The first quarter couldn’t have gone much worse, the Steelers down 14-0 by the end of it, in large part thanks to a poor Mason Rudolph interception, but they scored 10 unanswered in the second quarter, including a 45-yard touchdown on a slant on third and 20 to end the half.
Rudolph looked very rusty in the early goings, but is starting to heat up as the game goes on, putting the balls more on-target and taking shots down the field. Minkah Fitzpatrick got an interception off of Ryan Fitzpatrick against his former team, leading to the aforementioned touchdown. The Steelers start the second half with the ball and a chance to take the lead.
The Steelers began the half on the ground, but James Conner couldn’t get back to the line of scrimmage. A play-action pass to Nick Vannett picked up a first, however. Conner got about five behind Roosevelt Nix on the third play of the half. He found some room cutting right to get inside of the Dolphins’ 40.
One play later, Benny Snell did well to pick up the three yards that he did, contacted in the backfield. Approaching field goal territory, Rudolph looked down the right sideline for James Washington, incomplete. Ramon Foster at some point entered the concussion protocol, B.J. Finney now in the game. Now third and seven, he threw to Smith-Schuster in tight coverage, the pass broken up, when he had Conner available for a checkdown. Chris Boswell was off a bit to the right on a 54-yard attempt, which would have been a career-long. It was his first miss of the season, but gives the Dolphins good field position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was hit as he threw, taking a deep shot incomplete on the first play from scrimmage. Pressure from T.J. Watt forced a bad throw on a checkdown. On third and 10, FItzpatrick was hit as he threw again by Vince Williams, and Fitzpatrick got his second interception of the game–albeit inside the five-yard line. It would have been better to let it go and force a punt.
From the three, Conner was able to get a couple to get away from the goal line. Rudolph was able to connect with Smith-Schuster for a nice first down. From the 23, Conner hit a hole for 20-plus, but once again, it came back on a hold. And so now it’s first and 20 from the 13. A pump-fake shot to Vance McDonald, who was called for the hold, was a bit short and got to the defender first, but incomplete. Now second down, he was able to find Washington to convert.
Back to the ground, this time Conner found 10-plus yards without a flag, McDonald a lead blocker, near midfield. He got eight bouncing outside to the left a play later into Dolphins territory, going over 100. Off play action, Rudolph threw short but McDonald caught the low pass for a short conversion.
From the 40, Benny Snell now in got about four or five yards as they approach field goal territory once again. A really ill-advised bootleg run by Rudolph lost a yard or two and resulted in him taking an unnecessary hit. Now third and long, he did find Johnson stopping short for the first down, inside the 30.
After a short checkdown pass to Conner, he threw the ball up for Smith-Schuster in a jumpball situation, coming down for it and into the end zone for the touchdown, his second touchdown pass of the night to complete the comeback, the Steelers now leading 17-14. Another explosive-play touchdown pass for Rudolph.
The Dolphins got one first down on the ensuing drive but then stalled, beginning with a drop. Pressure from Bud Dupree on third and five forced Fitzpatrick to scramble short of the first. However, the Dolphins went for it on fourth down, and Fitzpatrick narrowly converted, rolling out to his right. The Steelers challenged the ruling on the field, and, stunningly, they won. For the first time since 2016, the Steelers successfully challenged a play. And it was a big one, a change of possession in a one-score game.
Taking over at the 47, Conner was knocked sideways after one yard up the middle to end the third quarter. Rudolph completed to Johnson for 13 across midfield. A patient 11-yard run from Conner followed, led by a train of blocked up the left side.
At the 28, they kept it on the ground, but Conner was stopped at the line, with a hold on Maurkice Pouncey on top of it. So back to the 38 on first and 20. A deep shot to Smith-Schuster drew a defensive pass interference penalty on Ryan Lewis, who pushed the receiver down. Now they’re down to the 13.
A play-action pass to Smith-Schuster found him down to the five. On second and one, out of 23 personnel…the Steelers were caught for a delay of game. Back to the nine, Conner plowed ahead, barreling over defenders and just stretching out enough to put the ball on the white for the touchdown. Pittsburgh now leads 24-14, with 24 unanswered points.
A Walton screen and run netted Miami about 13 on the first two plays of their response drive. After a false start, Cameron Heyward made a great play to hold him to two yards. A pass behind DeVante Parker set up third and 13. Despite some initial pressure, Fitzpatrick was able to roll all the way out to his left and find an open man for a first down after about seven seconds.
At the 50, Fitzpatrick floated the ball over a defender’s head to Walton, who picked up the first down, but Mike Hilton was able to force the ball out, with Steven Nelson recovering, for a third takeaway in the game. 18 on the season, or three more than they had in 16 games a year ago.
Following a hold on Zach Banner, Rudolph just missed a homerun ball to Johnson, who got behind the defense. This time he was just long for Washington, who stretched out to make the attempt. On third and 20, they settled for a draw carry for about 10 yards to punt the ball away.
From the 28, Watt finally got himself one–a strip sack, that is. His fifth sack of the year, and his second forced fumble. Third takeaway overall with an interception to boot.
Now taking over at the 22, it was back to the ground, Conner with two yards on first down. Rudolph found McDonald for a short reception gaining just a yard. Now third and seven, Conner lost several yards on a reception as the Steelers quickly settle for a field goal to make it 27-14. Boswell pounded it straight down the middle.
Oh yeah, that was a season-high four takeaways in this game, now 19 on the season.
As the play clock ticks away, the Dolphins started to pick up some first downs and yards, down 13. From the 31 with 3:13 to play, Fitzpatrick was forced to throw the ball away by Tyson Alualu, setting up a third and seven. Fitzpatrick’s deep shot was overthrown, incomplete. Now fourth and seven, Heyward got the sack from behind to force another turnover on downs.
And that should do it. With 2:57 to play and a 13-point lead, the Dolphins with one timeout, this becomes a very difficult one to lose. On first down, Conner picked up three on the ground. Staying on the ground, he picked up about six, but came up slow, seeming to suffer an arm injury. Benny Snell was already ruled out for the game. Trey Edmunds, who hasn’t played an offensive snap since 2017, is the only other healthy back.
On third and one, Edmunds got his first snap, and his first touch, but he was buried at the line of scrimmage to set up a fourth and one with two minutes to play.
Heyward got a piece of a screen pass on the Dolphins’ first play of their final drive. Nelson with the quick tackle after a short pass. On third and five, Fitzpatrick scrambled for the first down. The ball came out, but the Dolphins recovered. Cameron Sutton thought he eventually got possession of it, but the play was blown dead. Watt got himself another sack to shut things down, his sixth. He forced a fumble, but the officials didn’t notice. But it doesn’t matter, as the Steelers still win.