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Tomlin Report - Week 7 at Miami

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Since the NFL merger in 1970, the Steelers and Dolphins rank 1 and 2 with 376 and 375 wins respectively. The two teams meet Sunday in Miami. The Steelers will do so minus starting defensive end Brett Keisel, out with a hamstring injury.

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1) at  Miami Dolphins (3-2)

at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL

Sunday, October 24 – 1:00 PM on CBS


Steelers 4-1; first place AFC North

Favorite: Steelers by 3

LAST WEEK

Dolphins: Beat the Packers 23-20 in Green Bay

· After a Green Bay field goal on the game’s first drive, Miami drove down the field largely on the strength of three big catches by offseason-acquisition Brandon Marshall. WR Davone Bess finished it off with a two-yard reception from QB Chad Henne to give Miami a 7-3 lead.

· Disaster struck for the Dolphins on two consecutive plays near the end of the first quarter. An interception by Henne near the Packers’ 20-yard line was followed by an 86-yard touchdown pass from Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers to WR Greg Jennings, giving the Packers a three-point lead.

· Miami’s offense failed to move the ball until the final drive of the half, when it methodically picked up yardage en route to a 53-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter, tying the game at 10-all.

· Carpenter added another field goal on the first drive of the second half, this time from 41-yards out.

· Green Bay pushed the ball into the redzone on the first drive of the fourth quarter, but Miami’s defense held and forced the Packers to settle for a 26-yard field goal and a tie score.

· After matching three-and-outs by each team, Miami took the lead again thanks to great starting field position. This time around, Chad Henne hit TE Anthony Fasano for a 22-yard strike and a 20-13 lead.

· Green Bay refused to go quietly, however, executing a thirteen-play, game-tying drive that saw the Packers convert two fourth down opportunities including the touchdown itself, a QB sneak by Aaron Rodgers on fourth-and-one with thirteen seconds remaining.

· Both teams went three-and-out on their first drives in overtime, though Miami came out with good field position on their second chance out. They didn’t waste it, rushing their way downfield for a 44-yard field goal and a 23-20 overtime win.

Steelers: Beat the Browns 28-10 in Pittsburgh

· Browns rookie QB Colt McCoy ended his first NFL drive with an interception, handing the ball to another QB making his first start of the season, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.

· However, Big Ben ended his first drive with a pick of his own, this one at the hands of rookie CB Joe Haden, who returned it 62 yards, setting up Browns kicker Phil Dawson with a 39-yard field goal.

· Ben’s second drive ended much better as he found WR Mike Wallace in the endzone for a 29-yard touchdown pass and a 7-3 lead. That would remain as the score at halftime thanks to stellar play by the Steelers defense and some clutch punting from Cleveland’s Reggie Hodges.

· Hodges pinned the Steelers deep again on their second drive of the third quarter, but it was all moot. Big Ben, operating from his own four-yard line, found Mike Wallace for a 50-yard pass and a great deal of breathing room. Four plays later, he found WR Hine Wards for an eight-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead. Wallace finished with three catches for 90 yards, with Ward pulling down five grabs for 54 yards.

· All was quiet until an interesting series of plays on special teams early in the fourth quarter. Punter Daniel Sepulveda pinned Cleveland at their eight-yard line, but was forced to re-punt due to a penalty. His second punt was almost as good but it, too, was nullified by a penalty. Sepulveda was forced to use his leg one more time and this time around, Cleveland made the mistake. Return-man Chansi Stuckey muffed the punt, giving possession back to Pittsburgh, who needed only four plays to push RB Rashard Mendenhall into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown. Mendenhall finished with 84 yards on 27 carries and a TD.

· Cleveland answered on the ensuing drive with McCoy finding TE Benjamin Watson for a 12-yard touchdown.

· Unfortunately for the Browns, their hopes at a comeback ended with an interception by Lawrence Timmons, which set up Big Ben’s third touchdown of the day, this time on a 14-yard pass to TE Heath Miller, sealing a 28-10 win at home. Roethlisberger finished the day 16-of-27 for 257 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

· In addition to his interception, Timmons led the team in tackles while picking up two sacks.

· James Harrison, who knocked two Cleveland players out of the game, picked up a sack-and-a-half. LaMarr Woodley added a sack and Nick Eason contributed a half-sack.

· Ryan Clark was the beneficiary of a Colt McCoy interception on the first drive of the game.

DOLLARS AND CENTS

Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been fined $75,000 by the NFL for his helmet-leading hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Harrison was not suspended.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

A Look Around the AFC North


Baltimore (4-2) missed an opportunity to keep the division lead thanks to an overtime loss against the Patriots in New England. Baltimore controlled the ball eight minutes more than its opponent, but gave up the final 13 points of the game, including the game-winning field goal in overtime.

The Ravens could be receiving a big boost in the secondary though, as former-Defensive Player of the Year Ed Reed is eligible to return from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Baltimore faces winless Buffalo next, which might be a good opportunity to get Reed some game action before heading into a bye one week later.

Cincinnati (2-3) was forced to dwell on an unspectacular five-game start over the bye week. They’ll return to action without the services of DE Antwan Odom, who was suspended four-games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. The Bengals draw Atlanta next, a tough matchup considering how inconsistent both the offense and defense have been.

Cleveland (1-5) has only the winless Buffalo Bills standing between them and last place in the AFC after their loss to Pittsburgh. The Browns’ are quietly losing a war of attrition with the injury bug, as two of their own, WR Mohammed Massaquoi and WR/KR Joshua Cribbs, suffered concussions at the hands of Pittsburgh LB James Harrison. In addition, defensive end Robaire Smith, who was inactive on Sunday, may be placed on IR, ending his season.

The loss to Pittsburgh came with a bit of a silver-lining though, as Colt McCoy looked confident and efficient in the first start of his career. Considering that first start came on the road against one of the most dominant and complex defenses in the NFL, McCoy exceeded expectations on Sunday. With the Browns already in a deep, deep hole, management should consider giving McCoy more opportunities rather than rushing hobbled veterans Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme back into action.

MIKE LIKED…

The idea of taking his team on the road. “I love it, but there’s not much about the National Football League that I don’t enjoy,” offered Tomlin. “I like playing at home. I like playing on the road. I like neutral sites, because that’s usually a big game.”

Of course, the most-common “neutral-site contest” in the NFL is the Super Bowl.

STEELERS INJURY UPDATE

· DE Brett Kiesel suffered a hamstring injury early on in Sunday’s game and will be OUT this week against Miami. Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason will compete for his open spot.

· RB Rashard Mendenhall has a shoulder contusion as is PROBABLE for this week.

· The battle for the RG spot may come down to whoever is healthier this week. Trai Essex continues to rehab an ankle sprain and is QUESTIONABLE. Doug Legursky, who has excelled in Essex’s absence, suffered an MCL sprain against the Browns, but came back to play. He is PROBABLE for this week and will likely remain as the starter.

DOLPHINS INJURY UPDATE

The Dolphins enter week seven as a relatively healthy team. The only injury of note is to LB Channing Crowder, who made his first appearance of the season this past weekend. He’ll play more this weekend as he continues to work back from a groin injury.

MAIN STORYLINE FOR SUNDAY

How will Pittsburgh handle Miami’s wildcat offense?

DOLPHINS TO WATCH

RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams; FB Lousaka Polite; QB Chad Henne; WRs Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess; LT Jake Long; DE Kendall Langford; NT Randy Starks; LBs Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake, and Channing Crowder; CBs Vontae Davis and Jason Allen

LOCAL CONNECTIONS

· FB Lousaka Polite attended Woodland Hills High School and played collegiately at Pitt.

· DE Jared Odrick, TE Mickey Shuler, and LB Cameron Wake all played at Penn State.

ACCORDING TO TOMLIN

“When they’re committed to getting the ball to Pro Bowl-caliber guys, they’re going to get it. You just try to minimize the amount of damage to you when they do get it.” – On Miami’s penchant for targeting WR Brandon Marshall in the passing game. Marshall had seventeen targets last game.

“I’m all for player safety. I think it’s the proper initiative that the NFL has. I think we need to safeguard the men that play this game to the best of our abilities and make it as safe as we possibly can, but I also think we have an obligation to those that look to the NFL to provide as safe a game as we can. I’m talking about high school, college and little league players around the world. So I’m a proponent of player safety and whatever rule or rule-adjustments that we do to make it safe.” – Discussing the hot-topic of the NFL this week: helmet-to-helmet hits. James Harrison was involved in two such collisions on Sunday, with one drawing a fine of $75,000. Two other players, Houston’s Dunta Robinson and New England’s Brandon Meriweather each received $50,000 fines.

“If you look at [the hit on Cribbs], the first man to make contact with him was a hit-and-wrap tackler, LaMarr Woodley. We teach the second man in to try and dislodge the ball because that’s what we desire. We want possession of the football. They both did exactly what we coach and what we ask them to do. The first man to confront Josh Cribbs was LaMarr Woodley. He came to balance, did a nice form wrap tackle. The second man in attempted to dislodge the ball on contact, and was able to do it. Of course it was recovered by Cleveland.” – Discussing Harrison’s hit on Joshua Cribbs, a hit that was deemed legal by the NFL. The hit on Massaquoi, however, drew a hefty fine as the NFL attempts to cut down on helmet-to-helmet contact.

“I don’t know if that’s realistic. Helmet-to-helmet contact is going to occur from time to time in football. Things happen fast with big, moving people. I think the issue here is that we coach a lowering of the target to minimize or reduce the number of those opportunities, and to talk about flagrant or egregious approaches.” – When asked whether helmet-to-helmet contact can be eliminated from the NFL completely.

“I did, and even going back to ’08 when we were playing him in sub-package football. If you look at his numbers relative to the number of snaps that he played in ’08, what he’s doing right now shouldn’t be that much of a shock to anyone. He’s been productive since he’s played defense for us. He’s going to continue to get better as he continues to get comfortable with the nuances of the game and being able to decipher what people are trying to do to him. He’s an emerging, emerging player and he’s doing a really nice job.” – On third-year LB Lawrence Timmons, who is becoming the playmaker the team expected he’d be after selecting him midway through the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. Timmons is tied-for-fourth in the league in total tackles despite facing an early bye week and has contributed three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble this season.

“The circumstances of those decisions change as you go throughout the year. Early on in the year you’re concerned because of the lack of snaps people played. You worry about conditioning. We’re five games into this thing now, where guys are used to playing a number of snaps. Six guys is probably more of a requirement in early September than it is in the latter part of October, but again that is a potential option for us, one we’ll look at later in the week.” – Answering whether he’ll bring DL Steve McLendon back from the practice squad with Kiesel out with an injury. McLendon has already been called up this season due to past injuries on the defensive line.

“I am. We had a limited number of options here the first month of the season. He had to carry the torch for us and he did a very nice job of it. Hopefully as we proceed we’ll find ways to lighten his load moving forward.” – On whether he’s concerned about the number of carries given to Rashard Mendenhall, who has averaged 23.2 carries per game over the first-five contests.

LOOK FOR…

Roethlisberger to keep the ball away from CB Vontae Davis, who is quietly emerging as the NFL’s next elite cornerback.

SPLASH TALK

“He’s big – 6-4, 230 pounds. He‘s a physical matchup problem for anyone in your secondary. He’s strong, but there are a lot of big receivers and what makes him unique is his ability to run after the catch. He’s got little-man quickness in terms of his ability to drop his weight and change direction. He’s got great balance. He’s a tough guy to tackle once he catches it. He’s an easy target down the field. They move him around quite a bit and Henne appears to be very comfortable throwing him the ball.” – Discussing Dolphins wideout Brandon Marshall, who was acquired by Miami in a trade during the offseason.

“Not close enough. He’s a Dolphin.” – When asked how close he was to signing former-Penn State and CFL standout Cameron Wake, who has six sacks this season in five games for Miami.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMM…

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Roethlisberger’s 257 yards and three touchdown effort makes him just the second quarterback since the merger to post a 250+ yard, three TD game against the Cleveland Browns in the regular season. The other man to accomplish the feat? Terry Bradshaw.

Tommy Maddox never accomplished that in the regular season, but he did pull it off in the postseason, passing for 367 yards and three TDs in a win against Cleveland during the 2002 NFL playoffs.

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