The Steelers walked into Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday as 7.5-point favorites and left as 15-point losers, following a 30-15 defeat at the hands of the Dolphins.
Like a week earlier against the Jets, Pittsburgh’s offense answered Miami kicker Andrew Franks’ 30-yard field go and a 3-0 deficit by scoring a touchdown on a big play from a receiver. Seven days prior, it was a 72-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates; on Sunday, it was a 60-yard touchdown by Darrius Heyward-Bey on an end-around. Following a successful two point try on a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to running back Le’Veon Bell, it was 8-3.
But the Steelers offense just never got going after that, and with the visitors leading 8-6 midway through the second quarter, the game changed for good, when Roethlisberger was intercepted by Miami safety Reshad Jones, who returned it 17 yards to the Pittsburgh 13.
After the play, Roethlisberger came up limping on his left knee and had to go into the locker room, where he remained for the rest of the first half.
The Steelers defense held firm on the next series, limiting Miami to another Franks’ 30-yard field goal, and the Dolphins led, 9-8.
Backup quarterback Landry Jones came in to replace Roethlisberger on the Steelers next series, and proceeded to hand off to Bell on three consecutive plays, which produced runs of 12, eight and six yards. But, facing a third and 1 from the Pittsburgh 46, Jones attempted a pass, which fell incomplete.
The Dolphins took over at their own 29-yard line and marched 71 yards on a nine-play drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown by running back Damien Williams to give the home team a 16-8 lead at the break.
Miami took the second half kickoff and drove 75 yards on 11 plays but was forced to settle for another Franks field goal attempt–this time from 24 yards away. However, Daniel McCullers blocked the kick, which appeared to invigorate the Steelers sideline.
But, despite a returning Roethlisberger, who came out for the second half, the troubles continued for the quarterback and his offense.
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Facing a third and 12 from the Steelers 45, Roethlisberger was intercepted for a second time on the day–this time by Isa Abdul-Quddas, which set Miami’s offense up at its own 48.
Once again, the Dolphins turned a Roethlisberger pick into points by driving 52 yards in six plays and taking a commanding 23-8 lead following a one-yard touchdown by running back Jay Ajayi.
The Steelers offense couldn’t respond over the final quarter-plus until Roethlsiberger hooked up with receiver Cobi Hamilton on a 23-yard touchdown to make it 23-15 with just 1:02 remaining.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Chris Boswell’s onside kick was recovered by Miami and, one play later, Ajayi put the final nail in the coffin with a 62-yard touchdown run to make the final score, 30-15.
For the day, Roethlisberger completed 18 of 34 passes for just 189 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was harassed most of the afternoon and sacked twice by a Dolphins front-seven that came into the game with 10.
Other than the 60-yard touchdown run by Heyward-Bey, Miami’s defense effectively shut the Steelers big-play offense down most of the afternoon, allowing only 297 total yards.
Despite facing the league’s worst rushing defense and the second-worst rushing offense, Pittsburgh was dominated on the ground.
Le’Veon Bell averaged 5.3 yards per attempt, but he only had 10 carries on the day, while totaling another 55 yards through the air on six receptions. (Bell’s production through the air led the team, as Antonio Brown was silenced all afternoon to the tune of just four catches for 39 yards.)
As for Miami’s ground game, it produced a whopping 222 rushing yards–including 204 yards by Ajayi (the third-most in Dolphins history).
Playing without arguably its two best players–defensive end Cameron Heyward and inside linebacker Ryan Shazier–Pittsburgh’s defense had no answers on Sunday, allowing 474 total yards.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill wasn’t sacked once in 32 passing attempts, and for the third time in four games, the defense failed to register a takeaway.
Up next for the Steelers (4-2) is a huge AFC match-up against the visiting Patriots, next Sunday at Heinz Field.
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