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Dolphins vs. Steelers: A look back at a historic rivalry

The Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers were two of the top teams in the NFL in the 1970s. We take a look back at the history between the two teams ahead of Week 7’s Sunday Night Football game.

Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in a primetime game that will feature two of the historic franchises in the league. The game will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Dolphins’ Perfect Season, a 17-0 romp through the regular season and playoffs, culminating with the Super Bowl VII championship. The last AFC team to have a shot at stopping Miami’s march to destiny? The Pittsburgh Steelers.

This weekend’s game features the Dolphins, the sixth-winningest team in NFL history with a 0.552 win percentage, against the tenth-winningest team in the Steelers, who have a 0.536 all-time win percentage. These are two powerhouse teams who are coming into this weekend’s game looking to prove they are going to be power houses in the AFC this year.

Miami and Pittsburgh, despite being in the AFC together, have actually only faced off 28 times in the regular season, with four postseason contests. The first meeting came in 1971 when the 6-1-1 Dolphins hosted the 4-4 Steelers at the Orange Bowl in Week 9 of the season. A matchup featuring future Hall of Famers all over the field, and on the sidelines for in the form of both head coaches, the was headlined by quarterback Bob Griese for Miami and Terry Bradshaw for the Steelers.

The scoring opened in the first quarter with Miami’s Garo Yepremian connecting on a 43-yard field goal. Pittsburgh then ran off three touchdowns through the remainder of the first quarter and into the second, with Bradshaw finding Dave Smith twice and Ron Shanklin once. Trailing 21-3, Griese went to work and relied on future Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield to get it done. Griese and Warfield scored on a 12-yard and an 86-yard touchdown in the second quarter, to tighten the game up at the halftime break. After a scoreless third period, Miami scored on the only second-half touchdown, with Griese again finding Warfield, this time for a 60-yard score. The Dolphins won the game 24-21. Griese finished the contest on 9-for-14 passing with 232 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions while Bradshaw was 25-for-36 for 253 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The three touchdowns caught by Warfield were his only three receptions on the day.

The second meeting between the teams came in the AFC Championship Game in 1972. The Dolphins had finished the regular season 14-0 and beaten the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round of the playoffs the previous weekend. Then, because the playoffs were scheduled based on a rotation of the divisions, the Dolphins actually had to go on the road, despite having the best record in the league, to face the Steelers. Pittsburgh had just beaten the Oakland Raiders in the “Immaculate Reception” game and were now looking to carry that momentum to the Super Bowl.

The first quarter featured offensive lineman Gerry Mullins recover a fumble for a touchdown for the Steelers, setting them up with an early 7-0 game. Miami was starting Earl Morrall at quarterback as he continued to lead the team despite Griese being ready to return from a broken ankle. Morrall found fullback Larry Csonka for a nine-yard score in the second quarter, but that was the extent of the scoring in the first 30 minutes of the game.

In the second half, Shula made the call to put Griese in the game and the Dolphins offense started to click. After a Steelers field goal, the Dolphins saw two rushing touchdowns from Jim Kiick, one from two-yards out and the other from three-yards. The Steelers put up one last score in the fourth quarter, pulling the game back to 21-17, but Miami was on to their second-straight Super Bowl appearance after losing Super Bowl VI the previous season.

During the rest of the 1970s, Miami and Pittsburgh only faced off twice more in the regular season splitting the results with the Dolphins winning in 1973 and the Steelers winning in 1976. The teams also met in the 1979 playoffs, with the Steelers defeating Miami 34-14 in the divisional round.

In the 1980s, the Dolphins and Steelers met seven times in the regular season, with Miami winning four of the games. They also met in the AFC Championship Game following the 1984 contest with future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns as the Dolphins again headed to the Super Bowl on the strength of a 45-28 win at the Miami Orange Bowl.

Of course, Miami would go on to lose Super Bowl XIX, Marino’s only appearance in the title game - but this is about the history of the Dolphins and Steelers, so we move on.

The 1990s featured six games between Pittsburgh and Miami, with the teams evenly splitting the results at 3-3.

In the 2000s, Miami lost all three contests, including a 3-0 game in 2007. The Steelers’ Jeff Reed kicked the game-winning field goal with 17 seconds on the clock. John Beck threw for 132 yards in the game for Miami, while the running attack, led by Ricky Williams, picked up 41 yards on the day. Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger threw for 165 yards, with the rushing attacking picking up 84 yards mostly from Willie Parker.

The teams met five times in the regular seasons of the 2010s, with one playoff appearance in 2017. The teams split the regular season contests, with the Steelers winning the Wildcard game after the 2016 season.

The most recent meeting between Pittsburgh and Miami was a 2019 contest in Pittsburgh. In Week 8, Miami was 0-6 having already had their bye week. The Steelers were 3-3 on the season and looking to kick in Miami’s teeth on a Monday Night Football broadcast. They pretty well did that with Mason Rudolph at quarterback, throwing for 251 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and James Conner at running back, adding 145 yards and a touchdown. Miami’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 190 yards with two scores and two interceptions as the out-gunned Dolphins attempted to stay close. The Steelers cruised to a 27-14 victory after spotting the Dolphins 14 points in the first quarter.

The game came just six weeks after Miami traded safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, their 2018 11th overall draft pick, to the Steelers. Fitzpatrick recorded both of the Steelers interceptions in the game.

That game came in Dolphins then-head coach Brian Flores’ first season with Miami. Fast forward to 2022 and Flores, having been fired by the Dolphins after the 2021 season, is now a senior defensive assistant for the Steelers and returns to Miami this weekend.

Overall, the Steelers lead the rivalry 13-11 in the regular season. In the postseason, the series is tied at 2-2.

Dolphins vs. Bears Superlatives

Superlative Dolphins Bears
Superlative Dolphins Bears
Most Rushing Yards in a game 216 (Ricky Williams, 12/9/02 at Miami) 123 (Neal Anderson, 9/4/88 at Chicago)
Most Passing Yards in a game 380 (Brock Osweiler, 10/14/18 at Miami) 343 (Erik Kramer, 10/27/97 at Miami)
Most Receptions in a game 9 (Irving Fryar, 11/13/94 at Miami) 8 (Bobby Engram, 10/27/97 at Miami)
Most Receiving Yards in a game 155 (Albert Wilson, 10/14/18 at Miami) 110 (Taylor Gabriel, 10/14/18 at Miami)
Largest Margin of Victory 33 (MIA 46 at CHI 13, 11/2/75) 27 (MIA 7 at CHI 34, 9/4/88)
Longest Win Streak 4 (11/29/71-12/2/85) 2 (11/13/94-10/27/97)
Most Points (single team) 46 (MIA 46 at CH 13, 11/2/75) 36 (CHI 36 at MIA 33 (OT), 10/27/97)
Most Points (combined) 69 (CHI 36 at MIA 33 (OT), 10/27/97)
Fewest Points (single team) 0 (CHI 16 at MIA 0, 11/18/10) 3 (CHI 3 at MIA 34, 11/29/71)
Fewest Points (combined) 16 (CHI 16 at MIA 0, 11/18/10)