The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to take their homestyle successes of the past two weeks back on the road for the first time since their clobbering by the hands of the Eagles, though, at least on paper, Miami would seem to be a more forgiving opponent. While both teams are dealing with injuries, however, the Dolphins are playing with their starting offensive line, with their starting running back, for the first time this season, while the Steelers are facing the prospect of playing without Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier, two critical interior defenders.
On the news front, Robert Golden is back at safety after missing two games, and Artie Burns is replacing Sean Davis as the team’s primary nickel defender, which means William Gay will be seeing most of his snaps now out of the slot. Anthony Chickillo has also been given the nod to run with the starters over Arthur Moats.
Roosevelt Nix is active for the first time, so it will be interesting to see how much use is made out of the fullback position today. Wide receiver Sammie Coates is active despite of a fractured finger and swelling caused by a laceration that required seven stitches that he suffered during last week’s game, but it’s unclear how much he will be used, or, more tellingly, targeted.
Steelers Inactive Players
DE Cameron Heyward
C/G Cody Wallace
LB Ryan Shazier
T Marcus Gilbert
WR Markus Wheaton
S Shamarko Thomas
QB Zach Mettenberger
Dolphins Inactive Players
TE Jordan Cameron
CB Xavier Howard
S Walt Aikens
DT Julius Warmsley
DE Terrence Fede
T Sam Young
CB Bene Benwikere
The Steelers received the opening kickoff, short of the goal line, returned short of the 25-yard line. Cobi Hamilton was on the field for the first play of the game in a three-receiver set without Sammie Coates. The first play was a run for Le’Veon Bell up the middle for four yards. A screen to Bell with Jesse James as the chief blocker picked up at least six to move the stick.
From the 34, it was Bell again up the middle, but was only able to pick up two. With Bell out wide, DeAngelo Williams got the carry, but was stopped for a gain of one or two. On third and six, Ben ROethlisberger couldn’t get the pass off on time under pressure and tossed a shovel pass into the dirt. Chris Hubbard was flagged for holding, but it was declined. Jordan Berry‘s punt was a short one with a bit of a return, giving the Dolphins good starting field position.
From the 35, Ryan Tannehill threw short, with Ross Cockrell making the tackle quickly after a five-yard gain. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by the right tackle after the play resulted in a loss of 15 for Miami, setting up second and 20. Jarvis Jones was unable to get to Jarvis Landry on the catch and run for a first down. Mike Mitchell was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play, which now put the Dolphins on the Steelers’ 38.
Jay Ajayi picked up 12 yards around the left edge. Off play action, DeVante Parker nearly had a touchdown, but a big hit from Mitchell helped dislodge it. Mitchell was injured on the play, and he was replaced by Jordan Dangerfield. Ajayi escaped to the edge once again for 11 yards. Ajayi was dragged from behind after a four-yard gain on the next play. On second and six, a play action screen was read well by the defense, with Cockrell making the tackle for no gain. On third down, Ajayi was unable to bring in the flat route pass, dropped, with Chickillo in coverage, as the defense held in the red zone to settle for a field goal.
Curiously, the 1-4 Dolphins looked for a spark, trying an onside kick early in the game, and Tyler Matakevich recovered it, but the officials ruled that it was an illegal kick because the officials did not signal for play. Roethlisberger found Xavier Grimble for an 11-yard gain on first down. After a three-yard run from Bell, a six-yarder was negated by a hold. On second and 14, Bell was only able to pick up four on the screen. Now third and long, Roethlisberger was sacked, but Miami was flagged for unnecessary roughness. On the very next play, Roethlisberger handed off to Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 60-yard score on an end around, and then added a two-point connection to Bell to take an 8-3 lead.
After a run stop on first down, Tannehill was nearly picked off by William Gay. Pittsburgh needed to use a timeout after the play to get their personnel sorted. On third and nine, the pressure was close to getting home, which forced Tannehill to take some off the pass to Landry, low, preventing the receiver from bringing the ball in and forcing the Dolphins to punt, which went out of bounds at around the 31-yard line.
Roethlisberger found Jesse James for eight yards on first down. Williams was stopped after a yard to set up a third-and-one. This time the offense had to burn a timeout, all within the first 12 minutes of the half. On third and one, Bell first up the middle, picking up about 10 yards. Across midfield, Antonio Brown got his first touch of the game on an end around that went for about six yards. Roethlisberger found Brown off play action for a first down on the next play.
After a deep incompletion on the next play, Roethlisberger was forced to throw high under pressure on second down. Setting up a third and 10, Roethlisberger was dropped for the sack with both edge rushers beating their men. James was left one on one against Cameron Wake, and the sack knocked Pittsburgh out of field goal range. Berry’s punt was fielded for a fair catch at the 11.
Mitchell returned to the defense on the next possession. After an eight-yard screen to the running back, Ajayi was stopped after one yard to set up a third and one. Ajayi’s extra effort gave the Dolphins the first down.
Tannehill connected with Parker for about seven yards on the next play to the left. A quick hitter to Parker picked up just enough for another first down. Ajayi bowled ahead for seven. A false start on Ajayi backed them up for a second and eight. Off the play action bootleg, Tannehill was able to find his tight end under pressure for the tight end.
Near midfield, Tannehill bounced off a hit by Daniel McCullers and flushed out to his left, finding MarQuies Gray for a huge 53-yard score, beating Gay, who pushed him out of bounds at the one. An illegal formation on the right tackle negated a touchdown reception, backing the Dolphins up to the six. On the next attempt, Ajayi was dropped for a big loss of six by James Harrison. Setting up second and goal from the 12, the Steelers brought five, and Kenny Stills was found for eight. Now third and goal, the tight end could not bring in the pass, which looked potentially catchable. Cockrell was in coverage on the play. The Dolphins added another field goal to close the gap to 8-6.
On the first play after the field goal, Roethlisberger’s pass was intercepted, picked off the turf by Reshad Jones, and the quarterback limped off the field, favoring his left knee. He walked to the locker room, with the interception standing on review.
With the Dolphins taking over at the 13, Ajayi picked up six yards. From the seven, he looked to bounce outside before being bottled back inside, gaining three, but a hold pushed them back. From the 17, Tannehill, screen pass was snuffed out immediately for no gain. On third and 14, the underneath check down picked up six to make a field goal attempt just a bit easier. Miami took a 9-8 lead thanks to a the turnover, however.
Following a touchback, Landry Jones took the field with the offense, as Roethlisberger’s return is questionable. On first down, Bell found room up the middle for 12 yards. A false start complicated things for the next sequence, but Bell did pick up eight yards on first down to make it second and seven. From the 40, a third straight carry to Bell picked up six to make it third and one. For the short-yardage play, it was Jones looking to pass, but he was quickly under pressure and just tried to air it long. A defender got an outstretched hand on it, but it was incomplete. Berry’s punt too a bad bounce, coming back to near the 30.
Another big 14-yard run from Ajayi opened up the Miami drive. He was bottled up for no gain on the following play as the first half drew to the two-minute warning. On second down, a quick hit to Parker went for six, setting up third and four. Tannehill hit Arian Foster in the flat for seven yards with nobody near enough to stop him.
Across midfield, Cockrell broke up a pass intended for Parker. Foster was stopped after three yards on the ground. On third and seven, with little pressure, Tannehill found Landry deep down the field for 38 yards. From the goal line, the Dolphins snapped quickly, stopped for no gain on the ground. From the one, the fullback dive got into the end zone as Lawrence Timmons appeared to vomit on the field after the play. The extra point made it a 16-8 game with 21 second remaining in the half.
Justin Gilbert returned the ball beyond the 30, but a block by Steven Johnson negated the return. Facing poor field position, the offense just decided to take a knee to get into the locker room.