Week 7 is here, as the Miami Dolphins prepare to take on the the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. The Dolphins have dropped three straight games, while the Steelers pulled off the upset victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.
Heading into Sunday night, one question is on everyone’s lips. Who has the edge?
Game: Miami Dolphins (3-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)
Date/Time/TV: October 23rd, 2022 / 8:20 PM ET / NBC
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Who’s Got The Edge?
QB - Dolphins. The prodigal son returns. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is set to make his return to football this Sunday, and in doing so, gives Miami the clear edge under center. Even having missed the last two weeks, Tagovailoa still leads the NFL in passer rating (109.9), is 3rd in completion percentage (69.9), and 9th in touchdowns (8). He’s having his best year as a NFL quarterback, and he’ll continue to be the key factor for the Dolphins' offense going forward.
Whether the Steelers wheel out rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett or veteran Mitch Trubisky on Sunday night, both would struggle to keep up with Tagovailoa.
RB - Steelers. Although Steelers running back Najee Harris has had a disappointing start to his sophomore season in the NFL, he’s still managed 264 yards on 83 carries this season, a total higher than any of Miami’s backs. Quarterback woes have taken their toll on Harris, and his production has severely declined as a result. However, he’s still one of the NFL’s most talented rushers and gives Pittsburgh the edge at running back going into Sunday.
WR - Dolphins. Every week, I think we’ve seen the best of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. And every week, without failure, they prove me wrong. The duo both rank in the Top-5 for receiving yards this season, with Hill leading the NFL at 701 yards and Waddle trailing in 5th with 533 yards. They’ve been exceptional all season, and have lived up to the offseason hype.
Meanwhile, the Steelers’ leading receiver is Diontae Johnson, who has 33 catches for 295 yards this season. To say the least, there’s just not much of a comparison here.
TE - Steelers. Before last Sunday, I’d have been ready to give Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth the edge here. But now, I’m not entirely sure. After his monstrous Week 6 performance that included two touchdowns, Gesicki now has the 3rd-most touchdowns among all tight ends, with 3.
However, touchdowns can be deceiving, and unfortunately, I think that’s the case here for Gesicki. Freiermuth has 20 catches for 235 yards this year, compared to Gesicki’s 15 catches for 170 yards. Touchdowns are nice, but Freiermuth is the more consistent player.
OL - Steelers. Miami’s offensive line has been poor this season, with 1-2 weak spots holding back a relatively strong unit. Even with the return of Terron Armstead, Tackles Liam Eichenberg and Greg Little don’t exactly exude confidence going forward. As a unit, the Dolphins have allowed 15 sacks so far this season, 9th-worst in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Steelers currently have the 19th-best offensive line in the NFL, as per Pro Football Focus. Middle of the pack, sure, but still far better than anything the Dolphins have to offer.
DL - Dolphins. While the Steelers and Dolphins both have 12 sacks this year, Miami is slightly better against the run, having allowed 628 rush yards to Pittsburgh’s 721. Now, Steelers defensive end T.J. Watt is easily the best player across both defensive lines, but he’s set to miss Week 7, having injured his pectoral muscle in Week 1. Without his presence, Miami has the upper hand here.
LB - Steelers. Starting Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith has racked up 6.5 sacks this season, the same amount as all of Miami’s linebackers combined. If that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what will.
DB - Dolphins. Miami’s secondary hasn’t been at their best this season, but by the sheer number of players Pittsburgh might be missing, the Dolphins have the edge here. As of right now, the game day status of Steelers’ defensive backs Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Minkah Fitzpatrick is still up in the air.
Meanwhile, while the Dolphins lost Nik Needham to an Achilles injury last week, they’re still able to wheel about Xavien Howard and Jevon Holland, two of the league’s premier defensive backs. On that basis, the Dolphins have the edge.
Special Teams - Steelers. Having made 23rd-most field goals this season, Jason Sanders is still struggling to recapture his 2020 form that convinced the Dolphins to sign him to a long-term deal. He’s also only made 70% of his kicks, 5th-worst in the NFL. On the flip side, Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is one of the league’s best kickers, having made the 8th-most field goals in the league (11) and the most from 50+ yards (5). This one isn’t close.
Which Matchups Will Decide The Game?
1) Tua Tagovailoa vs. the Steelers’ Defense
By now, it’s fairly obvious that Miami’s offense just isn’t the same without Tua Tagovailoa. In his starts this season, the Dolphins are 3-1 and average 24.5 points per game. Without him, they’re 0-2, averaging just 16.5 points per game. If you don’t know, an 8-point drop with the loss of just one player is a LOT, even for quarterbacks.
If Tua can come in and pick up right where he left off, I just don’t see a way Pittsburgh wins this game. Great offense will almost always beat great defense, and if Tua is at his best, there’s not much you can do to stop him.
2) The Dolphins’ Front-4 vs Kenny Pickett
Early reports suggest rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett will get the start on Sunday night, which should bode well for the Dolphins. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t particularly great under pressure, and sacks and pressures will go a long way in undoing the Steelers’ offense.
The Dolphins faced a similar situation last season, in Week 16 against the New Orleans Saints. Facing rookie quarterback Ian Book (making his first NFL start), defensive coordinator Josh Boyer called an extremely aggressive game against the Saints.
The result? Eight sacks, two interceptions, and zero touchdowns allowed. If the Dolphins want to come away with a victory on Sunday, a similar gameplan must be followed. Play aggressive, disrupt the QB, and the Steelers’ offense will suffer.
For only the 3rd time this season, I’m predicting a Dolphins victory. The return of Tua Tagovailoa should rejuvenate the Dolphins’ offense, and the Steelers likely won’t be able to keep up on the scoreboard. Score early, score fast, and the Dolphins should get their 4th win of the season.
What are your predictions for Sunday? Can the Dolphins snap their losing streak in Week 7? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!