The Pittsburgh Steelers jumped out to an early lead against the Miami Dolphins with a pair of explosive touchdownsby Antonio Brown and never gave Miami a chance to come back, cruising to a 30-12 victory on a freezing-cold day at Heinz Field.
Any chance at a rally for the Dolphins was continuously spoiled by mistakes by Miami, as well as a Pittsburgh defense that forced turnovers on three consecutive drives.
The Steelers leaned on their biggest playmakers, while the Matt Moore-led Dolphins looked like a team missing Ryan Tannehill. Moore completed an impressive 29 of 36 passes and finished with 289 passing yards. However, he fumbled on two sacks and threw an easy interception to Ryan Shazier that set up a Steelers touchdown early in the second half.
The explosive plays for the Pittsburgh offense and Miami’s inability to avoid crucial errors made for an easy day for the Steelers:
Antonio Brown put the Dolphins in a hole
The writing was on the wall early when Brown scored long touchdowns on Pittsburgh’s first two possessions. The first came on a screen pass where he ran untouched up the left sideline for a 50-yard touchdown with 51 yards coming after the catch:
On the next drive, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Brown across the middle and he ran another 51 yards after the catch for a 62-yard touchdown:
Brown’s yards after catch on his two touchdown receptions came after he didn’t have many explosive touchdowns at all for the Steelers in 2016. In fact, in the entire regular season, he only had four yards after catch on his 12 touchdown receptions.
The touchdowns Sunday were the first of Brown’s career in the postseason.
Le’Veon Bell kept the Dolphins in a hole
While it was Brown who initially buried the Dolphins, running back Le’Veon Bell ensured that Miami wasn’t going to claw their way back.
In his first career playoff game, Bell tore apart the Miami defense with calm, collected poise. He patiently waited for his blocks to form and slashed his way to 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
His big day broke the franchise’s single-game rushing record in the playoffs, surpassing the 158 yards gained by Franco Harris in Super Bowl IX.
Matt Moore got walloped and then kept turning the ball over
It really wasn’t a rough day for Moore, statistically. He was efficient, connected on a few big plays, and only threw one pick against a Steelers defense that finished fifth in the NFL in interceptions.
But it was certainly not the easiest day at the office for the longtime backup quarterback. In the second quarter he drew a roughing the passer penalty when he was leveled by Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree.
He recovered from the hit and returned to the game shortly thereafter, but the drive stalled and ended with a field goal. Then he fumbled on the next two drives and threw an interception on the third.
On each of his fumbles, he was hit by a pass rusher from his blind side:
Moore was forced to take over as the Dolphins’ starter in Week 15 after Tannehill suffered a knee injury in early December.
Dolphins kept blowing opportunities
It wasn’t just Moore and the turnovers. The Dolphins had a pair of blatant drops on possible interceptions of Roethlisberger:
Miami also had the chance to hold the Steelers to a field goal attempt, but instead committed a comical encroachment penalty that afforded Pittsburgh a first down.
The Steelers took advantage of the free first down and Bell scored his second touchdown of the day.
* * *
With the win, Pittsburgh advances to face the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. The game is set for Sunday, Jan. 15 at 1:05 p.m. ET at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Steelers hosted the Chiefs in Week 4 and cruised to a 43-14 victory. Roethlisberger finished the game with 300 passing yards, five touchdowns, and no interceptions.