It's that time of week again. Time to sit down with a blogger of the opposing team and get a little insight into our enemy before Sunday's big game. After having to do some web surfing a week ago to find a Packers' blog, I had to look no further than Bloguin network to find a great Steelers site. Please welcome in Brian from Blitzburgh Blog. As always, head over to their site to see the questions I answered for them about the Dolphins sometime before Sunday's game.
Phins Phocus: What is the biggest difference between the Steelers team we saw in Week 17 last year that failed to make the playoffs and this year's team that is unanimously considered to be the best team in football right now?
Blitzburgh Blog: Right now, the defense is healthy and playing well. In 2009, Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith were banged up. Bryant McFadden had departed for Arizona. Those losses meant the world to the Steelers defense. Late in games, the secondary was tired, unfocused, and generally untalented (Sorry Tyrone Carter, but you're just no Polamalu). The games they lost last year were all close games, usually decided by late game heroics, courtesy of the other team. Right now, the defense is playing 60 minutes of good football. The stars are back in the lineup, the role players are solid, and Lawrence Timmons has emerged as a dominant linebacker in the middle.
Phins Phocus: Since everyone is talking about it, we might as well too. What is your take on James Harrison's comments and the league's crackdown on violent hits?
Blitzburgh Blog: We're Steeler fans. We learn the names of our linebackers before we learn what a touchdown is. Nothing is more important to the diehard Steeler fan than big hits from a punishing defense. So naturally, we're pretty reactionary when it comes to changing the game to favor the offense. Right now, we're in total agreement with seemingly every NFL player. This will take the fun out of watching football. Still, we've dealt with rule changes before and we will again. Hopefully the defense will adjust and remain dominant. James Harrison and Ryan Clark will be affected the most, since they tend to be the biggest hitters.
Phins Phocus: How much is the offense about to open up with Ben Roethlisberger now back under center?
Blitzburgh Blog: Probably not as much as everyone's acting like it will. The offense is more committed to running the ball this year, and while we did see a few pretty passes against the Browns, that's all it was. A few pretty passes that took advantage of how well Mendenhall was running. It was a nice blueprint to see against a mostly non-existent defense, but more talented defenses will obviously force them into different situations.
Phins Phocus: If you were the Dolphins' offensive coordinator, how exactly would you go about moving the ball on the Steelers' defense?
Blitzburgh Blog: First thing's first, don't even bother trying to run. It doesn't work. Everyone keeps doing it, though. Ask Bud Grant how that worked out in Superbowl IX. No, if the Steelers have a weakness, it is the pass defense. Specifically, checkdowns to shifty running backs. The linebackers have been known to take bad angles here and there and running backs (by "running backs" I mean "Ray Rice") can pick up some major yards when a play has broken down. That, and somehow every week a wide receiver whose own mother hasn't heard of him always manages like 3 catches for 40 yards, or so it seems.
Phins Phocus: Finally, who do you see winning Sunday and why? Final Score?
Blitzburgh Blog: To conclude all my Steeler-ranting, I'll be the homer and predict the Steelers to win 21-16. It's a weak prediction, but I only really say it because I really don't know what to expect from Miami. Literally, it's hard to tell how good they are. Everything I've seen from them makes them look competitive, but I think competitive teams are beatable for the Steelers. Definitely not a game to overlook, though, and I wouldn't be particularly shocked if the Phins pull out a close victory. Disappointed, but not shocked. Still, I expect the Steelers to win despite never meeting the Pittsburgh fan base’s lofty expectations.