The Steelers are headed to the playoffs for the third consecutive year -- and the seventh time since coach Mike Tomlin was hired in 2007. The Dolphins, meanwhile, are returning to the postseason for the first time since 2008, back when Tony Sparano was the coach, Chad Pennington was the quarterback, and Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing. And Miami hasn't won a playoff game since 2000, back during those heady Dave Wannstedt-Jay Fiedler days.

Adam Gase, in his first year -- and a frontrunner for Coach of the Year honors -- has revitalized an organization that wallowed in mediocrity in recent years. Thanks to Gase, who is known for his ability to get the most out his quarterback, Ryan Tannehill has had a resurgence, and the offense, which improved from 22nd in 2015 to 14th this season, according to Football Outsiders, was also well-balanced. In addition to Tannehill growing into his role -- in 13 starts, he had 19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and completed 67 percent of his throws -- Jay Ajayi emerged as one of the league's most dangerous backs. He finished the regular season with 1,272 yards (4.9 YPC), eight touchdowns, and on three occasions rushed for at least 200 yards.

The first time Ajayi did it? Week 6 against the Steelers. And with Tanehill sidelined with a knee injury -- and backup Matt Moore set to make his fourth straight start -- expect to see a heavy dose of Ajayi again in the wild-card matchup. Partly because ... well, why wouldn't the Dolphins lean on their best offensive weapon? And also because the Steelers' defense proved incapable of stopping Ajayi back in October. More than that, every minute the Dolphins' offense is on the field means one less minute for the Steelers' high-powered offense.

That offense, by the way, will feature Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell on the field together for the first time in the postseason. Bell missed the last two postseasons with injuries, and the Steelers lost Brown in last year's wild-card win over the Bengals, and he was unable to play in the division matchup with the Broncos.

But now an offense that features one of the best lines in the league, will have Three B's, as well as a cadre of complementary players getting healthy at just the right time; wideouts Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates can take the top off coverages, and tight end Ladarius Green can stretch the middle of the field. Additionally, young pass catchers like Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton and DeMarcus Ayers have shown the ability to make big plays.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's defense is much-improved from the unit that was shredded in Week 6. A big part of the turnaround? The three rookie starters -- cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (Burns and David didn't start in the last meeting). Other defenders who didn't start, but will be on the field on Sunday: 2015 first-rounder Bud Dupree, 2014 first-rounder Ryan Shazier, and the ageless wonder James Harrison.

And Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler is still seething about what Ajayi did to his unit, which no doubt has been a talking point all week.

"I don't even want to talk about that," Butler said Thursday, via the Miami Herald. "It [ticks] me off to talk about it. Our guys know. It challenges your manhood when you give up 200 yards. The formula for us always has been we have to stop the run, and they have to be in situational football and they have to throw it. And then we get after them. We have to do that."

Put another way, the Dolphins' offense will have their work cut out for them, but even without Tannehill under center, plenty of big-play threats remain. We already know about Ajayi, but there's also Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker, the young, physical, and fast pass-catching trio that could make life difficult for a Steelers' D trying to key in on Ajayi.

But any success the Dolphins may have starts with Moore, the nine-year vet who will make his first playoff start.

"It's an unbelievable opportunity," Moore said this week. "Some guys go [to the playoffs] a lot and some don't get those chances. This is my second time ever being a part of a team that has gone to the playoffs, so I'm excited. I know the guys are excited. It's an unbelievable opportunity and a great football town, so we're ready to go."

While the Dolphins, who started the season 1-4 before winning 9 of their final 11 games, like their chances, not many others do. Vegas has them as 10-point underdogs, a fact they'll no doubt use as motivation.

"That's how we lived this whole season," Dolphins safety Michael Thomas said of the long Vegas odds. "Even the first time we played Pittsburgh, no one gave us a chance. It's not surprising to us that we're 10-point underdogs this week. It doesn't faze us. We're going to go in prepared like we've always prepared. We actually prefer it that way."

Game on.

How to Watch

  • What: Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • When: Sunday, Jan. 8, 1:05 p.m. ET
  • Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • TV: CBS
  • Streaming: Verizon NFL Mobile App
  • Online: CBS All Access (available in your local market)
  • Odds: The Steelers are 10.0-point favorites, according to SportsLine

Injury Report



Prisco's Pick

The Dolphins blew out the Steelers in Miami in October behind the running of Jay Ajayi. This is a much different Steelers team and they are at home. They have made big strides on defense since that game, finished 12th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. A lot of young defenders have improved in a big way. The Dolphins finished 29th in total yards on defense and 18th in scoring. That has to be a good thing for Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. I look for those three to all have big games here. The Dolphins, with Matt Moore at quarterback, won't be able to keep up. Steelers take it.

Pick: Steelers 27, Dolphins 14