Week 6: Steelers-Dolphins Game Preview
The wins have piled up in the first five weeks of the 2016 NFL season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Unfortunately, so have the injuries.
The Steelers (4-1) enter Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday (Oct. 16) for a matchup against the Miami Dolphins (1-4) in sole possession of first place in the AFC North Division. They do so with a fair share of bumps and bruises, though.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Wide receivers Sammie Coates (finger) and Markus Wheaton (shoulder) have not practiced this week. Starting tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and Cody Wallace (knee) have also continued to miss practice with ailments that kept them out of action the last few weeks. Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, was limited in practice on Thursday.
Pittsburgh's injury woes have caused their franchise quarterback to wonder if the physical nature of 10th-year head coach Mike Tomlin's training camps and practices is keeping key players from being available to contribute on game day.
“We have a lot of injuries," said Roethlisberger, who leads the NFL with 15 touchdown passes. “I think a lot of our stuff stems from we’re one of the most physical football teams in training camp, in practice, you know. We do more hitting than most teams do and more pads. I think sometimes it takes a toll on some guys, you know, hamstrings and quads and guys reinjuring things.”
Tomlin responded by saying that he'd take Roethlisberger's concerns into account.
"It's a conversation that we continually have," said Tomlin. "You know you got to walk a fine line. It's a delicate thing: team development and readiness, not enough, too much. Those discussions are ongoing, and it's a legitimate one."
The injuries have allowed Tomlin to flex the strength of the team's depth, however. Jordan Dangerfield has performed admirably starting in place of injured Robert Golden at free safety, who has fully participated in practice the past two days after dealing with a hamstring injury. Chris Hubbard got the start at right tackle in place of Gilbert in last Sunday's 31-13 triumph over the New York Jets and did not allow a sack or commit a penalty. Linebacker Vince Williams started at the left inside spot in place of Shazier the past two weeks and has compiled 25 tackles and two sacks.
Once again, Tomlin and the Steelers will have to find a way to win in Miami with their "next man up" approach and hope they can escape South Florida without further damage going into their week seven showdown against the New England Patriots on Oct. 23 at Heinz Field -- a game that may very well decide home field advantage in the AFC playoffs in January.
SAVE THE DOLPHINS
Rookie head coach Adam Gase came to the Miami following offensive coordinator stints with the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears carrying the reputation of being a quarterback guru. Through five weeks of the 2016 NFL season, his magic has not rubbed off on his latest pupil.
The Dolphins are 28th in the NFL in points per game (17.6) and 29th in yards per game (303.8). Embattled quarterback Ryan Tannehill is tied for third in the league with seven interceptions, and his 83.6 passer rating ranks 21st.
Miami, which made Tannehill the sixth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL last year, has won just 30 games in the Texas A&M product's four-plus seasons as the Dolphins' starting signal caller. The Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since 2000. Gase must find a way to help Miami make good on its Tannehill investment, or his tenure patrolling the Hard Rock Stadium sidelines could be brief.
MIAMI INJURY REPORT
Tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) and safety Reshad Jones (groin) have all missed Miami's first two practices this week, per the team's official injury report.
Pittsburgh leads the regular season series over Miami, 12-10, but the Steelers are just 6-7 against the Dolphins in Miami. The Dolphins came away with a wild 34-28 win over the Steelers on Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field in the last meeting between the two teams, but Pittsburgh has walked away victorious in each of its last three trips to Miami.
Ed Hochuli's crew is set to officiate Sunday's game in Miami. CBS Sports will broadcast the contest, with Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots on the call. The Weather.com forecast for Miami on Sunday calls for scattered thunderstorms (60% chance of rain) and a high temperature of 82 degrees.