Steelers overcome slow start; defeat Dolphins 27-14
[Pittsburgh,Pa] For a minute there, it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers would do the unthinkable: Fall to a team who had yet to win their first game of the 2019 NFL season.
On offense, the black and gold looked out of sync thanks to a rusty-looking Mason Rudolph who threw a costly interception and the defense as they evoked shades of their struggling seasons of 2017 and 2018 as they allowed 14 first-quarter points. And not to mention a Heinz Field Crowd of 59,244 who booed their team and were calling for the return of Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges.
But then, something happened in the 2nd quarter and beyond: The defense kept the dolphins offense off the field and Rudolph and the Steelers offense woke up as they eventually scored 24 unanswered points en-route to a 27-14 Monday Night win vs. the Dolphins, who fell to 0-7 on the season.
“Big night for us.” Said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin “Getting an opportunity to stack winning performance on top of winning performance is something that we haven’t done. And to do it coming off a bye, hopefully we will be able to establish rhythm as we move forward.”
With the win, the Steelers also continued to overcome a 1-4 start as they improved to 3-4, solidifying 2nd place in the AFC North Division. Rudolph shook off his rustiness as passed for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns to show that head coach Mike Tomlin knew exactly what he was doing when he returned the starting duties to him after missing one game due to injury. The Steelers quarterback even stretched the field, which wore out a Dolphins defense who put the pressure on him in the first quarter.
But Rudolph wasn’t the only offensive star: James Conner had his best game of the 2019 season as he rushed for 145 yards and a 9-yard score. There is a bit of concern about the Steelers running back as he left the game late in the 4th quarter due to an acromioclavicular (AC) sprain. Tomlin said that Conner will get an MRI for more evaluation.
The Steelers wide receivers also made an impression as Ju-Ju Smith-Shuster caught 5 passes for 103 yards and a 26-yard score, which gave the Steelers the lead for good and rookie Dionate Johnson had his best game as a pro as he caught 5 catches for 84 yards and a 45-yard score which helped close the Steelers deficit to 14-10. On that play, the Dolphins lined up to blitz Rudolph, who read it and found a wide-open Johnson who caught the ball and sprinted towards the end zone. WR James Washington returned from injury and caught a key 21-yard pass which kept the Steelers on the field. Kicker Chris Boswell provided the other points off 2 field goals but missed a 54-yarder.
After giving up those 14 1st-quarter points, the defense got it together and did not allow a touchdown the rest of the game. Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick faced his former team and intercepted 2 passes, to give him 3 on the season. The offense would capitalize on those interceptions and score touchdowns.
TJ Watt also made an impact on defense as he sacked Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice and had a forced fumble that led to a recovery. Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson also recovered a fumble when the Dolphins Mark Walton was stripped by the Steelers Mike Hilton in the 4th quarter.
“A lot of congratulations go around.” Said Tomlin “I thought a significant element of it is we won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, offense and defense. When you are doing that as the game wears on, it has a chance to be some significant.”
The Steelers must now prepare to host an Indianapolis Colts team next Sunday who has surprise d many with a 5-2 start despite the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. But Jacoby Brissett as not allowed this team to miss a beat as they lead the AFC South.
“Excited, but again, on a short week.” Said Tomlin “We have to prepare with an edge moving forward.”
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