Monday Night Football and a matchup between the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers is slowly working its way to us. While today will be filled with every other game on the NFL schedule for Week 8, we will also take a look at the Dolphins and Steelers game, continuing to get all of us ready for that game.
Yesterday, we took a look at how the Dolphins offense could attack the Pittsburgh defense as well as how the Steelers offense could attack the Miami defense. My discussion with Jeff Hartman, the editor of SB Nation Pittsburgh Steelers site Behind the Steel Curtain, the turned to the Steelers’ X-Factor in Monday’s game. He quickly nominated probably the most important player in this game for Pittsburgh.
Easy one this week: Mason Rudolph. Rudolph hasn’t played since his 3rd quarter exit in Week 5’s overtime loss to the Ravens at Heinz Field, and everyone wants to finally see offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner open up the playbook for the former Oklahoma State product. In college Rudolph was known for his down field throwing, and fans are sick of seeing the dink-and-dunk offense.
As for the X-Factor for the Dolphins, I started with X:
Xavien Howard, if he is healthy, is the defensive x-factor for Miami this year. He can absolutely shut down a top-tier wide receiver if he is on his game and fully healthy, but he has also had times where he has looked slow or that he is not fully engaged in the game. Hopefully that was a one-time thing, but with the injury that has been holding him out, it is hard to know exactly what he will be.
If Howard is not available, the defense needs to rely on Taco Charlton to create pressure and on Raekwon McMillan to stop the run. If they can both do that, maybe the Dolphins defense can find some success.
Over on offense, we will go with Preston Williams. The undrafted free agent wide receiver is becoming a weapon. He still has rookie issues, and he drops passes way more than you want, but he has shown flashes that he could be a “number one” receiver with continued development. His performance so far this year, along with DeVante Parker showing up and looking good, has some thought that Miami could have the core of their receiving corps already in place.
And, of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Do the Dolphins have FitzMagic or FitzTragic on Monday?
Howard, who is officially questionable on the injury report, would give Miami a boost on defense as they look to find their first win of the season. Hopefully he will be ready to play and to give Miami the Pro Bowl, shutdown cornerback they need.
Later today, we will take a look at the player from each team about whom no one is talking.