Miami (10-6) at Pittsburgh (11-5)
When: Sunday, January 8th 2017
Where: Heniz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 1:05 ET | TV: CBS
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins meet for the second time this season, but this one is a win or go home contest in the AFC Wild Card. Pittsburgh survived a four-game losing streak this season that started with a Week 6 blowout loss in Miami, 30-15. Pittsburgh secured the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the conference with its strong finishing run by winning their last seven contests. Le’Veon Bell ran a season-low 10 times against Miami, but he recorded at least 20 carries in each of his last six games before sitting out Week 17 and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December/January after rushing for 569 yards and four touchdowns while catching 18 passes in four games. Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, and wide receiver Antonio Brown will be playing together in the postseason for the very first time. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl championships on his resume and one of the league’s top wideouts in Brown – the conference leader with 12 touchdown receptions who surpassed 100 catches for the fourth straight season. Brown has 481 receptions in the past four seasons – the highest total in any four-year span in history. Pittsburgh’s defense, which is ranked 10th in points allowed (20.4), led the league with 21 sacks from Weeks 11-16.
The Dolphins will be looking for the same running success they had in Week 6 against Pittsburgh, when Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards and two scores against the Steelers. It was the first of three 200-yard rushing performances this season by Ajayi, who finished with 1,272. The Dolphins won nine of 10 prior to a loss to New England in the regular-season finale to clinch their first postseason berth since 2008, but they lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury in Week 14 and will be forced to go with veteran Matt Moore versus Pittsburgh. Moore, who had just 30 pass attempts in his previous four seasons with the Dolphins, put up decent numbers in his three starts (674 yards, eight TDs, three interceptions) and has a trio of talented wideouts in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills (team-leading 9 TDs). Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. are the only two receivers with at least 80 receptions in each of their first three seasons. Miami’s defense ranks 30th against the run (140.4 yards per game) but limited Steelers rushers to 53 yards in the first matchup. Miami was 5-3 against the spread on the road this season.
Playoff experience has to count for something and Pittsburgh has a ton of it led by Roethlisberger. The Week 6 performance by the Steelers is a distant memory. I expect them to lock up Ajayi this time around and make Moore beat them. The Steelers will score easily against this Dolphins defense and roll to a victory.
Pick: Steelers -10