Bell ran for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two scores, Brown caught five passes for 124 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns from Roethlisberger as the Steelers overwhelmed the beaten-up and mistake-prone Miami Dolphins 30-12 on Sunday.
Pittsburgh (12-5) ran off its eighth straight victory by avenging a whipping by the Dolphins (10-7) in mid-October to set up a visit to AFC West champion Kansas City (12-4) next Sunday. The Steelers rolled by the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2.
The Dolphins tried to hype themselves up by running around in shirt sleeves in the single-digit wind chill during warmups. Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier did them one better, racing around shirtless — as if to send a message that his team is plenty comfortable playing this time of year.
It sure looked like it.
The Steelers scored on their first three possessions, and Miami's playoff victory drought was wall on its way to 17 years and counting.
Brown turned a pair of short passes into long scores. The first, a 50-yard sprint down the left sideline, came after Brown patiently waited for tight end Jesse James to provide the one block he needed. The second, a crossing pattern Brown turned into a 62-yard touchdown, ended with the All-Pro receiver pointing at a Miami defender as he crossed the goal line to put the Steelers up 14-0 before the game was 10 minutes old.
Matt Moore, making the first playoff start of his decade-long career with Ryan Tannehill still sidelined by a sprained knee, played on despite taking a helmet-to-chin shot from Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree in the second quarter. Moore returned just minutes after sitting dazed on the turf and completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards with a touchdown and an interception. But he fumbled twice with the ball in Steelers territory and the game still in doubt.
The first fumble, caused by an unblocked James Harrison, ended a Miami drive at the Pittsburgh 13. The second, when Moore collided with running back Jay Ajayi, set up a Chris Boswell field goal that pushed Pittsburgh's lead to 23-6 midway through the third quarter.
Shazier stepped in front of Moore's pass on Miami's next possession, and when Bell darted it from 8 yards, the Steelers were up 30-6.
|Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (84) runs down field for a touchdown after catching a pass from Ben Roethlisberger (not pictured) during the first quarter of a playoff game against the Miami Dolphins on Jan. 8. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)|
What win probability charts show about every 2016 NFL playoff game
Below are win probability charts that help tell the story of every game in the 2016 NFL postseason. The most recent charts will be added to the top of this post shortly after games conclude. Check back in for a look at the biggest moments from the playoffs.
Win probability measures the chance that a team will win a game, given a particular combination of circumstances including score, time remaining, field position and down and distance. Win probability is based on a model built on actual outcomes of NFL games from recent seasons that featured similar circumstances.
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Miami Dolphins 12
The Pittsburgh Steelers began the day with a 76 percent chance to win, according to our Football Power Index, but it didn’t take long for them to increase that percentage significantly. Thanks to a pair of 50-yard touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown, the Steelers had a 92 percent chance to win midway through the first quarter, and that percentage never dipped below 89 percent for the rest of the game. Each of those touchdowns increased the Steelers’ chance to win by six percentage points and were the two biggest WPA plays of the game.
Le’Veon Bell also had a monster game with a Steelers postseason record with 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His contributions came later in the game but still helped to push Pittsburgh’s average win probability to nearly 95 percent, the most dominant postseason victory in our dataset, which dates back to 2001.
Seattle Seahawks 26, Detroit Lions 6
The Seahawks won on the strength of running back Thomas Rawls, whose 161 rushing yards were the most in a game in Seahawks postseason history. Rawls' most impactful run of the game was not his touchdown run that extended the lead to 19-6 in the fourth quarter, but his 4-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Lions' 39 on the drive that resulted in the Seahawks' first touchdown of the game. The Seahawks converted a pair of fourth downs on that drive.
The Seahawks were significantly favored to win this game by our metrics. In fact, they ran only one play the entire game in which their win probability was below 70 percent. Even though their lead was precarious at times, they had a 77 percent chance or better to win for the entire second half.
Houston Texans 27, Oakland Raiders 14
The Houston Texans dominated with their defense in a 27-14 win over the Oakland Raiders on Saturday to kick off the NFL playoffs.
This was a game that turned quickly and in an unlikely way, as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney recorded his first career interception (in either college or the pros) at the 12-yard line a little more than midway through the first quarter. That play added nearly 12 percentage points to the Texans' win probability. It was the most impactful play of the game, a play that led to Lamar Miller's 4-yard touchdown run.
The Texans never had less than a 52 percent chance to win the game. For three-quarters of the game, their win probability was 70 percent or higher. The Raiders' chance of winning in the fourth quarter never even reached 4 percent.