The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their seventh regular season game of 2019 at home Monday night against the Miami Dolphins with a chance to get their third win. Below are seven key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the Monday night game to come away victorious for just the third time this season.
Nix the running game – The Steelers offense should have fullback Roosevelt Nix back Monday night and thus we should see him on the field for at least 15 snaps and maybe more. The Dolphins defense should be susceptible to a bigger-bodied offensive running game that includes Nix as a lead blocker on either inside zone or power runs. The Steele short-yardage woes from early games should also dissipate now that Nix is back. Running back James Conner should have a huge night against the Dolphins.
Swim in deep waters with Dolphins DBs – While the Dolphins defense figures to get cornerback Xavier Howard back Monday, that unit’s pass defense should still very much attackable down the field. To date the Dolphins defense has allowed 58.5 percent of all deep passes to be completed against them with seven of those resulting in touchdowns. Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph hasn’t done a lot of deep throwing so far this season but Monday night there should be plenty of opportunities for him to push the football down the field. Look for Rudolph to go deep outside the numbers more than just a few times Monday night.
Press hard to limit Preston – The Dolphins offense has scored all of seven touchdowns all season and three of those came last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. As you would probably expect, most of those touchdown-ending drives, five to be exact, included at least one explosive play of 20 yards or longer. The Miami offense has only registered 15 explosive plays this season with wide receiver Preston Williams being on the receiving end of five of them. In short, if the Steelers don’t give the Dolphins offense any short fields Monday night, they don’t figure to score much and especially if explosive plays are kept to a minimum.
Force fast Fitzmagic – Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been around the block a few times and Monday night will mark his seventh career start against the Steelers. The Steelers defensive front matches up well against the Dolphins front Monday and this should result in Fitzpatrick needing to get rid of the football quickly in this contest and that should result in the defense rallying to the football quickly. The Dolphins offense is not good enough to sustain long drives throughout games so the more short plays they are forced to run the more likely drives are to stall and a potential turnover to happen.
Vince versus backs – The Steelers got inside linebacker Vince Williams back from his hamstring injury several weeks ago and he’s made his presence known in all contests since. Monday night look for Williams to get turned loose as a rusher in obvious passing situations in hopes that he can get matched up on either of the two Dolphins running backs, Mark Walton or Kalen Ballage, neither of which is great in pass protection. Williams’s pass rushing ability could wind up in a turnover of some sorts in this game.
Plus-Dolphin territory starts – Since Week 1, the Steelers have managed to start at least two offensive possessions a game on their opponents’ side of the field. Those 13 total possessions that did start in plus-territory resulted in five touchdowns and five field goals. Two others were end-of-game possessions that just required kneel-downs. Having at least two possessions to start on the Dolphins side of the field Monday night could wind up being huge and especially if both end in touchdowns as two might just be enough to beat Miami.
Make Mark a marked man – The Dolphins figure to lean heavily on Walton early and often Monday night to possess the football. Most of his touches are going to come in the first half and he leads Miami in running gains of 10 yards or more with five. He also has three receptions this season that have resulted in gains of more than 10 yards. The Dolphins offensive line isn’t great and will once again include Evan Boehm starting at center in place of injured starter Daniel Kilgore and undrafted rookie Shaq Calhoun starting at right guard in place of Boehm, who was starting there in place of injured starter Danny Isidora. Sure, the Steelers are now without defensive end Stephon Tuitt for the remainder of the season, but even so, we should still see Javon Hargrave feast on the Dolphins interior offensive linemen Monday night.