Not Quite Perfect: Dolphins @ Steelers



By Ivan Cole

“You see, it was just like in the movies. I mean, it actually happened just like this… –Luther Vandross

In our most fanciful imaginings we see the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Killer Bs, (Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) running roughshod over some hapless, helpless defense, doing whatever they want, perfectly.

But in real life it yields to a less perfect reality, seeming to be a made-up fantasy. Sunday’s Wild Card game against the Miami Dolphins wasn’t exactly perfect, but then again, how could it even be perfect if Steeler Nation didn’t have something to worry or complain about in the aftermath? It was close though.

It actually happened just like this…

Games often unfold like old heavyweight fights, where there is a lot of conservative probing and prodding before getting to down to business, or a surprise strategy that catches one team off balance before things settle down. Steelers fans had hardly settled into their seats or gulped down that first nacho when things started popping.

Le’Veon runs for a first down on his first carry. The offense moves quickly to midfield. Then Ben throws one of those bubble screen type thingies to Brown that we have grown numb to since the days of Bruce Arians. Usually, we consider ourselves lucky if some positive yardage can be had. Occasionally, a talent such as Martavis Bryant can make it seem worth the effort.

Brown catches the ball, and perhaps inspired by Bell, waits for Jesse James to throw a block, and then he starts running down the sideline, and keeps going, virtually untouched into the end zone.

It actually happened just like this…

The Dolphins fail to answer. The Steelers get the ball back. Miami apparently was determined to not let Le’Veon beat them, or maybe they just thought that the touchdown was some sort of fluke. Ben goes to the lightly covered Brown, and just like that, 14-0. A friend of mine, who is not a Steelers fan, texted me from Philadelphia. It was one word.


It was rather disorienting. Coming in I couldn’t come up with a rational or logical reason as to how the Steelers could lose this game, but was fully prepared to be educated on the matter. I do believe that Steelers fans are congenitally paranoid. But now, as mtsnot had commented in response to Rebecca, we were in a stress-free zone, and the first quarter wasn’t even over yet.

Even PaVa, with his perfectionist nature, couldn’t find anything to be concerned about. The Steelers had done exactly what he had been wishing for, but hadn’t honestly expected to see—put their foot on Miami’s neck early and starting grinding. Who does that in real life?

The Dolphins, already in desperation mode, manage to respond with a field goal. Not nearly enough to cause any alarm. Then PaVa noticed as the Steelers’ offense takes the field that Chris Hubbard is in the huddle. Was someone hurt? My response was no, Pittsburgh was fixing to shove Bell down Miami’s throat. And that’s exactly what they did.

It actually happened just like this…

Chris Boswell botched the extra point and PaVa’s eyes and mine met. We share a deep-seated mistrust of kickers. But it wasn’t enough to amount to a concern at that moment, though I am sure it provided some fuel for Steelers worrywarts and comfort to the delusionally optimistic among the Dolphin fan base. However, I’m thinking that in their heart of hearts, there are many on the Miami sideline who were already moving on to thinking about what they might be serving on the flight back to South Florida, and whether they could just skip the second half because it’s a special kind of cold in Pittsburgh.

Now a few words about the defense.

I can’t say for certain because I wasn’t there, but I would not be surprised if at some point during the preparation phase for this game, subtly perhaps, the manhood of this unit was challenged based upon their last performance against this particular opponent.

Stephon Tuitt was rather candid about being annoyed about that game. Of course, we are told that these are professionals, and things like revenge and payback are not part of the equation. You can believe that if you want. I am sure that players such as Matt Moore and Jay Ajayi, assuming they can get of bed today, might disagree.

Miami attempted a response by getting a bit ‘chippy’, maybe forgetting, or not understanding, that Pittsburgh is from the AFC North aka, the NFL’s Chippy Division. This presented the challenge for Steelers players of trying to prevent their ‘hotheaded’ teammates like Bud Dupree and Darrius Heyward-Bey from going medieval on Dolphins players. It also provided a Friendly Fire incident when Mike Mitchell provided a literal instance of Steelers kicking their own butts, as he knocked Ross Cockrell out of the game.

As for James Harrison, I have nothing of substance to add to Homer J’s account, except to say that I would not have been surprised if someone from the league office had not stepped on to the field and asked Deebo to pee in a cup right then and there.

Homer also mentioned during the course of the game that it may be an ongoing contest to determine who would be the most impactful of Pittsburgh’s young linebackers, Dupree or Ryan Shazier.

Let me suggest that, even as Tuitt’s return was much noticed and appreciated, maybe lost in the shuffle of the quality play of the defensive line is that of L.T. Walton and Daniel McCullers. These two are coming of age more in line with the normal time frame in which John Mitchell’s players develop. Demonstrating that in the caldron of playoff football speaks well for the future.

Though, as head coach Mike Tomlin says, the road continues to narrow, and I am certain that Kansas City will have their manhood challenged in preparation for Sunday’s Divisional game, there are a few things to contemplate and celebrate both short and long term about the Steelers. They are doing this without Cam Heyward, Martavis Bryant and a number of other significant difference makers. Ladarius Green, Ricardo Matthews, Vince Williams, Robert Golden and Anthony Chickillo may yet be joining the party in the current run. The roles of Sammie Coates and Demarcus Ayers may increase as they continue to heal and gain more experience respectively. Scraping the rust off punter Jordan Berry may be an ongoing problem.

Tomlin is doing a great job of cheerleading. You can just feel the heartburn developing in the Midwest and New England. Nobody wants to play this team.


  • You can bet the rent Kansas City has had their manhood challenged. Pittsburgh did to them what Miami did to Pittsburgh. They embarrassed them and Sunday is their chance for payback. I dont know about you guys, but this game scares the hell out of me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every game scares the hell out of me. And for good reason. Even when it should be easy, it never seems to be easy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ben certainly needs to be on point in this one. K.C. has a very opportunistic defense and they will make us pay for any misguided balls.

      The thing that scares the heck out of me is Special Teams or should I say The Not So Special Teams. Bringing the ball out of the end zone and barely making it to the 15. Boz has been great at kicking FGs but we need him, with kindness from the weather kick that oblong SOB out the end zone and completely away from their return man(name slips my mind at this point). Our coverage unit is sad and that is being real polite.

      If Ben takes care of the ball and we can somehow not give up any scores on Special Teams I feel confident that we can win this one.


  • I believe we will have another cardiac special on Sunday. Fasten your seatbelts.


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