The Pittsburgh Steelers unfortunately come away from their Sunday night outing in Miami with another painful loss, one that was largely decided by turnovers and the offense only able to muster ten points. Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw three interceptions, and the Steelers defense dropped four interception opportunities in an otherwise strong performance, limiting the explosive Miami offense overall sans the first quarter, falling to 2-5 on the season. In this article I will provide data from Pro Football Focus and takeaways from watching the film.
Let’s start with the offense:
PFF’s highest graded player on offense was guard Kevin Dotson (83.9), rebounding after a poor showing last week against the Buccaneers, with a good showing with no penalties being the biggest improvement in my opinion (three last week) and faring well both as a run and pass blocker, though he did allow one pressure and a quarterback hit. No other player had a +70 grade, notable considering there are usually at least three that I highlight weekly. Tight end Pat Freiermuth (69.3) and George Pickens (68.1) round out the top three. Freiermuth had nine targets, eight receptions, for the team lead 75 yards. Pickens caught all six of his targets, for 61 yards, and had the only touchdown of the game, which was also his first on the season. The below 50 grades for the game were tight end Zach Gentry (49.4), fullback Derek Watt (43.5), and tackle Dan Moore (43.1). All three struggled as run blockers, and the latter having a rough day overall both as a run and pass blocker along with a holding penalty. Also agree with the grades of wide receiver Diontae Johnson and tackle Chukwuma Okorafor, perhaps with even lower grades being warranted. I noted Okorafor several times for losing blocks, struggling more as a pass blocker including three pressures and hurries. Johnson had a team high ten targets, but only five catches for only 42 yards, a penalty on a push off, and one other notable peeve was standing idly by on the final offensive play, watching as if he were a casual spectator as the defender intercepts the ball and toe-taps to put the game away. At least work towards the ball, at least give effort to try and make something happen with the game on the line?!
Pittsburgh’s offense came out at 10:45 in an early seven-point hole, starting with Harris on the ground who did a good job getting north and south following a poor blocking angle from Derek Watt that allowed the tackle despite good initial blocks from the o-line and tight end Zach Gentry. On second and seven it was back to Harris, again with good blocks particularly from guard James Daniels on a combo to help him slither through for a successful four-yard gain with tackle Chukwuma Okorafor aiding by pushing the pile forward. The offense went quick to the line on third and three, and Pickett targets wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who had a step deep down the left sideline but overthrows him for the discouraging three and out to start the game.
The second drive began at 5:32 with a ten-point deficit now, and it’s a play action rollout where tight end Pat Freiermuth pulled across the formation and got the short target, working hard for YAC and a six-yard gain despite Gentry unable to land a block and absolutely zero effort from Johnson, allowing the defense to swarm. On second and four, Pickett goes for wide receiver Chase Claypool deep, but was tripped up by the trailing cornerback and falls to the ground, allowing the easy interception with no flag, live I didn’t think it warranted a call but watching it back several times you can see his right foot caught on the defender’s leg and an unfortunate missed call in my opinion. Pickett can’t catch a break with his interceptions to date, with several of them unsquarely on him and giving the ball right back, rough start down ten.
The offense returned with 2:27 in the first quarter and now down by 13, getting it to Harris on the carry with decent line blocks highlighted by a solid combo from guard Kevin Dotson, and Harris able to provide a nice cut off the edge but Derek Watt was beat with a long arm allowing the defender to get to him at the line, where he churned for a successful four yards on the hard run. On second and six, Pickett barely gets the pass off with the edge defender nearly batting it on the screen, then Claypool got just enough of his block for Johnson to cut inside off the catch, but the tackler was able to stay on his feet despite a double team block on the second level from Freiermuth and Okorafor to tackle the four-yard gain. On third and two, Pickett play actions with Harris providing a good pass block (lowered his head though), and good route combo with Claypool clearing space for Freiermuth’s flat route to pick up the first down and more on the eight-yard gain. The drive continued with a Johnson sweep behind a good block from running back Jaylen Warren for three yards, with the defender disengaging from Freiermuth’s block allowing the tackle. On second and seven, Warren got the carry behind good seal blocks from tackle Dan Moore and Dotson, allowing the cut back for a gain of three yards. Tough first quarter with only one first down, 35 total yards, and an interception.
The drive continued to start the second quarter on a third and four, where Okorafor and Daniels allowed the defender to penetrate between them, cuing Pickett to step up and run to churn forward but stopped just short of the marker on the gain of three. This brought up fourth and one, where Pittsburgh was aggressive and decide to go for it, handing it to Warren who decisively darts behind a good push from Okorafor to get the much-needed conversion and more on the tough run for four yards.
The following first down was a play action where Daniels was pushed back, with Pickett finding Harris on the dump off, making a great cut inside to make two men miss, then a spin for more quality YAC on the 12-yard gain. Harris got a touch on the ground the following first down, behind good blocks from Cole, Daniels and Okorafor on a double team, Gentry, and slicing through behind a good lead block from Derek Watt to fight for three yards. On second and seven, Pickett play action boots to the left, and gets the completion to Claypool who crossed the formation to the flat and was able to turn it up on the sideline for the four-yard gain. Third and three now, and Pickett targets Johnson on the quick out but the pass goes over his head incomplete, and noted Claypool’s route attempting to create space but unsuccessful similar to the conversion earlier, with the defender sniffing it out. First long drive of the game that unfortunately flutters near the red zone, but sets up Pittsburgh’s first point on a field goal to cut the lead to 10.
With 9:19 in the second quarter, the offense returned with Pickett play actioning to no one on the right as Harris went to pass block the free rusher on the blind side, allowing the defense to identify pass early on the tight end screen to Gentry, blowing it up for a loss of four. On second and 14, despite Moore being pushed back, Pickett rekindled the connection with Pickens, who was wide open down the left sideline for the much-needed explosive pass and YAC for 30 yards. Daniels was beat on the outside on the following first down pass, a short target to Freiermuth on the stop route but tackled quickly on the gain of four. On second and six, Harris got the carry and found some space between blocks from Moore and Gentry along with Pickens landing a solid lead block and Dotson connecting on the second level on the four-yard gain. Third and a manageable two now, and despite former Steeler Melvin Ingram pushing Moore back on the blind side, Pickett was able to find Johnson for the good catch on the stop route against tight coverage for another conversion, great to see following the rough first quarter.
The following first down was a quick pass to Pickens on the stop route, tackled quickly and falling forward for six yards. On second and four, back to the air and Pickens again on the quick out at the sticks, which negated Okorafor being beat around the edge, making the grab right along the sideline but unfortunately had an opportunity for huge YAC with the ample cushion given, first down though and noted Warren with a good block. Another first down here, and it’s a jet sweep then a reverse to Claypool, but Daniels lost his block forcing a back tracking angle, lucky to get back to the line of scrimmage, but unluckily Harris was guilty of an illegal block in the back setting up first and a long 20. Pickett had plenty of time to survey on this pass, though Cole allowed a late push as Daniels passed the block off, finding Claypool on the five-yard crossing route, and noted he had to stutter step to get the right depth with Johnson (a prior issue we’re seen on this route concept), but still aids in separation for the catch and run of 11 yards. On second and a reasonable nine, Harris got the toss, but Claypool and Gentry did a poor job in attempts to block Ingram on the edge, along with Daniels losing his block to allow the combined stop behind the line for a loss of three.
Big third and 12 now with 3:14 left in the half to continue this long and overall encouraging drive, Pickett drops back and surveys, but Okorafor was beat around the edge and Cole got pushed back, forcing Pickett start rolling to the left, but great recognition to get north and south behind a Moore pancake and scramble for a huge pickup of 16 to move the chains on third down once again. On first down, back to the ground with an excellent wall of blocks from Moore, Dotson, Cole, and Daniels (though the latter lost his second level block), and Harris did a great job to break a tackle and pick up 12 yards and the first down. This set Pittsburgh up in first and goal on the ten-yard line, and Harris got another carry, this one for three yards with a good seal from Moore and Dotson’s man ending up on the ground. On second and goal, it was Pickett to Pickens again, an excellent back shoulder throw and catch in the end zone, just getting both feet inbounds on the sideline to secure his first NFL touchdown for the encouraging score before halftime in a much better second quarter. Pittsburgh only down by three now.
The offense came on first to start the second half down by six, and Miami rushed more defenders than the o-line could handle, with an unblocked man dropping the first down Harris run for a loss of one. On second and 11, Cole lost his block, forcing Pickett to scramble and rolled right into the sack allowed by Moore for a loss of 11. Third and a long 22 with the offense going the wrong direction, the Steelers went screen to Warren who was able to pick up ten yards, seemingly content to get more room off the goal line to punt it away. Not ideal right out of halftime, three and out.
With 8:37 in the third quarter, the offense returned following a huge fourth down stop by the defense and the deficit still six. Pickett slid right on first down and found Johnson open on the stop route, but the pass was low and off-target, unable to corral the incompletion. On second and ten, Pickett enjoyed good pass pro with plenty of time, looking for Harris initially on the swing route, then moving through his progressions going right back to Johnson on another stop route, this time complete for 12 yards and a first down. Pickett intently going to Johnson again here, this time on a slant/stop for the catch and six yards, and Johnson is injured on the play (oh no!). On second and four, despite penetration allowed between Cole and Daniels, Pickett found Harris open on the dump off in the flat for the catch, but two defenders swarmed to pushed him out of bound for only one yard. Third and three now, and Pickett went back to Harris again on the pitch and catch short of the sticks, seemingly with enough space to move the chains but wrapped up by his ankle and couldn’t churn for the conversion. Steelers punt, still down by six.
Returning with 4:48 in the third quarter and the scoreboard the same, Harris got the first down carry for two yards where Daniels lost his block and ended up on the ground, along with Moore allowing his man to work down the line on the combined tackle. On second and eight, Pickett wanted Freiermuth on a run pass option dump off, but instead the Steelers were hit with an ineligible man downfield penalty. Now second and 13, Johnson is back in and makes a catch, but pushed off and second straight Pittsburgh penalty on the pass interference. Second and a very long 23, and Pickett targets Warren open short over the middle despite Daniels being beat on the outside, and good YAC effort but only getting seven yards. Third and a long 16, and Pickett feels Moore being pushed back on his blind side, and curious to see the all-22 and if anyone was open on the premature (in my opinion) scramble, chased to the sideline and only able to muster a one-yard gain. Third punt in a row to start the second half, ugh.
The offenses next opportunity came with 37 seconds left in the third quarter still down by six, and encouragingly kicked things off with a solid run from Harris around the edge for 16 yards, with solid blocks from Daniels and Okorafor to spring him for a one-on-one matchup to break the tackle with a stiff arm, and get behind a great block from Pickens out in front. They stuck with Harris on the ground on the following first down, this one a short three-yard gain where Derek Watt was unable to move his man on the pulling block and allowing the tackle.
The drive continued to start the fourth quarter, and on second and seven Pickett play actioned, then targeted tight end Conor Heyward who ran a defender over to get open on the dump off with YAC, pushed out just short of the marker. Third and one now, and Pittsburgh aligns tight with only one receiver out wide, inviting nine Dolphins into the box, sniffing out the run with an unblocked linebacker coming in and getting the hit and stop for no gain. Too predictable, Steelers punt yet again.
Pittsburgh returned with 11:53 in the fourth quarter and still trailing by six, beginning with a Harris run where Okorafor allowed penetration but pancaked his man late, along with Daniels, Gentry, and Dotson allowing their men to converge and tackle the two-yard gain. On second and eight, Pickett faked to Harris, then a flip pass to Gentry for a four-yard gain where the free edge rusher was able to track him easily for the tackle. Third and four now, and Moore pancaked his man on his pass block along with Okorafor blocking his past the arc, but Daniels was pushed back allowing penetration in Pickett’s grill, able to get the target off to Claypool but good physical coverage toward the sideline on the post route to cut him off, falling well out of his reach incomplete. The theme continues with short drives and failed third downs and punts, ugly.
7:56 left in the game, still down by six, time for the offense to hopefully do something. First up was a run were Harris cutback around Moore’s block for a gain of four where he was tackled by the free edge rusher. On second and six, Pickett found Johnson open in zone coverage, but Miami gifted a first down to the Steelers with an illegal contact penalty. Pittsburgh went pass here, with Cole losing his footing trying to get to the blitzing linebacker and falling, along with Harris picking him up but pushed back in Pickett’s face, and Okorafor allowing the edge rusher to nearly get there as well, and stands tall to deliver an impressive pass on the out route to Freiermuth for 13 yards to move the chains. Big time. After Harris’ poor pass block, he followed it up with a drop on the following first down. On second and ten, Pickett and Claypool had a miscommunication on the route, with Pickett seemingly expecting him to run a skinnier cut, instead goes behind him incomplete. They made up for it on third down, with Pickett finding him (despite Daniels and Okorafor allowing penetration between them) on the out route wide-open, beating one defender on the angle for the critical YAC to move the chains. Claypool converting on third down reminiscent to last week.
The following first down was another out, to Pickens this time for the catch on the sideline and goes out of bounds on the nine-yard gain. On second and one, Pickett went right back to Pickens on the stop route, getting the pass out to beat the free blitzer with poise. Refreshingly moving the ball in crunch time, and Pickett tries to get the pass over another defender, but this time it’s tipped with Freiermuth nearly corralling but instead falling incomplete. Okorafor allowed pressure on second and ten, cuing Pickett to roll out to the left and good job finding Claypool for the nine-yard gain. Claypool went in motion, showing the jet sweep action to the left, then Pickett handed to Harris behind a solid pulling block to the right from Daniels, springing him to the edge for seven yards.
This put the Steelers in the red zone for second and three, going back to Harris up the middle and met by traffic at the line, but able to churn for a couple of yards. Huge third and one, and wide receiver Miles Boykin goes in motion then pushes Pickett forward on the sneak, but the play is called back due to an illegal shift, instead of converting it’s now third and six. Pickett drops back, and bails the pocket early to scramble to the sideline, which leads to a hair pulling holding call on Moore for dire back-to-back penalties (second occurance of the game!). Third and one is now third and 16, and Pickett targets Johnson at the sticks, but doesn’t locate the safety who stayed shallow to undercut Johnson’s route for the interception. Face palm.
The offense gets one more chance with 2:31 on the clock, no timeouts, down by six. On first down, Pickett throws the short stop to Freiermuth for seven yards with Miami playing off given the situation. Second down was also to Freiermuth short for eight yards this time taking the clock down to the two-minute warning. The following first down Pickett had to scramble due to pressure allowed by Okorafor, and ends up throwing it away out of bounds with seemingly good coverage. On second and ten, Pickett gets happy feet here and curious to see the all-22 to see if anyone was open here, instead scrambling for no gain on the sack that keeps the clock moving. Eek. Big third down here, and Pickett finds Claypool but well short of the marker on a drag for four yards. In four down territory with 1:06 left, this could be the game. Pickett drops back and unleashes a great throw over the middle to Freiermuth who makes an equally impressive catch for an explosive gain of 21, WOW!
This cued the Steelers to run up and spike it to stop the clock with 48 second left and just inside Miami territory. On second and ten, Pickett finds Johnson over the middle on a drag, making a cut inside the defender and able to still get out of bounds, picking up 14 yards and stopping the clock with 42 seconds. This first down went back to Freiermuth over the middle for eight yards, perhaps forcing it with three defenders surrounding him. Second and two now, and Pickett bails the pocket to the left, then throws to Johnson at the pylon and it’s INTERCEPTED, with the defender toe-tapping along the sideline to put the game away. Johnson also was just standing there, maybe you’re assuming it was going out of bounds?! Don’t assume, work to the ball and try to make something happen. What a gut-wrenching end to an incredibly lucky chance to win at the end.
Now for the defense:
PFF’s highest graded defender for the game was safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (82.7), playing particularly well as a tackler and in coverage. Cornerback Cameron Sutton (79.6) played well upon his return overall, but I imagine his dropped interception is etched in many of our brains and perhaps warrants a slightly lower grade. No other player has +70 grades, which is quite surprising in my opinion given they held a potent Dolphins offense to only six points, and none in the second half! My humble list of deserving players include: defensive lineman Cameron Heyward in particular, along with edge rusher Alex Highsmith, and safety Terrell Edmunds. A whopping seven players had grades below 50: including four defensive lineman in Larry Ogunjobi, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Montravius Adams, along with cornerbacks Arthur Maulet and Levi Wallace, and edge rusher Jamir Jones.
Pittsburgh’s defense came on first to start the game, and benefitted from a false start on Miami. This set up first and 15, where quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got the ball out quick to wide receiver Tyreek Hill on the screen off orbit motion, with a great play by cornerback Arthur Maulet to work through the block attempt by wide receiver Jaylen Waddle to get the tackle for a big loss of four. Miami moving backward thus far in a long second and 19, and the read option compromised the linebackers (particularly Myles Jack), along with bringing safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on the blitz, allowed Waddle the wide-open explosive catch and run, with safety Terrell Edmunds finally making the tackle. This was a concern I highlighted in my pregame stats outlook, and can’t capitalize on the behind the chains start for the Dolphins.
The following first down was another chunk to Hill, with Maulet allowing separation to the star receiver for the easy gain of 17 yards, where he and linebacker Devin Bush combined for the tackle. Pittsburgh’s defense was fooled once again on the run action, but Tagovailoa spinning around quickly to fire it to Hill wide open on the slant behind the Steelers front seven and in front of cornerback Levi Wallace’s deep cushion for the nine-yard gain where Jack and Fitzpatrick made the tackle. On second and one, running back Raheem Mostert got his first carry up the middle, where defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk and Larry Ogunjobi were each double teamed and pushed back, and Edmunds reacted well to get there quick in the backfield, but allowed the churn on the tackle, gaining just enough for the first down.
The drive continued with another read option on the jet action, freezing Bush which allowed tight end Mike Gesicki to get free for the catch over the middle and YAC for the 18-yard gain where Fitzpatrick made the solid tackle, despite edge rusher Alex Highsmith staying clean and getting near Tagovailoa’s quick trigger for another chunk play to get to the red zone. Then it was another Mostert run, this one a seven yarder where Highsmith set the edge but sealed, and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward was pushed back on the double team, and fellow lineman Montravius Adams stayed clean to work down the line to purse the ball along with linebacker Robert Spillane from the opposite side of the formation to combine for the tackle. On second and three Tagovailoa targeted Gesicki on the slant route to the end zone, and great coverage and close by Edmunds in coverage to hit him arm for the pass breakup and incompletion. Big third and three now, and Highsmith won around the edge on his pass rush, cuing the step up from Tagovailoa where Heyward impressively threw his blocker to the ground but a tick late and couldn’t sack him, allowing the late dump off to Mostert with space against the zone on the left sideline for the waltz in touchdown. Long drive with several chunk plays allowed, down seven early.
The defense returned quickly at 9:31 and still down by seven, with Mostert getting the first down toss, with Loudermilk getting pushed back by the much smaller h-back on his pull, and Jack did a good job getting around Hill’s block attempt along with Heyward staying clean down the line to combine for the tackle of five yards. On second and five, Ogunjobi got good penetration toward the running back, but Tagovailoa kept the run pass option off of jet action once again with Highsmith getting cut down by the fullback, finding Waddle on the slant wide open over the middle for his second explosive catch with YAC and Wallace tackling the big 25-yard gain.
On first down, Mostert got the carry to the left where Loudermilk was pushed back, a lineman got to Jack on the second level, and Heyward couldn’t get off his block in time, all allowing the lane for 12 yards where cornerback James Pierre made the tackle. The following first down was another read option, and Tagovailoa making a good decision to hand it off with Highsmith commiting to him and losing edge contain, Ogunjobi reading it well but unable to get the angle and missing an opportunity in the backfield, Jack, Wallace, and Bush blocked on the outside/downfield, with Fitzpatrick and Spillane working from opposite sides of the field to finally combine to tackle the second consecutive chunk run of 11 yards, yikes.
Third first down in a row and now in the red zone, and it’s a run with a great job by the interior starting with Heyward, pushing the center back into the designed run lane and forcing the cutback where Ogunjobi got outside the guards’ combo block and the tackle, hitting the runner at the line and solid tackle on the one-yard gain. On second and nine, the defense flowed hard to the run action, but did a great job to react off the play action in coverage including Wallace on the first read, Jack getting to the running back quickly on his wheel route, leading to a scramble where Bush did a great job working to the sideline on the rollout despite colliding with Edmunds to tackle the five-yard gain. Huge third and four now, and Highsmith got a good push on his pash rush, but Tagovailoa triggers Texas route by Mostert over the middle with Edmunds in coverage, and Fitzpatrick says no way with a huge hit near the goal line to jar the ball loose, fantastic play to hold them to a field goal, Steelers down by ten.
The defense returned quickly yet again at 4:39 to a toss where Spillane was blocked to the ground, cutting off Adams’ and Heyward’s pursuit, Edmunds blocked downfield by a wide receiver, Pierre thankfully setting the edge to turn the run up field where Bush shed Hill’s block to push the runner down but a nine-yard gain. On second and one it was another run, with Adams and Heyward both pushed back on double teams, and Bush shot the gap and spun inside the fullbacks’ block to contact the rusher just enough for the credited tackle of three yards. First down though, and Tagovailoa has all day with a lack of pressure and Heyward being blocked to the ground (arguably in the back), targeting Waddle who got wide open with Wallace and edge rusher Reed came off him in coverage thinking deep shot to Hill (have to communicate better), making the leaping catch on the high throw over the middle and falling to the ground as he secured it, thankfully leading to no YAC on the gain of 18 that could’ve gone for a lot more.
First downs galore, this one Miami’s tenth of the quarter, and Tagovailoa keeps the run pass option and quick triggers to Gesicki on the wheel route before Highsmith’s free rush could get home, thankfully missing an open receiver over the middle due to Maulet getting across the formation late, instead an overthrow here with good coverage from Edmunds on the incompletion. On second and ten the Steelers brought a blitz with Bush, but ineffective with the continued quick pass game, this one to Hill on another off target pass off his hand, giving Wallace and interception opportunity but off his as well on the incompletion, boy wouldn’t that have been nice. Huge third and ten here, and Tagovailoa targets Gesicki over the middle on the slant at the sticks, and great play by Minkah to pressure the catch point with another hit and incompletion on third down, with safety Tre Norwood in on the play as well. Good stop but Miami gets points on their first three possessions, deficit now 13.
Pittsburgh’s first defensive opportunity in the second quarter came at 11:44, and great coverage from Bush on Hill, with great communication with Wallace to pass off the receivers and nice pass break up over the middle. On second and ten, Tagovailoa found the receiver on the stop route despite Heyward getting his hands up, with Jack there to tackle the catch quickly, but slightly churn for seven yards. Third and three now, and Pittsburgh has a miscommunication on who would pick up the motion man, with Jack unable to get across field due to this, but able to get the quick tackle but five yards and conversion. Fresh set of downs, and Miami goes to Mostert on the ground, able to gain three yards with Highsmith pushed up the arc, Ogunjobi unable to disengage from his block, and Bush staying clean again to make the tackle. On second and seven, it’s another play action pass over the middle, thrown out in front of Hill and off his hand once again, with Wallace in decent coverage and noting Highsmith being cut blocked on a big chunk of his rushes that’s definitely limiting his effectiveness. Third and seven now, and Highsmith, Heyward, and Ogunjobi got a good push with the former getting near Tagovailoa’s throw trying to bat it down, and thankfully the pivot route to the running back is dropped considering Spillane was beat in coverage. Pittsburgh made some good coverage adjustments to get a stop, still down by ten.
1:46 left in the half with the deficit cut to three, Heyward and Highsmith got good pushes, but Tagovailoa beats the rush to find finds a receiver deep down the middle, making the catch on Maulet for a discouraging gain of 32 and big chunk to get things moving right away, and Edmunds combined on the tackle with him. Come on defense, don’t let them answer right back. The following first down was back to the run game, where Highsmith was pushed back, Jack turned around but worked to the ball well, along with Spillane working off his block to tackle the five-yard gain. On second and five, Highsmith and Heyward got a good push to force Tagovailoa to step up, then scrambles and slides down early with Fitzpatrick closing in and the recent concussion likely still on his mine. Huge third and one, and Miami is dinged with the false start penalty, huge break for Pittsburgh. This makes it third and six now, and Hill is able to secure another throw over Maulet’s head again but does tackle the unfortunate and explosive gain of 21. Heyward and Highsmith worked in tandem well once again, this time on a twist where the latter particularly got pressure, effecting the throw intended for Hill on the sideline, going right to Sutton but misses the easy interception opportunity (second missed for the team) with 26 seconds left.
Miami shoots themselves in the foot here with a delay of game penalty, setting up second and 15. This proved huge with the Dolphins content throwing two short running back passes to gain a bit more yardage for an easier field goal try, which was good and extended the lead to six going into the locker room.
The defense returned for their first drive of the second half at 12:48 to a Mostert run, where Highsmith burst into the backfield setting the edge, and Heyward shed his block for the solid run stop of only one yard. On second and nine it was Mostert again, with Highsmithe setting the edge well again, but this time Ogunjobi was sandwiched, Jack was blocked in the hole, and Heyward worked off his block and pursue to get the tackle, but a gain of seven this time. Third and two now, and Waddle got free once again versus zone, with Maulet guessing wrong and going for Hill, allowing the easy catch and big run after for the explosive 25-yard gain. Here we go again.
The following first down was back to Mostert, on a pass this time split out wide and running a quick slant, with Tagovailoa finding him despite a good push from Reed, and making the catch against tight coverage from Wallace, breaking his tackle along with an attempt by Jack, and finally brought down by Sutton and Edmunds for another chunk of 18 yards. Third straight first down here, and Miami goes back to the ground with edge rusher Jamir Jones setting the edge well and defensive lineman Chris Wormley was sealed inside initially, but good hand use to get back outside and make the tackle on the three yard gain. On second and seven from the red zone now, Tagovailoa is just able to get the pass off with Reed and Jones closing in, hitting Gesicki on the crosser with Jack allowing the catch but quick tackle short on the chains on the five-yard gain. Third and two now, and it’s a handoff with Highsmith doing a great job avoiding Gesicki’s block attempt to close in, turning the run in and Heyward there to drop him for a loss of one after impressively throwing his blocker to the ground. Miami decides to go for it on fourth and three, and fantastic job by Ogunjobi to knife around the double team attempt and trip the runner up at his ankles, then Jack there to finish the play with the tackle for no gain and huge fourth down stop and turnover on downs!
With 6:18 left in the third quarter, the defense returned to a Mostert run, and great job by Bush to read and get the run stop for a loss of one along with Jack, each staying clean in their run gaps and converging to make the tackle. On second and 11, Tagovailoa drops back with Reed getting close to him on the pass rush, and firing it to Gesicki but over his head, then going through Edmunds hands for the teams’ third missed interception of the game. So many opportunities but can’t cash in, ouch. Third and 11 now, and the pass goes to Hill on the drag route against zone, and fantastic play from Norwood to fire down field and tackle the gain for only four to force the punt.
The defense returned with 1:57 in the quarter still down by six, and it was Mostert on the ground once again, and Highsmith did a great job winning inside the tight end to meet him in the backfield, but missed the tackle opportunity on his cut outside, then tackled by Edmunds and Alualu for the run stop of two yards. On second and eight, Tagovailoa and Waddle weren’t on the same page on the route, with the former throwing short and the latter running a go on the incompletion. Third and eight now, and Wormley got a great push to penetrate on the drop back despite being double teamed, along with Highsmith and Reed closing in on the quarterback, but is able to elude and scramble, and huge Norwood hit to stop him short of the sticks for another big three and out, and keeping the dangerous Dolphins offense scoreless in the quarter.
Miami’s offense returned with 13:54 in the fourth quarter and the scoreboard still the same, with Tagovailoa finding Hill over the middle for the catch and run of 16 yards, getting a step on Wallace who was credited for pushing him out of bounds. The following first down was a toss that was, cutting inside of penetration from Spillane and Ogunjobi, with the latter unable to make the tackle in the backfield, but Heyward was there to get the run stop of only two yards. On second and eight, Miami went playaction with Highsmith getting pressure, but Tagovailoa steps up and throws to the running back thanks to good coverage and hit from Bush to ensure the incompletion. Big third and eight now, and Tagovailoa finds Gesiki for the short catch, with Norwood missing a tackle, but great play by Fitzpatrick and Wallace to stop him short for another great third down stop and three and out. Really impressed with the defense limiting this Miami attack.
Pittsburgh’s defense returned with 10:15 left in the game, getting the ball back in Hill’s hands over the middle with Pierre in coverage but beat on the in route at the sticks where Fitzpatrick came up to make the tackle just short of the marker. On second and one, Miami went to Mostert on the ground where Jack and Reed were blocked creating the crease, along with Bush and Spillane blocked on the second level, and Pierre set the edge and worked off the block just in time to trip him up, but a 12-yard gain. The following first down was another run to the left, and frustratingly another big run of eight yards, where Wormley got inside the blocker off the line, hooking his arm and arguably being blocked in the back to free Mostert, with Jack unable to get off his block and Pierre getting the combined tackle along with Spillane. On second and two, Mostert was denied this time with good initial run fits, with Ogunjobi penetrating and meeting him in the backfield but once again missing the tackle opportunity, but edge rusher Ryan Anderson was in position unblocked on the tackle for a loss of one. Critical third and three here, and it’s a deep shot to Hill, which has me holding my breath, and Edmunds showed great speed to run from the box catch up to the speedster, and get his head around to break up the underthrow. WHEW, great play and amazing stands with four straight three and outs.
The defense returned with 2:57 left following Pickett’s interception, beginning with a Mostert run to get the clock moving with their six-point lead, gaining four yards with Ogunjobi making the tackle, and forcing the timeout. The one burned earlier due to personnel issues would be nice to have right about now. Second and six was another run, this one for three with Adams and Ogunjobi combining for the tackle, and Pittsburgh uses their final timeout. Critical third and three in desperate need of a stop, and it’s a play action rollout to Hill, and excruciatingly ANOTHER dropped interception, UNBELIEVABLE. Wallace dropped two, the team dropped four, what a huge missed opportunity. Leads to a punt though, giving Pittsburgh’s offense an opportunity, but unfortunately cannot capitalize..
Let’s look at special teams:
PFF’s highest graded special teamer was Derek Watt providing a timely tackle in the fourth quarter, along with Miles Killebrew and Benny Snell as well. Surprised to see Boykin so low, thought he played well as a gunner forcing fair catches.
Kicker Chris Boswell started thing off by sending the opening kickoff to the one-yard line, with the returner (Mostert) able to get 28 yards due to a seal on Derek Watt, Maulet missing the angle, then met by a crowd where Miles Killebrew and Benny Snell combined for the tackle. Punter Pressley Harvin got his first opportunity at 9:39 in the first quarter, a very poor punt shanking it out of bounds for only 23 yards, and thankfully Miami was penalized for holding which brought their field position back ten yards.
With 11:49 in the second quarter, Boswell capped off the first long drive for the offense with a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10. Olszewski got his first punt return opportunity with 9:30 in the second quarter, fielding it at the 12 after Snell nearly got there for the block, and the return only gains two yards with Pierre and Josh Jackson unable to land their blocks allowing the combined tackle. Boswell kicked off following the offenses touchdown, to the five-yard line where Mostert misjudged and muffed the catch, but able to recover before Norwood, who was barreling in try and create a splash. Snell returned the pooch kick to run the clock out at the end of the first half.
Olszewski returned the second half kickoff from the end zone, getting between block attempts from Norwood and Connor Heyward, then breaking a tackle and spinning to the 27-yard line. Harvin punted early in the third quarter, a 47 yarder that was fair caught at the 28-yard line, with the returner misjudging the trajectory and nearly muffing it, but did corral it. Harvin’s next punt came at 6:27 in the third, a 43-yarder traveling to the 21-yard line where Pierre and Boykin forced the fair catch decision. Olszewski returned another punt with five minutes left in the third quarter, fielding it with pressure at the 32-yard line, and able to cut around the first guy gain seven yards. Harvin punted again with 2:04 left in the third quarter, this one another poor 36-yarder traveling to the 30-yard line where it was fair caught with Boykin in the vicinity.
Harvin’s busy day continued early in the fourth quarter, with a much better offering of 45 yards here that was fair caught at the 12-yard line thanks to Pierre getting downfield. Why not go for it here though, with only a yard to go and down by six? Olszewski’s next punt return came at 12:03 in the fourth quarter, fielding it at the 13 and able to run to the left sideline for a ten-yard return. Harvin came on again for his sixth punt, this one a great 57 yarder fielded at the 14 where Pierre did a great job cutting off the field side and Derek Watt coming up the middle to tackle him for only one yard. Fantastic play for the unit.
STEELERS VS. DOLPHINS WEEK 7 SNAPS & REGULAR SEASON TOTAL SNAPS:
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