Coach Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers said after today's usual Saturday morning shakeout, "Everything is 'go'."
He was encouraged by the return to the starting lineup of 230-pound running back Sidney Thornton, hobbled by an ankle injury for six games.
"We've got to be able to run the ball on Miami," he said of Sunday's playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium between the division champions (12:30 p.m., WRC-TV-4). "We've got to run and pass. Most of the Dolphins' opponents gave up trying to run against them. They are tough to run on."
There has been quite a bit written here about quarterback Bob Griese's sometimes ineffectiveness in big road games played in inclement weather.
The forecast is for fair weather with the temperature between 45 and 50 degrees.
The Steelers have won 22 of their last 23 games here and are 37-4 over the last five years. Their only playoff loss at Three Rivers was to Miami, in the Dolphins' 17-0 season in 1972.
The irony was that the temperature here was in the high 60s as the Dolphins won, 21-17, for American Conference championship. They went on to beat the Washington Redskins, 14-7, in the Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
In the AFC Championship game here in 1978 it was raining and snowing and the field looked like a lake in the 34-5 victory over Houston. "The field was unplayable -- except for Terry Bradshaw, he loved it," a Steeler organization man recalled today.
At to Griese's supposed problems against good teams in a hostile environment, the organization man went on, "The Steelers can guarantee two of those conditions -- a good team and a road game."
Actually, the Dolphins were 4-4 in road games this season in finishing with a 10-6 record and winning the Eastern Division. The steelers won the Central Division with a 12-4 record and lost four games on the road -- at Philadelphia, Cincinnati, San Diego and Houston.
The Dolphins announced that A. J. Duhe will start at defensive end in place of Doug Betters, who had taken over the job when Duhe was sidelined by an arch injury.
The Dolphins missed winning the NFL rushing defense title by 10 yards. They were third in overall defense and fifth against the pass.
The steelers led the NFL in scoring, total offense and rushing average, 4.6 yards a carry.
The Steelers were the overall leaders in defense in the AFC, fourth against the rush and fourth against the pass.
Miami Coach Don Shula said that if the weather stays dry and cloudy, "I'll be happy. But I was raised in the Cleveland area and I know the weather can change quickly. We'll be ready for everything.
"I'd hate to see conditions like they were for the Steelers-Houston playoff game here last year. I didn't even want to watch it. I don't think a game this important should be decided on that kind of field.
"I have a good feeling about this team; I feel it's better than last year's (when the Dolphins were eliminated by Houston in the playoffs.) I'd like us to play like we did against New England in Miami (when the Dolphins won, 39-24). That's how we're going to have to play against the Steelers to win.
"We want to have ball control so Bob (Griese) can pick his spots. Pittsburgh is not a team against which you can ram the ball down the defenders' throats.We've got to move the ball both ways, on the ground and in the air. We just can't wait for the Steelers to lose; we've got to attack."
Lineback Ralph Ortega, prominent on the Dolphin special teams, did not make the trip here because of a back injury. Steeler offensive tackle Jon Kolb is listed as doubtful because of a pinched neck nerve and guard Steve Courson will start in place of Gerry Mullins, the Later two have been alternating because of injuries.