MIA-PIT grades: Le'Veon Bell, James Harrison help power Steelers' win
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Miami Dolphins 12
Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from the Steelers’ 30-12 Wild Card playoff win over the Dolphins:
Quarterback grade: Ben Roethlisberger, 52.4
Big plays early take game out of Big Ben’s hands
The Dolphins’ secondary let up big plays in the first half off of short passes by Ben Roethlisberger, and that was pretty much all that mattered for Roethlisberger in this game. This was not vintage Roethlisberger, but it didn’t need to be after the Steelers shot out to a big early lead. A couple of misreads and ill-advised throws took the gloss off of Roethlisberger’s 9-for-9 start to the game, but the Steelers had plenty of cushion. Heading to Kansas City next weekend, Roethlisberger figures to be a bigger part of the game and he’ll hope not to see any linemen dropping into coverage next week, or at least not throw the ball directly to them.
Top offensive grades:
RB Le’Veon Bell, 86.0
C Maurkice Pouncey, 79.1
RG David DeCastro, 78.0
RT Marcus Gilbert, 75.1
TE Jesse James, 74.2
Steelers exact revenge for Ajayi’s big day in Week 6
The Steelers’ defense gave up 200 yards to Jay Ajayi when they headed down to Miami with a 4-1 record in Week 6, but it was their offense that turned the tables to kick off what they hope will be a postseason run to the Super Bowl. The likes of Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro and tight end Jesse James set the table with some extremely physical run-blocking to consistently split the Miami defensive front open, and running back Le’Veon Bell took full advantage. Bell added 110 yards after contact, breaking three tackles in a spectacular performance. Two drops take a little away from Antonio Brown’s day, but it was his big plays exploiting poor angles in the Miami secondary that put the Steelers into what proved to be an unassailable first-quarter lead, which ultimately turned the game over to Bell and Co. on the ground.
Top defensive grades:
ROLB James Harrison, 94.4
LB Ryan Shazier, 87.8
LB Lawrence Timmons, 84.5
CB William Gay, 83.4
DE Stephon Tuitt, 81.7
Ageless wonder shows no sign of slowing down
When you think of great Steelers defenses, you think of their linebackers, each of them able to make plays whether they’re rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or stuffing the run. The retooling of this unit over the years hasn’t always been smooth, and the jury is very much out on Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, but this effort harked back to an era of defensive dominance at the position. Ryan Shazier was shooting gaps too quick for lineman to slow him, and preventing yards after the catch on underneath routes. Timmons made a fool of Miami RB Damien Williams rushing the passer in picking up two sacks to go with his four other defensive stops. And James Harrison? He simply continues to astound. He led the team with eight defensive stops, two of them coming via sacks, and adding two more hits and three more hurries with the kind of pass-rushing effort you just don’t see from men of his age. But he is something else, and if he plays like this next week, Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher is in for a tough divisional round.
Quarterback grade: Matt Moore, 43.1
Backup QB bamboozled by Blitzburgh
You don’t need to blitz a quarterback a lot to confuse him. But if you can disguise where the rush is coming from and where it isn’t, you can really make life tough for a backup quarterback. Matt Moore was no match for the Pittsburgh defense, with all three turnovers coming when they sent a man late or dropped a man Moore thought was coming. It wasn’t the defining factor in this game, but it was critical in making this such a one-sided affair. Moore displayed the kind of accuracy you want out of a backup QB, with an adjusted completion rate of 85.7 percent, but he was rattled often and shaken up with the consistent pressure generated. The Dolphins are left wondering what might have been had Ryan Tannehill been healthy.
Top offensive grades:
LG Laremy Tunsil, 80.7
WR Jarvis Landry, 77.2
RT Ja’Wuan James, 77.1
WR Kenny Stills, 76.4
RG Jermon Bushrod, 71.6
Passing of the torch at tackle
This was meant to be a game built for running back Jay Ajayi to take over. He couldn’t, and while it wasn’t his best effort, you can fault him for his performance given that his line wasn’t up to the level of the Steelers’ D. Perhaps if life was made easier for Matt Moore, the result may have been different, but there was too much pressure allowed as the Steelers’ blitzes and stunts caused all sorts of problems. The biggest issue came at left tackle, where Branden Albert may have played his last down as a Dolphin. He was not up to the task of slowing James Harrison down, and recorded a team-worst 31.4 grade, as he allowed a sack, two hits and two hurries, while consistently being unable to stop Harrison from turning the corner. On the brighter side of things, left guard Laremy Tunsil ended a solid rookie year with one of his better performances, and next year will likely be the time for him to shine at tackle.
Top defensive grades:
CB Xavien Howard, 80.5
DT Jordan Phillips, 76.7
LB Kiko Alonso, 73.9
DE Terrence Fede, 70.9
S Bacarri Rambo, 62.6
Dolphins fail to find the answers posed by a full-strength Pittsburgh offense
Big plays early through the air and the consistent production by Le’Veon Bell on the ground proved too much for the Dolphins’ defense in a disappointing end to the season. DT Jordan Phillips and rookie CB Xavien Howard were rare bright spots in an otherwise disappointing defensive display. Both tied Ndamukong Suh for the team lead with three defensive stops, but the Dolphins were consistently gashed on the ground and never able to force the short drives that would have given them some opportunity to engineer a comeback. The big deficit from early in the game left the Dolphins’ pass rush without a platform to affect this game, with James Harrison eventually racking up more pressures himself than the entire Miami defense combined.
PFF Game-Ball Winners: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell and LB James Harrison
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