The Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers completed a game that seemed to have some early explosiveness but settled into a defensive battle. The Dolphins opened the game with Tua Tagovailoa back under center after missing the last two games, and the offense immediately looked like it had found the rhythm that it had before the concussion that kept him on the sideline. After an opening drive touchdown, however, Miami’s offense could not find the same success throughout the game, leading to multiple field goals and the team having to rely on the defense.
In the end, the Dolphins were able to do enough to come away with the win. They move to 4-3 on the year and look to re-establish themselves as contenders in the AFC this year. The loss drops the Steelers to 2-5 on the season.
Here is the final score and our immediate reactions from throughout the game.
Steelers 10 - Dolphins 16
First Quarter Reactions
The Dolphins lost the coin toss for the first time this season, starting on offense after the Steelers deferred to the second half. Miami started the drive with a false start on guard Liam Eichenberg, but they quickly made up for the deficit. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw to wide receiver Tyreek Hill three times for 22 yards, to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle twice for 45 yards, to tight end Mike Gesicki once for 18 yards, and to running back Raheem Mostert once for an eight-yard gain and a touchdown. Dolphins 7-0.
Miami came out firing on all cylinders on the opening drive. Tagovailoa showed no rust from his time off and the explosiveness of the Dolphins’ offense was back.
The Steelers drive lasted three plays and picked up seven yards. Pittsburgh saw a 23-yard punt on the three-and-out possession.
Okay, the offense is on to start the game. The defense is on to start the game. Can they both keep it up?
Starting at their own 35-yard line after the short punt was assisted by a holding penalty, Miami again began moving the ball. Mostert started the drive with a five-yard run, then Tagovailoa found Waddle for 25 yards. Mostert picked up 12 yards, followed by an 11-yard run. Running back Chase Edmonds picked up a yard followed by a Tagovailoa scramble for five yards. An incomplete pass on 3rd-and-4 led to a 24-yard field goal from Jason Sanders. Dolphins 10-0.
The offense may not have scored a touchdown, but they are still moving the ball. Former Dolphins and current Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick made a nice pass breakup to stop the potential first-down or touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Mostert on the third-down play.
Pittsburgh started the drive at their own 25-yard line after the touchback. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett threw to tight end Pat Freiermuth for six yards to start the drive, then looked deep for wide receiver Chase Claypool on the next play. Claypool fell on the route, however, and Dolphins cornerback Justin Bethel came away with the interception.
That could have been called pass interference, as Bethen tangled with Claypool as he ran the route, but it was not and Miami has the ball.
Starting at their own 47-yard line, the Dolphins again started picking up chunks of yards. Edmonds started the drive with a nine-yard rush, then picked up three yards to convert for the first down. Tagovailoa then began throwing the ball again, finding Waddle for 18 yards, but three straight incomplete passes forced another Sanders field goal, this time from 42 yards. Dolphins 13-0.
After running back Najee Harris picked up four yards, Pickett found wide receiver Diontae Johnson for four yards. On 3rd-and-2, Pickett connected with Freiermuth for eight yards and the first first-down of the game for Pittsburgh. Johnso n then picked up three yards on a rush, followed by a run from Jaylen Warren for three yards, leading to the end of the first quarter.
The Steelers are moving the ball effectively on this drive, but the first quarter was all about Miami.
Second Quarter Reactions
Pickett scrambled for three yards to mid-field after the break. Warren then picked up four yards, followed by a short pass from Pickett to Harris that turned into a 12-yard gain. Harris picked up another three yards, followed by a Pickett scramble for four yards. After an incomplete pass, Chris Boswell connected on a 45-yard field goal. Dolphins 13-3.
The Dolpins defense went into bend-don’t-break mode and the Steeler took advantage. Miami’s defense needs to get back into the attacking mode with which they started the game.
Miami started at their own 25-yard line, with Tagovailoa missing on a deep pass to Hill on the opening play. Tagvailoa then threw two passes to wide receiver Trent Sherfield for seven- and five-yard gains. Mostert picked up three yards on first down, but two incomplete passes ended the drive and Miami punted.
The Steelers are tightening up their coverage on Hill and Waddle. The Dolphins offense now needs to adjust.
The drive started with Miami blowing up a screen pass for a four-yard loss, with linebacker Duke Riley making the tackle. Pickett then found George Pickens for a 30-yard gain on a pass deep down the left, with Miami’s secondary caught out of position on the pass. Pickett then threw to Freiermuth for a four-yard gain followed by run from Narris for four yards. Picket then returned to Pickens for six yards, then four yards. After an illegal block penalty backed the Steelers into a 1st-and-21, Pickett found wide receiver Chase Claypool for 12 yards. Harris then lost three yards as linebacker Trey Flowers made the backfield stuff. On 3rd-and-12, Pickett was able to find a lane on a scramble and picked up 16 yards. That was followed by runs of 12 yards and three yard from Harris, taking the clock to the two-minute warning. After the break, Pickett found Pickens in the endzone for a seven-yard touchdown. Dolphins 13-10.
The Steelers offense has clearly moved into a ball-control mode, looking to keep the Dolphins’ offense off the field. On the touchdown, Igbinoghene was in coverage and he actually had pretty good coverage on the play. Pickens made a great toe-tapping catch to score.
Miami now looking to respond came out with Tagovailoa finding Sherfield for 32 yards on the first play. Mostert picked up five yards on the next play, then Tagovailoa scrambled for four yards, sliding just short of the marker. After a false start penalty, Tagovailoa laid a beautiful pass into Hill for 21 yards, with Miami taking their final timeout immediately after the play. An incomplete pass that probably should have been intercepted was followed by a delay of game penalty on the offense. Tagovailoa then threw two passes for two yards each to Mostert, with the running back immediately getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Sanders then kicked a 47-yard field goal. Dolphins 16-10.
The Dolphins offense is not fully in rhythm anymore, but the points were important as an answer to the Steelers’ touchdown drive.
After the kickoff, and an eight-yard return, the half ended.
Miami’s offense came out on fire, but the Steelers have made some adjustments and are taking away Hill and Waddle right now. At the half, Waddle has three receptions for 63 yards while Hill has four catches for 43 yards. Tagovailoa has adjusted somewhat, finding Sherfield three times for 44 yards, but they are clearly not exploding like they did on the opening drive.
Adding Gesicki into the passing game more should be an adjustment Miami makes in the second half. On “National Tight Ends Day,” the Dolphins should get Gesicki more involved in the gameplay to offset the attention Hill and Waddle are getting. Gesicki has one catch for 18 yards on four targets, so the opportunities are starting to come his way, but getting him into rhythm should allow those targets to turn into more receptions.
The rushing attack is averaging 5.5 yards right now, with Mostert picking up 44 yards, Edmonds 13, and Tagovailoa nine yards. That is a good start. If they can keep that up into the second half, the play action should open up more and give Tagovailoa more open options in the passing game.
The Steelers are starting to attack Miami’s secondary, where injuries have depleted the unit. Bethel has an interception, but they need more. Igbinoghene has not been bad on the day, but Pickett is clearly targeting him and Miami needs him to respond.
The Steelers get the ball to start the second half. The defense needs to come out rattling the rookie quarterback and force the Steelers to give the ball back to the Dolphins without scoring.
Third Quarter Reactions
Pittsburgh started at their 27 after the return, then lost a yard with linebacker Jaelan Phillips stuffing Harris. Then Phillips sacked Pickett for an 11-yard loss, with defensive lineman Zach Sieler creating the pressure that flushed Pickett straight to Phillips. Pickett completed a pass to Warren for 10 yards on 3rd-and-22, leading to a three-and-out.
That was the start to the second half Miami needed. Forcing a quick three-and-out allows the offense to extend the lead and keep the pressure on the Steelers. Now the offense needs to do its part.
Miami’s offense started the possession with a one-yard run from Mostert, followed by a seven-yard gain from the running back. On 3rd-and-2, Tagovailoa found Waddle for a 25-yard gain, then backed it up with an 18-yard pass to Mostert. After Edmonds picked up three yards, Tagovailoa was able to dump off a short pass to Gesicki for five yards. Emonds then lost a yard, setting up a 4th-and-3 from the Steelers 14-yard line. Miami elected to try to convert the down, but Edmonds was stopped for no gain, leading to a turnover on downs.
Miami head coach Mike McDaniel clearly trusts the defense to stop the Steelers, electing to take the chance of the turnover on downs over getting the three points with the field goal. The analytics made the decision a one-percentage point difference in the outcome of the game, and the argument against going for it really only depends on what happens on the Steelers’ possession.
Starting at their own 15-yard line, the Steelers began with an incomplete ass, then had Pickett throw for 12 yards to Johnson. Pickett then found Johnson again on the next play, picking up six yards. However a one-yard run from Harris and a two-yard pass from Pickett to Harris led to a punt.
Miami survived the failed fourth down. Now they need to offense to put up some points and keep the pressure on the Steelers.
The Dolphins could not do it, however. A Mostert run for a one-yard loss, followed by an incomplete pass down the middle toward Gesicki set up 3rd-and-11. Tagovailoa found Hill on a short crossing route, but the receiver was not able to pick up more than four yards and the Dolphins punted.
That was not the offensive drive Miami needed.
The Steelers offense did not do much better than Miami. They started with a two-yard gain from Harris, but intelligible player down field and offensive pass interference penalties backed up the Steelers into a 2nd-and-23. After a seven-yard pass from Pickett to Warren, Pickett was pulled down by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel on a one-yard scramble, and the Steelers were forced to punt.
The defense clearly made Pickett uncomfortable on that possession. They need to keep that up. The offense needs to give them a chance to breathe, though.
Miami started with a two-yard run from Mostert, but followed that with an incomplete pass when Waddle ran a go-route but Tagovailoa threw an out-route pass. Tagovailoa then scrambled for seven yards, fighting to try to get the first down but coming up short. Miami punted again after another three-and-out.
The offense has to put together at least a sustained drive at some point so the defense can catch their breath.
The drive started with a 16-yard run from Harris for the Steelers, which he followed with a three-yard gain to end the third quarter.
Miami survived the third quarter despite not getting much out of the offense. Now they need to put together a long possession to eat some clock and give the defense a breather.
After the break, the Steelers saw running back Connor Heyward picked up six yards on a reception, but Harris was stuffed for no gain on 3rd-and-1, leading to a punt.
Clayton Fejedelem, a special teams ace, made the stop on Harris on third down, showing just how far into the depth chart the secondary has had to go now.
Miami started with a 16-yard pass on a crossing route to Hill, but they were not able to move the ball much the rest of the way. Edmonds picked up two yards on the next play, then an incomplete pass was followed by a four-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Gesicki. The Dolphins were forced to punt.
Still nothing to write home about for the Miami offense.
The Dolphins defense shut down the Steelers on the drive, stopping Harris on a two-yard run, then tackling Zach Gentry after a four-yard gain. Pickett threw deep toward Claypool, but cornerback Xavien Howard had the receiver blanketed and prevented the completion. Pittsburgh punted after another three-and-out
Howard’s receiver has been targeted three times tonight, with two receptions for ten yards. Pittsburgh is just starting away from him.
Miami started with a nine-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Hill, then Mostert picked up 12 yards. He then ran for another eight yards on first down, but was stuffed for a one-yard loss on the next play. On 3rd-and-3, Tagovailoa went deep down the sideline toward Hill, but Terrell Edmunds broke up the pass and Miami was forced to punt.
Miami had the coverage they wanted, but Edmunds was able to recover and somehow break the pass up. Another Dolphins punt.
Harris picked up four yards on first down, followed by an illegal contact penalty on Miami to give the Steelers a free first down. Pickett then threw to Freiermuth down the sideline for 13 yards. After two incomplete passes, the Steelers converted on 3rd-and-10 with a pass to Claypool for 13 yards. They then came back to Pickens on another out-route, this time for nine yards. Pickett went back to Pickens on the 2nd-and-1 play, picking up five yards. Pickett looked dep toward Freiermuth, but Fejedelem was able to tip the pass just enough to break up the catch. Claypool picked up ten yards on the 2nd-and-10 pass from Pickett, converting for the first down. Harris then picked up seven yards, followed by a two-yard gain to bring up 3rd-and-1. The Steelers were called for an illegal shift, backing them up into a 3rd-and-6. Pickett ran for five yards, but a hold negated the play and set up a 3rd-and-16 play. Dolphins safety Jevon Holland sat at the marker on the play, waiting for the pass and perfectly undercut it for the interception.
Holland bailed out the Dolphins with that interception. The defense was struggling to stop the Steelers and the offense has not been able to put together a long drive this half. Holland making the interception and returning it to the Pittsburgh 49-yard line seemingly took care of both problems. Now if Miami can eat up some clock, they will come away with the win here.
Mostert picked up four yards on first down, followed by a Steelers timeout. Mostert then picked up three yards on second down, with Pittsburgh using their final timeout after the play. Tagovailoa then rolled out on a play-action pass on third down, with the ball luckily falling incomplete on what could have been an interception. The clock stopped on the incomplete pass and the Dolphins were forced to punt.
Tagovailoa got lucky again that another pass fell incomplete instead of being intercepted. The Dolphins offense, after starting off so hot in this game, has not been able to do anything for the second half - and really for the last three quarters of the game.
Starting at their own 13-yard line with 2:31 to play, the first down pass from Pickett found Freiermouth for seven yards. WIth 2:11 on the clock, Picket threw to Freiermuth again, this time for eight yards. The clock wound to the two-minute warning after the play. After the break, Pickett threw incomplete, then was sacked by Christian Wilkins and Jaelan Phillips. Pickett then threw short to Claypool for four yards, then deep to Freiermuth for 21 yards. Pickett spiked the ball, then found Johnson for 14 yards. Pickett to Freiermuth moved the ball to the Miami 25-yard line. On 2nd-and-2, Pickett started to scramble and had a lane, but saw a throwing possibility toward Johnson in the endzone, but Igbinoghene lept in front and toe-tapped his way to the interception.
Igbingohene with the play to seal the game! What a pick. He knew exactly where he was and how to get his feet down to seal the game.
Tagovailoa knelt to kill the clock.
That was not a pretty game throughout, but the Dolphins did what needed to do to get this win. The offense had moments, but has to play better. Tagovailoa looked like he was ready to go at the start, but the rhythm slipped away as the Steelers made some adjustments. The team will now go back and look to fix some of their issues.
The defense did a great job throughout most of the game. They had moments where they struggled, but they held on, especially as the offense struggled to stay on the field and the defense kept having to go right back out. Injuries to the secondary continue to be an issue - but they actually did a fairly good job of stepping up and making an impact with players from way down deep on the roster.