The Bell, Brown and Ben first-half devastation of Miami feels like it was a lot longer than 18 hours ago.
Roethlisberger left the Heinz Field locker room following the Steelers’ 30-12 overwhelming of the Dolphins with his right foot in a walking boot. Joey Porter left a Pittsburgh bar Sunday night in a police car. Aaron Rodgers left the rest of the NFL awestruck following a divine two-and-a-half quarters that slayed the mighty Giants 'D.'
But before all that, Pittsburgh’s “Big 3” torched Miami, not unlike the demolition of their next opponent, the Chiefs, back in Week Four: building a three-score cushion in the first 20 minutes.
That may have been expected against the Dolphins. The performance of the Steelers’ run defense, which welcomed back Stephon Tuitt and held Jay Ajayi to a season-low 2.1 yards per carry, and generation of three takeaways portends every bit as well as the postseason continues. Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison were awesome vs. Miami — a reminder the young guys are growing up but the grown-ups can still bring both experience and playmaking to the defense.
Back to Brown and Bell for a second — their ability to strike so fast, and from anywhere on the field, presenting the toughest of matchups for even a blue-chip ‘D’ like the Chiefs makes them frightening in a different way than any of their AFC peers — yes, including the Patriots.
And there was something beautiful about the symmetry of Brown’s pair of catch-and-run touchdowns, from 50 and 62 yards, in the opening minutes setting the table for the NFL’s most patient runner, Bell, in his first-ever postseason game, churning away at the Dolphins and Franco Harris' postseason record for 167 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 29 carries — just another day at the office for a player who’s averaged more than 27 over his past seven starts.
The Steelers may eventually need another weapon to emerge, perhaps as soon as this weekend, as no one other than Brown or Bell eclipsed 21 scrimmage yards or two targets. For now, though, this was the type of win that causes trepidation for the remaining playoff field, the AFC’s version of what Rodgers’ Packers did hours afterward.
Except this morning our focus is on Roethlisberger and Porter. The latter, whose alleged acts are both disappointing and reprehensible, lost control on the field vs. the Bengals exactly one year ago; the Steelers, for better or worse, know how to weather this type of distraction, however unneeded. It’ll be discussed this week but shouldn’t derail the defense.
Roethlisberger’s right ankle injury, sustained while throwing with 4:32 remaining in an 18-point game, wasn’t just the result of recklessness by Mike Tomlin — it could threaten to wreck the Steelers depending on the severity.
Roethlisberger, of course, has promised he’ll play, and if he’s on his feet, we’d expect nothing less from one of the game’s toughest players. Yet, he’s proved multiple times throughout his Hall of Fame career his pain tolerance is remarkable, but injuries do affect Roethlisberger’s play. The Chiefs, with their trio of edge forces, active front, playmaking secondary and aggressive play-caller, should learn early how much his mobility is affected.
Up next: Steelers @ Chiefs, Sunday, 1:15
Pittsburgh blew the doors off Kansas City at Heinz Field in Week Four, 43-14, building a 36-0 advantage by early in the third quarter. But this time will be at Arrowhead, with Justin Houston healthy and the combination of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce changing the complexion of the Chiefs, who open as 1-point favorites.