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State of the AFC North: Steelers blow Dolphins out of water in Wild Card round

Bengals fans didn’t get the sweet sense of satisfaction of watching the Steelers lose this week. Instead, Pittsburgh beat up the Dolphins early and often on Sunday and never gave Miami a chance to win the game.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers easily defeated the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round of the 2017 NFL playoffs, 30-12.

The loss for Miami came in the Dolphins’ first appearance in the playoffs since 2008, when they lost to another AFC North team, the Baltimore Ravens who were led by then-rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. That gives you an idea about the playoff drought the Dolphins have suffered through.

The Dolphins had defeated the Steelers in the regular season, led by Jay Ajayi who rushed for 2014 yards in that game. This game didn’t resemble that game at all and Ajayi had all of 33 yards on the ground.

Miami surely wanted to get Ajayi going again, but the Dolphins had the worst start imaginable for keeping the game-plan run heavy. Two early touchdowns for more than 50 yards each gave the Steelers a quick 14 point lead. While a 14 point lead that early isn’t insurmountable, it does make coordinators more pass heavy to try and cut the deficit and coming back from behind with a backup quarterback in Matt Moore was no easy task for the Dolphins. The Steelers got lucky in facing their second straight backup quarterback in the Wild Card round after playing against AJ McCarron and the Bengals last January.

The lone bright spot for the Dolphins’ offense was Jarvis Landry. He reeled in 11 catches for 102 yards. Kenny Stills had five catches for 82 yards. Other than that, the Dolphins never managed to get anything going on Sunday and looked pathetic for most of the game.

The defensive game plan was clear for Pittsburgh. They were going to take Ajayi out of the game and force Moore, a backup quarterback, to beat them. It was very successful. Moore’s passing stats aren’t awful, he went 29 of 36 for 289 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 5 sacks and 2 lost fumbles. Both of the fumbles were on him not protecting the ball in the pocket, including one that came in the red zone with less than two minutes to play in the second quarter.

Moore also failed to convert on trips into Pittsburgh territory. One touchdown, two field goals, and a few trips yielding zero points due to turnovers simply wasn’t going to cut it against the Steelers’ high-flying offense on Sunday.

Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins starter was injured in Week 14 and wasn’t ready to return this week for what would have been his first NFL playoff game. Though, it’s hard to say he would’ve helped enough even if he had played. In 13 games played, Tannehill threw for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was the picture of inconsistency. In his Week 6 game against the Steelers, Tannehill threw for 252 yards without any touchdowns or interceptions. Maybe Tannehill could have been more careful with the ball, but overall, his impact wouldn’t have been much different in attempting to match the Steelers’ offensive output.

Antonio Brown finished with 124 yards and 2 touchdowns on five catches, and Le’Veon Bell kept his amazing season going into the playoffs. He rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger actually struggled outside of the two passes on which Brown made amazing runs after the catch. Roethlisberger was 13 of 18, threw for 197 yards, and had two interceptions.

Still the Steelers prevailed with each side picking up for the other. This is only the beginning of the road for the Steelers though. The Steelers will have the toughest route to the playoffs.

Next week they will face the Chiefs in Kansas City. The Steelers whooped the Chiefs in the regular season, but the Chiefs have played very well since then. The Steelers had some extra fire to put it to the Dolphins who embarrassed them during the regular season. It will be interesting to see if they come out as strong in Kansas City.

Even if the Steelers beat the Chiefs, they’d most likely have to face the Patriots in Foxborough. Matching up against two talented teams in two hostile atmospheres is a tall task. Let’s just hope that the Steelers don’t make it to the Super Bowl representing the AFC.

This week, we’re Chiefs fans!