Dolphins passing attack: 232.2 pass ypg (13th)
Steelers passing attack: 160.2 pass ypg (28th)
Dolphins pass defense: 201.8 pass ypg (12th)
Steelers pass defense: 233.0 pass ypg (24th)
Dolphins passing stats
C. Henne: 107-170, 62.9%, 1,195 yards 7 TD's 5 INT's
B. Marshall: 37 rec, 467 yards, 1 TD
D. Bess: 26 rec, 282 yards, 2 TD's
Steelers passing stats
C. Batch: 29-49, 352 yards, 59.2%, 3 TD's 3 INT
B. Roethlisberger: 16-27, 257 yards, 59.3%, 3 TD's 1 INT
M. Wallace: 12 rec, 301 yards, 3 TD's
Hines Ward: 17 rec, 219 yards, 2 TD's
Now on to the more optimistic element of Sunday's game. Yes, things would be even more upbeat if Roethlisberger's six game suspension would have held up, but on paper the Dolphins actually have the advantage here, both offensively and defensively. Of course, the game is not played on paper.
If the Steelers were really an easy to team to throw on, their defense wouldn't be clearly the league's most dominate unit five games in. And obviously, with Roethlisberger back, they are going to drastically improve that 28th overall passing game. Still though, if your looking for a reason to believe the Dolphins can knock off the Steelers for their first home win of the season, this is it.
Steelers passing attack vs. Dolphins secondary
It's really tough to get a feel for this Dolphins' secondary right now. Vontae Davis has been the most consistent, but was finally exposed in Green Bay on that 86-yard Jennings' touchdown. On the other side, Jason Allen has been either hit or miss every week. Safety wise, Chris Clemons has disappeared ever since his solid performance in Week 1 and Yeremiah Bell is better off playing inside the box than trying to cover.
The key match-up will undoubtedly be Vontae Davis vs. Mike Wallace. I'm confident that what we saw in the first four games is a sign of things to come from Vontae, but the speedy receivers, like Wallace, usually give him the most trouble. Jennings beating him deep this past Sunday is the most recent example of that.
Davis is a physical corner, and matches up better with physical receivers. But the Dolphins like to keep their corners on one side of the field, and the Steelers like to move their receivers around quite a bit, so we should see bothDavis and Allen getting opportunities to cover Wallace and Hines Ward.
Like I said a couple days ago, though, the key to stopping the Steelers' play-action passing game isstopping Reshard Mendenahll and their running game. And we know the key to that will be Cameron Wake and Koa Misi successfully setting the edge.
But just like every week, Wake and Misi getting after the quarterback may serve as the Dolphins' best pass defense. Hopefully, the momentum from the three sacks Wake registered against the Packers will carry over to this week, and hopefully Misi continues his trend of improving each and every game.
Dolphins passing attack vs. Steelers secondary
When Dan Henning knew the Dolphins wouldn't be able to run the ball consistently against the Jets in Week 3, he completely opened up the playbook and let Henne air it out 44 times. Yes, the Dolphins lost that game, but you can't blame that on the offense.
There were times where they relied too heavily on the pass, and should of at least attempted to keep the defense honest. Personally, I would like to see the Dolphins try to unleash a balanced attack every week. But against the Steelers, they will most likely just be hitting their heads against a wall all game long and will find themselves in way too many third and longs.
I'm not saying let Henne throw close to 50 times again either. But I think they need to spread it out a little bit early on and take some shots down field in order to get that aggressive defense back on their heels.
If they find success moving the ball through the air and Henne is able to avoid the costly mistakes, then you come back to the run once the Steelers start respecting Henne a little more. Yes, a lot of ifs for that formula to work, but unfortunately that's just how good this Steelers defense is.
Match-up wise, Brandon Marshall versus the physical Ike Taylor will be key. At 6'2, Taylor is the prototypical corner for covering Marshall, but let's be honest here, nobody can single cover Marshall with any sort of consistency.
The Steelers will likely double-team Marshall on most passing downs, so opportunities will once again present themselves for Davone Bess to eat up receptions underneath. If the Dolphins want to take some shots with Marshall, they would be wise to do so on first and second down when the Steelers may employ some single coverage.
Let's remember too, if the Dolphins are going to open things up a bit, keeping Henne clean will be crucial. Jake Long will have his hands full against James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley could present problems for Vernon Carey on the other side.
At the end of the day, though, it's all going to comeback to Henne. If he plays miskate free football, the Dolphins are going to be in this game.