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Bell, Brown, Roethlisberger power the Pittsburgh Steelers past the Miami Dolphins

By Alan Robinson, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats (55) and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) tackles Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams (26) in the fourth quarter of the 30-12 Steelers win at the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on January 8, 2017. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
1 of 4 | Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Arthur Moats (55) and Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) tackles Miami Dolphins running back Damien Williams (26) in the fourth quarter of the 30-12 Steelers win at the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on January 8, 2017. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- Ben, Brown, Bell, blitzing and b-r-r-r-r-r.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' dynamic B-team offensive trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, a bitterly cold winter day and non-stop pressure by the blitzing defense created a 30-12 AFC playoff game rout of the Miami Dolphins on Sunday that wasn't even that close.

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"The defense played great, and we went out to control the ball and score some touchdowns," Bell said after the Steelers coasted into next Sunday's AFC divisional game at Kansas City.

The third-seeded Steelers did all that and more in winning an NFL-best eighth in a row, one more than the top-seeded New England Patriots, who appear to be Pittsburgh's biggest roadblock to playing in a ninth Super Bowl.

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"We had a lot of significant contributions. We had the big three running on offense and the defense stopped the run," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Bell ran for two touchdowns and a team playoff record 167 yards, Brown caught two first-quarter touchdown passes of at least 50 yards and the Steelers' pressure defense forced three turnovers. And Roethlisberger was nearly flawless in running the offense, which ran up 219 yards in the first quarter alone.

The Steelers quickly built a 20-3 lead less than 18 minutes into the game and went on to only their second playoff win since last appearing in the Super Bowl during the 2010 season.

Roethlisberger apparently injured an ankle on the next to last play of the game. Big Ben doesn't know the severity, but he was spotted in a walking boot on his right foot after the game.

"We will find out soon, hopefully," Roethlisberger said. "You're always worried about being hurt, but I'll be out there next week."

With backup quarterback Matt Moore pressured constantly while losing two fumbles and throwing an interception during a mid-game span of only three series, the mistake-ridden Dolphins didn't come close to replicating their 30-15 win over the Steelers on Oct. 16, which started Pittsburgh on a four-game losing streak. Jay Ajayi, who ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns in that game, was held to 33 yards on 16 carries and wasn't a factor.

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"We had a difficult time running the ball ... it took us time to get going," Moore said. "We took time to get going, but it was difficult most of the day."

Especially for Moore, who was knocked out of the game for one play after taking a hard hit from linebacker Bud Dupree along the sideline while throwing a pass, then returned to turn the ball over on three consecutive possessions.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase doesn't think Moore was rushed back into the game.

"They told me he was coming back, and I was talking to him and he was good," Gase said. "He went through the league (protocol) and our trainers cleared everything. But we had a couple of play calls we'd like to take back ... there were tight windows to throw (all day)."

The weather -- the game-time temperature was 17, with a wind chill of 2 degrees -- no doubt was a factor, as attested by line judge Carl Johnson's frozen whistle. The Dolphins, who practiced all week in the warmth of south Florida for their first playoff game since 2008, huddled around sideline heaters all afternoon in a failed attempt to warm up an offense that never got going as chilly winds blew off the adjacent three rivers and into a frigid Heinz Field.

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Brown came into the game with 50 career touchdown catches but none in the postseason, and he quickly changed that. He caught a screen pass and took it 50 yards to the end zone on only the fifth play from scrimmage for the Steelers, and that was just the start on a day Roethlisberger needed to throw only 18 passes -- completing 13 for 197 yards.

"They started backing off early, saying, `We can't let 84 (Brown) run up and down the field, and that opened things up for us (the running game)," Bell said. "Then we came out and ran the ball and the safety was deep the whole time because AB scared them. We eventually ran the ball into the end zone."

On Pittsburgh's next possession, Brown finished off a 90-play drive that took barely three minutes with a 62-yard scoring catch, making him only the fourth player in NFL playoff history with at least two TD receptions of 50 yards in a game -- and the first quarter was only about half over. Brown had 119 yards on three catches and two scores before Miami's offense gained a first down, and ended with 124 yards on five catches.

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"We came out throwing to run," Roethlisberger said. "We had a mindset and attitude we were going to come out and throw the ball and then run it when we wanted to. ... I think we lacked detail in the passing game in the second half, but we ran the ball well enough to get away with that."

After the two Brown TDs, Bell took over in his first career playoff game, running for 78 yards while carrying during all 10 times during a Steelers drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run, which came one play after he carried it 25 yards to the 1. Bell's rushing yardage broke Franco Harris' team record of 158 yards in a postseason game, set during the 1974 season Super Bowl.

The Dolphins had chances to get back into it but kept throwing -- or fumbling -- them away despite two field goals by Andrew Franks of 38 and 47 yards, and they couldn't get into the end zone until Damien Williams caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Moore late in the game.

Roethlisberger threw an interception late in the second quarter -- his only incompletion on 12 first-half attempts -- but Moore turned the ball over by fumbling on a hit from James Harrison on first-and-goal from the Steelers 8. In the second half, Moore fumbled again while being sacked by Mike Mitchell, leading to Chris Boswell's 34-yard field goal, and Moore was intercepted by linebacker Ryan Shazier, one of five Steelers regulars who were injured and out for the Miami loss more than two months ago.

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Adding to the Dolphins' misery, cornerback Tony Lippett jumped offside while trying to block a Boswell field-goal attempt, and the Steelers went on to make it 30-6 as Bell scored from 8 yards out.

The Steelers beat the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2. Bell knows the Chiefs will be coming into Sunday's game with the mindset the Steelers took into the Dolphins game, trying to atone for a bad loss during the season.

"And it's a tough place to play," Bell said.

So is Pittsburgh in January.

NOTES:

-- RB Le'Veon Bell now owns the Steelers' regular- season and postseason rushing records.

-- Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry caught 11 passes for 102 yards, tying a team playoff record for receptions.

-- It was the fourth-coldest home playoff game in Steelers history.

-- Mike Tomlin now is 7-5 in the postseason as the Steelers' coach.

-- It was the first time QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and Bell all played in a playoff game together.

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