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Miami's offense should look familiar Thursday



Published: Wed, September 6, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Miami's offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey was a Steelers assistant for eight seasons.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins offense should look familiar to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense Thursday night. After all, the Steelers used to go against a version of it every day in practice.

Sure, there are bound to be new plays and formations, some different looks and, as always, a gadget play or two.

But offensive coordinators don't throw out their entire playbooks when they go from one team to another, so the Steelers are bound to see some familiar features in Mike Mularkey's Dolphins offense.

Mularkey was the Buffalo Bills' head coach for two years before being hired by coach Nick Saban as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator. Before that, he was a Steelers assistant for eight seasons, including three as the offensive coordinator from 2001-03.

Wide-open offense

Mularkey is best known for opening up the Steelers' offense and building it around quarterback Tommy Maddox's throwing rather than the running game. Still, he appears to have brought a Pittsburgh-like mentality with him to Miami, where he replaced new Rams coach Scott Linehan and is still calling many of Linehan's plays.

"One thing I like about him is his approach to offensive football and the mindset he's trying to instill in everybody," Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper said. "We want to be a physical football team, from the center to the whole offensive line, to the tight ends, to the backs, to the receivers to the quarterback. Everybody on offense is going to be physical. We're going to run the ball. We're going to force our will upon teams."

No doubt that remark will be of interest to linebacker Joey Porter, who doesn't believe any team in the league can out-tough the Steelers.

"They do have all the weapons an offense needs and that's going to be good for them," Porter said. "But I definitely feel like we have all the weapons that we need on defense also, so we're going to be ready. That's all I'm going to say: We're going to be ready."

Better offense

That Dolphins offense, partly because of the addition of Culpepper and second-year running back Ronnie Brown, figures to be much tougher than the one that could barely gain a first down against the Steelers in 2004.

The Steelers limited the Dolphins to 169 yards while winning 13-3 in a game hastily shifted from afternoon to night because of Hurricane Jeanne. Pittsburgh didn't do much on offense in rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's first career start, but didn't need to because the defense played so well.

That defense might feel similarly challenged Thursday, when Roethlisberger will sit out after having an emergency appendectomy Sunday. Charlie Batch, 2-0 as a starter last year, will fill in.

"When you lose somebody that's valuable to the team, you obviously want to go out there and try to pick up the extra little stuff you can do just to help the team overall," Porter said. "But we're not going to do anything that's going to hurt us on defense."

Faith in Batch

Porter isn't worried that Batch, who is in his ninth NFL season, will be trying to play the game Roethlisberger might have played.

"I don't expect Charlie to go out there acting like he's Ben," Porter said. "He's going to do what Charlie Batch can do and run the offense like he knows how. ... Charlie's a proven starter. It's not like he's new to this game. It's not like he's stepping into this situation and will be nervous."

The Steelers scheduled a night practice Tuesday because coach Bill Cowher likes to replicate game conditions. They will likely have another night practice or two next week before their Sept. 18 night game in Jacksonville.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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