The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 27 unanswered points to defeat the winless Miami Dolphins on “Monday Night Football,” 27-14.
The Steelers faced a 14-0 deficit early on, and quarterback Mason Rudolph looked just as bad as he could in the first half. He rebounded to throw for 251 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, however. He made it a point to take chances downfield in this matchup, and those chances paid off in the second half. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught five passes for 103 yards and a touchdown, and Diontae Johnson caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown as well. James Conner was the workhorse for this offense, however, and came just two yards away from a new career-high with 145 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Pittsburgh’s defense also struggled early on, but they figured things out in the second half. Different stunts freed up the pass rushers and former Dolphin Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off his former team twice.
Once again, the second half was the backbreaker for the Dolphins. At times, it felt like it was Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. the world. He ended up throwing for 190 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but his wide receivers let him down on several occasions. Miami had its chances in the fourth quarter down 10 points, but two fumbles derailed any chance of a comeback.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how the Steelers handed the Dolphins their seventh straight loss:Why the Steelers won
Mason Rudolph wasn’t great early on, but he settled in as the game progressed, mostly because his top two receivers — JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson — came up big with some highlight-reel plays and because James Conner refused to stop trucking along, wearing down Miami’s defense with 145 yards on 23 carries. The successful ground game enabled Pittsburgh to dominate second-half time of possession, holding the ball for 35:18 by the time the clock hit :00. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers rebounded from a first quarter in which they seemed a step behind Miami’s passing routes by neutralizing pretty much everything Brian Flores’ squad attempted to do. Rendering the Dolphins’ rushing attack nonexistent, they also forced four turnovers, including two fourth-quarter fumbles to seal the comeback win.Why the Dolphins lost
They showed a lot of energy right out of the gate, not only with Ryan Fitzpatrick starting hot and capitalizing off Rudolph’s first-play pick but with a secondary that made a handful of first-half pass breakups on third down. As has been par for the course during their rocky season, however, the ‘Phins appeared to run out of answers once the third quarter arrived. Fitzpatrick never stopped fighting, throwing himself around on bootlegs and short-yardage runs, but he also lacked touch on a couple of the plays that ended up in the Steelers’ hands. No one stepped up to help him, either, with only DeVante Parker hauling in passes consistently. And Flores’ defense was even worse, giving up chunk play after chunk play both up the middle and on the outside, especially after star corner Xavien Howard left the game with a second-half injury.Turning point
Miami basically begged the Steelers to erase their 14-point lead as the first half came to a close, turning the ball over twice in three drives thanks to Fitzpatrick picks, one of which looked like an arm punt to Pittsburgh’s three-yard line. But things didn’t swing fully in the Steelers’ direction until the very end of the third quarter. Trailing by three following Rudolph’s 26-yard floater to Smith-Schuster, the Dolphins were driving with a chance to at least tie the game, reaching the Pittsburgh 47 after a scramble from Fitzpatrick on third down. Flores elected to keep the offense on the field for a fourth-and-one, and Fitzpatrick scrambled a second time, diving forward for what initially appeared to be a first. The refs rewarded Miami a new set of downs, but a challenge from Mike Tomlin reversed the call, handed the Steelers good field position and set up a Conner score to put Pittsburgh up 10.Play of the game
Steelers corner Mike Hilton displayed supreme effort when he ran down Miami’s Mark Walton to force the first of the Dolphins’ two fourth-quarter fumbles, and Minkah Fitzpatrick did a nice job picking off his former team twice, but the best play of the game belonged to JuJu, who was actually covered extremely well during his 26-yard score. The wideout simply out-muscled his way to the ball in mid-air and came down with the catch.Quotable
“Really excited. Good to get Mason back in the fold. He knocked some rust off … I thought we could’ve started faster, not only with him but with all of us.”
Mike Tomlin kept it real after the game, but he seemed generally encouraged by Rudolph’s performance despite a first quarter to forget. While the Steelers defense is what’s carrying the team the most, the QB will always be in the spotlight, and Tomlin gave an endorsement of the youngster’s growth on Monday night.What’s next
The Steelers (3-4) will be back at home again on Sunday, Nov. 3, for a 1 p.m. ET matchup with the Indianapolis Colts (5-2), who lead the AFC South after topping the Denver Broncos for a third straight win in Week 8. The Dolphins (0-7), meanwhile, will return home on the same day for a 1 p.m. ET game against the AFC East rival New York Jets (1-6) in a battle for the last-place spot in the division.