DAVIE (CBSMiami) – You might not know it by the records of the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, but the matchup on Sunday will be crucial in determining if either team will have a shot at a wildcard playoff spot.
Miami (6-6) and Pittsburgh (5-7) are set to square off on Sunday with the Fins on the cusp of gaining a significant playoff advantage with a victory. Miami has won two of their last three games and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has thrown for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games.
But if history is any indication, Miami might struggle to get out of Pittsburgh with a victory. The Dolphins haven't won in Pittsburgh since 1990, 23 years ago. The quarterback back then for the Steelers was Bubby Brister and ESPN's Merril Hoge was one of the team's running backs.
The Dolphins beat Pittsburgh 28-6 in 1990 and didn't allow a touchdown to Pittsburgh's anemic offense. Looking at Sunday's game, a similar game could play out if the Dolphins can execute its game plan well.
Pittsburgh's offense has struggled to find any sort of offensive identity this year and is coming off a 22-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The loss dropped Pittsburgh to 5-7 on the season and saw the once-vaunted Steelers running game put up just 72 rushing yards against the Ravens.
This season, the Steelers have rushed the ball for more than 100 yards only three times in 12 games, the last being in Week 10 against the Buffalo Bills. Since then, Pittsburgh has rushed for 40 yards, 85 yards, and 72 yards respectively against the Lions, Browns, and Ravens.
Compounding problems for Pittsburgh is the team's defense is aging quickly and it will take a few years to rebuild it. This year, the Steelers rank 25th in the league in interceptions with just seven on the season and rank 25th in rushing touchdowns allowed with 13.
Now comes a Miami Dolphins team that has finally found the running game in the last few games. Miami has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the last five games, including 125 yards last Sunday against the New York Jets.
While the Dolphins offense has yet to score more than 27 points this season; the steam has a shot at the playoffs thanks to the Fins' stiff defense. Miami has the ninth best scoring defense in the league and has played much better against the pass than against the run.
And a victory for Miami will be crucial to any hopes of a playoff spot. After Pittsburgh, the New England Patriots visit Miami and will be fighting for home field advantage in the playoffs. Then Miami must travel to Buffalo for a cold weather game against the Bills before closing out the season against the Jets.
Outside of the Jets game, the other two will be much tougher with Miami losing to both Buffalo and New England earlier this year.
One thing the Dolphins offense may have to deal with on Sunday is bad weather. The forecast for Sunday is a mixture of rain and snow with temperatures hovering around 35-37 degrees at kickoff.
The Dolphins and Steelers will kick off at noon on Sunday and can be seen on CBS4.
for more features.