Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Penn
PITTSBURGH – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Le’Veon Bell ran for two touchdowns and a team playoff record 167 yards, Antonio Brown caught two first-quarter touchdown passes of at least 50 yards and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ blitzing defense forced three turnovers on a chilly winter day during a 30-12 rout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in an AFC wild-card game.
Ben Roethlisberger was nearly flawless in running Pittsburgh’s offense, which ran up 219 yards in the first quarter alone, and the Steelers quickly built a 20-3 lead less than 18 minutes into the game while running their NFL-leading winning streak to eight games.
Getting only their second playoff win since last appearing in the Super Bowl during the 2010 season, the AFC North champion Steelers will play at AFC West champion Kansas City next Sunday in a divisional-round game — a team they beat 43-14 on Oct. 2.
With backup quarterback Matt Moore losing two fumbles and throwing an interception during a mid-game span of only three series, the mistake-ridden Dolphins didn’t come close to replicating their 30-15 win over the Steelers on Oct. 16, which started Pittsburgh on a four-game losing streak. Jay Ajayi, who ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns in that game, was held to 33 yards on 16 carries and wasn’t a factor.
The weather — the game-time temperature was 17, with a wind chill of 2 degrees — no doubt was a factor, as attested by line judge Carl Johnson’s frozen whistle. The Dolphins, who practiced all week in the warmth of south Florida for their first playoff game since 2008, huddled around sideline heaters all afternoon in a failed attempt to warm up an offense that never got going as chilly winds blew off the adjacent three rivers and into a frigid Heinz Field.
Brown came into the game with 50 career touchdown catches but none in the postseason, and he quickly changed that. He caught a screen pass and took it 50 yards to the end zone on only the fifth play from scrimmage for the Steelers, and that was just the start on a day Roethlisberger needed to throw only 18 passes — completing 13 for 197 yards.
On Pittsburgh’s next possession, Brown finished off a 90-play drive that took barely three minutes with a 62-yard scoring catch, making him only the fourth player in NFL playoff history with at least two TD receptions of 50 yards in a game — and the first quarter was only about half over. Brown had 119 yards on three catches and two scores before Miami’s offense gained a first down, and ended with 124 yards on five catches.
Bell then took over in his first career playoff game, running for 78 yards while carrying during all 10 times during a Steelers drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run, which came one play after he carried it 25 yards to the 1. Bell’s rushing yardage broke Franco Harris’ team record of 158 yards in a postseason game, set during the 1974 season Super Bowl.
The Dolphins had chances to get back into it but kept throwing — or fumbling — them away despite two field goals by Andrew Franks of 38 and 47 yards, and they couldn’t get into the end zone until Damien Williams caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Moore late in the game.
Roethlisberger threw an interception late in the second quarter — his only incompletion on 12 first-half attempts — but Moore turned the ball over by fumbling on a hit from James Harrison on first-and-goal from the Steelers 8. In the second half, Moore fumbled again while being sacked by Mike Mitchell, leading to Chris Boswell’s 34-yard field goal, and Moore was intercepted by linebacker Ryan Shazier, one of five Steelers regulars who were injured and out for the Miami loss more than two months ago.
Adding to the Dolphins’ misery, cornerback Tony Lippett jumped offside while trying to block a Boswell field-goal attempt, and the Steelers went on to make it 30-6 as Bell scored from 8 yards out.
NOTES: RB Le’Veon Bell now owns the Steelers’ regular- season and postseason rushing records. … Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry caught 11 passes for 102 yards, tying a team playoff record for receptions. … It was the fourth-coldest home playoff game in Steelers history. … Mike Tomlin now is 7-5 in the postseason as the Steelers’ coach.