayed competitive, losing five games by a field goal, but the Dolphins' offense hasn't gotten much going all season. Ronnie Brown was emerging as one of the league's best all-purpose running backs before he tore his ACL in a Week 8 loss to New England.
Miami's lack of offense was evident in their 17-7 loss at Philadelphia last Sunday. The Dolphins were held to 186 total yards and their only points came off rookie Ted Ginn's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"I'm tired of searching for a positive. We need to win a game," said Miami guard Rex Hadnot.
The Dolphins turned to another rookie, John Beck, at quarterback against the Eagles. Given the job in place of the ineffective Cleo Lemon, Beck was 9-for-22 for 109 yards with no interceptions in his NFL debut.
While Jesse Chatman has had some success (65 carries, 275 yards) in three starts since Brown went down, Miami may have another option to run the ball against the Steelers.
Ricky Williams, who was suspended for 18 months by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was reinstated last week, and practiced Wednesday for the first time in two years. He hasn't played in the NFL since 2005, when he averaged 4.4 yards per carry and finished with 743 yards for the Dolphins.
It remains unclear if Miami will activate Williams, who led the NFL with 1,853 rushing yards in 2002 in his first season with the Dolphins.
One Dolphin who should definitely play is former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. Fourth on Pittsburgh's all-time sacks list with 60, Porter has just 1 1/2 this season after leaving the Steelers in the offseason to sign a lucrative deal with Miami.
Porter is getting desperate for a win in his new home.
"I'd do anything for a victory right now," Porter said upon hearing news of Williams' reinstatement. "That's where I'm at."
Miami leads the all-time series 11-10. The Steelers have won the last two meetings, including a 28-17 victory on Sept. 7, 2006, when Pittsburgh received its championship rings for winning Super Bowl XL.
The Steelers are 12-0 at home on Monday night since a 23-20 loss to the New York Giants in 1991.
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