PITTSBURGH STEELERS VS. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013
1 p.m.; CBS
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB RYAN TANNEHILL
Miami's second-year pro and second-year starter has thrown for over 300 yards in consecutive games, including a season-high 331 in last Sunday's 23-3 victory over the Jets. Tannehill's fifth career 300-yard game and fourth this season pushed his season total to 3,115 yards, which made him the second quarterback in Dolphins history to have multiple 3,000-yard seasons (not even Dan Marino did it in his first two seasons with the team). Tannehill has 17 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions and has been sacked 45 times through 12 games. He was described by Bill Cowher during halftime of CBS' telecast of the Dolphins-Jets game as "too mechanical."
DE OLIVIER VERNON
Another second-year pro, Vernon is making the most of his first season as a starter. His 10.5 sacks lead the team, a total that's been bolstered by multiple quarterback drops in back-to-back games (2.5 sacks against the Jets, two on Nov. 24 against Carolina) and at least one in three straight games. Vernon's 10.5 sacks on the season are the most by a Dolphins player other than fellow DE Cameron Wake since 2008, when OLB Joe Porter registered 17.5. Vernon's rookie season was highlighted by 3.5 sacks, two blocked field goals, and the return of a blocked punt for a touchdown.
ABOUT THE DOLPHINS
Miami registered a season-high 453 total net yards and allowed a season-low 177 yards in beating the Jets. The win improved the Dolphins to 6-6 overall and 2-2 without suspended OG Rich Incognito. Miami opened the season with three consecutive victories then lost four in a row. The Dolphins are 2-1 against the AFC North, having beaten Cleveland (23-10) and Cincinnati (22-20 in overtime) and having lost to Baltimore (26-23). Miami is 3-3 on the road (the victory over the Jets snapped a three-game road losing streak). The Dolphins are 5-for-5 in coach's instant replay challenges.
THE DOLPHINS' OFFENSE
Miami is No. 26 in total offense (25th rushing, 17th passing). WR Mike Wallace is second on the team in catches with 56 (behind WR Brian Hartline's 62), second in receiving yards with 743 (behind Hartline's 804) and tied for second with three receiving touchdowns (TE Charles Clay has four, Hartline and injured-reserve list WR Brandon Gibson each have three). Wallace has touchdowns in consecutive games. Clay had seven catches for 80 yards in the first half against the Jets. Tannehill has 164 rushing yards (79 over the last three games). RB Lamar Miller (136 carries for 547 yards) averages 4.0 per attempt. The Dolphins failed on three third-and-1 attempts against the Jets, including twice on third-and-goal.
THE DOLPHINS' DEFENSE
Miami is No. 14 in total defense (25th rushing, ninth passing). The Dolphins limited the Jets to 17 plays, 39 yards and 5:48 in time of possession in the first half. Miami has 16 interceptions, six more than it managed in 2012 (starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson share the team lead with four apiece), and has produced at least one takeaway in all 12 games. Grimes and S Reshad Jones have return touchdowns and Wake has a safety. The Dolphins have allowed 11 rushing TDs. Miami is tied for No. 8 in opponents red zone efficiency, permitting touchdowns 48.8 percent of the time.
THE DOLPHINS' SPECIAL TEAMS
P Brandon Fields is No. 1 in the NFL in gross punting average (48.9 yards per attempt) and No. 4 in net punting average (41.9). Rookie K Caleb Sturgis is 23-for-30 on field goal attempts (3-for-6 from 50-plus yards). RB Marcus Thigpen averages 8.6 yards on punt returns and 24.4 yards on kickoff returns.