After two impressive wins at home, the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to South Florida and produced one of the most ignominious efforts in recent memory losing 30-15 to the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers were completely dominated on both sides of the ball, but still managed to have a chance late because of the Dolphins’ own ineptitude. It was not to be. Defensively the Steelers allowed 222 yards on the ground and again produced zero sacks or turnovers. Offensively they had seven drives in the heart of the game where they ran 28 plays for 92 yards, generating zero points and two turnovers. This against, statistically, one of the worst defenses in the league.
In the process they lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a few weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Steelers have now had consecutive terrible performances on the road, getting outscored 64-18 and get manhandled and beat up in the process. They missed an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC North as all three teams lost Sunday and now a scorching-hot Patriots team comes to town looking to solidify their preeminent position in the AFC.
*Roethlisberger’s injury is the news of the weekend. He apparently got hurt on a rather benign looking pass play where he got his feet tangled up and grabbed by the ankle, but didn’t even go down. He missed some snaps at the end of the first half, but returned to play the entire second half, albeit in a diminished capacity. He had surgery Monday morning and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Not ideal, but not a season-killing scenario.
The Steelers had a bunch of players including Darrius Heyward-Bey and Vince Williams leave the game with heat-related cramping. This is indefensible. The Steelers knew the weather conditions. It is incumbent on the training staff and players to make sure they are properly hydrated in the 72 hours leading up to the game. A really surprising and disappointing aspect of the loss. The only other injury of note was a knee injury that safety Mike Mitchell suffered early, but he did return.
The inactive list consisted of Marcus Gilbert, Markus Wheaton, Cody Wallace, Ryan Shazier, Cameron Heyward and Shamarko Thomas, all injured, and third-string QB Zach Mettenberger.
The offensive gameplan was a disaster and its execution was worse. The Dolphins came into the game with the 32nd-ranked rushing defense giving up 150.3 yards/game but the Steelers only ran the ball 16 times. 97 of their 297 total yards came in the last 4:20 seconds with the outcome decided. To that point in the game Roethlisberger was 11-24 for 92 yards and 2 INTs and Antonio Brown was a non-factor again. The offensive performances in the last two road games have been terrible.
*Le’Veon Bell was good when he touched the football, but he didn’t get it enough. He finished with 10 carries for 53 yards and 6 receptions in 7 targets for another 55. I expected Bell to touch the ball 25-30 times. The fact that he didn’t was a big contributing factor in the loss. Bell became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 1.500 receiving yards in just his 38th game. Edgerrin James had done it in 42 games.
*Darrius Heyward-Bey showed he still has great speed and toughness on his 60-yard on his end around for a TD. It was the longest rushing TD for the Steelers since Willie Parker went 80 yards against Cleveland back in 2005.
*Cobi Hamilton played in his first regular season NFL game and had two catches including a nice 23-yard touchdown catch late.
*Ben Roethlisberger was terrible. He had a passer rating of 57.1. Only Landry Jones, who came in for four snaps and threw one incompletion was worse this week. He graded out even worse by Total QBR where his 4.9 was the second lowest rating by any QB this season. Ben looked bad early and even worse when he returned injured in the second half, missing badly on his first four throws and throwing his second INT. Ben’s home/road splits over the last three years have become a cause for concern:
Ben threw a TD late to even out the road numbers at 18. Small comfort. He has to do better and he has to find a way to get Antonio Brown more involved. In three of the six games this season Brown has only four catches.
*As was the case in Philly, the Steelers offensive line got dominated by the opposing front four. They again had trouble with the wide-9 setup as Cameron Wake and Andre Branch combined for 2 sacks and 4 QB hits. The OLine was again flagged for numerous holding and false start penalties. The inconsistency of this unit has really hurt the offense.
*Eli Rogers had four catches but also a drop when he had tons of room ahead of him. The offense needs the receivers not named Antonio Brown to step up and be more consistent. Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Rogers have dropped way too many balls.
*Both Rogers and AB failed to get out of bounds on catches in the last few minutes as the Steelers were trying to play fast. Lack of awareness and not enough urgency from Ben on the drive.
Another poor performance from the defense. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler is going to have to figure out away to get more pressure on the QB. They have yet to register a sack on the road and only have 8 on the season. Decent red zone defense and a bunch of mistakes by the Dolphins kept this from being the blowout it probably should have been.
*Miami converted only two of their six red zone opportunities into TDs, but they were as responsible as the Steelers D. DeVante Parker dropped a would be touchdown and on another possession a TD was called back due to penalty. Both drives resulted in Miami FGs.
That’s all I’ve got for the good.
*The run defense was terrible. Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards on 25 carries becoming just the fourth back since 1970 to put up 200 against the Steelers D. On his last carry of the day he went over right tackle, broke a Robert Golden tackle and then sprinted past a disheartened Steelers D for a 62-yard TD.
On Miami’s first drive of the second half, up 16-8, Damien Williams got a handoff at the Steelers 24 on 2nd-and-10 and broke about seven tackles before being tackled for a 10-yard gain. That play typified the Steelers performance. There had to be twenty missed tackles on the day and the Dolphins had eight runs of 10+ yards.
*The Steelers outside linebackers might be the worst position group in football. There are getting nothing from Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats or Anthony Chickillo. Usually solid against the run, they weren’t even that on Sunday.
*William Gay got beat deep on one play and dropped an easy interception on another. On the deep ball, Gay appeared to think he had the play covered. He didn’t. Huge gain. The interception was a chance for a big play in Miami territory. For a defense that doesn’t make many big plays, they have to come through when they have the opportunity.
*Artie Burns had a bad day. He was poor in run support, got beat on a long pass when he was attacked with two verticals and blew the coverage and he was running his mouth. Not a good look.
*Big Daniel McCullers came through with a blocked FG.
*Jordan Berry had his first bad game of the season averaging just 36.0 yards on five punts.
This was a miserable performance and responsibility starts at the top. The Steelers are 5-11 in their last 16 road games against opponents below .500. This isn’t a narrative and it starts with the head coach, his staff and the quarterback. The Dolphins left 14 points on the table with two TDs they should have scored and two missed FGs. The game wasn’t as close as 30-15 suggests.
*The Steelers again converted a 2-point conversion attempt and are now 2-2 on the season and 10-13 since last year.
*The gameplans were ineffective and no halftime adjustments were implemented. This was a coaching failure across the board.
*Leaving Ben in the game with 50 seconds left, down 30-15 is indefensible. He had one banged up knee and the Dolphins rusher were running over the Steelers Oline. Ben banged up his other knee in this last series of plays.
*Landry Jones entered the game with just over five minutes left in the second quarter and the Steelers trailing 9-8. On his first three plays he handed to Le’Veon Bell for 12, 8 and 6 yards. The Steelers were facing a 3rd-and-1 (through was a false start penalty after the 12-yard gain) at their 46 with 3:07 left in the half. I generally don’t like to question singular play calls because of the preparation that goes into a weekly game plan, but this was really poor. Todd Haley called a pass play, Jones bobbled the snap and then threw incomplete. The Steelers punted and Miami went right down the field for a TD. It was a terrible play call. Hand the ball to Bell.
Big Officiating Calls:
*As usual the officials weren’t perfect in this one. Some of the early 15-yard penalties seemed a bit much. The holding call on David DeCastro was a big call that was debatable, but the officials didn’t decide the outcome.
The Dolphins did try an onside-kick which the Steelers recovered. However, Miami executed the kick before the officials were ready so they re-kicked and kicked deep the second time.
Up Next: The Steelers will take on the New England Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field. Kickoff at is scheduled for 4:25 pm EST.
Reminder: You can hear me on the postgame show with Charlie Batch across the Steelers Football Network (WDVE, ESPN, steelers.com or the Steelers Gameday app) after every Steelers game and on weekdays on ESPN Pittsburgh 970 and 106.3 FM from 4-7 pm. You can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd.