MIAMI, FL–If you ask anyone what has hurt the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers the most, the consensus will say, losing winnable games. The Steelers had a chance to win three of their seven games, but unfortunately, they fell short: The 17-14 loss to the New England Patriots, the 24-20 loss to the NY Jets, and their Sunday Night Football matchup against the Miami Dolphins in which they fell 16-10 at Hard Rock Stadium.
To wit: All three of those losses were against teams in the AFC East Division.
“Tough hard-fought game. Got to compliment the Miami Dolphins,” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. “They made the necessary plays to secure victory, man, and really, we didn’t, and often times, particularly when’s it’s a defensive battle the way game developed into, it’s about who catches the interception opportunities and who doesn’t. That’s just kind of the lens in which I see it.”
After a tough first quarter in which they gave up 13 points to Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa and the offense, the Steelers with 10 points of their own after a FG by K Chris Boswell and a 7-yard TD pass from QB Kenny Pickett to WR George Pickens. After the Dolphins added 3 more points on a FG by K Jason Sanders in the 2nd half, both teams never scored again.
“I thought it was a tough, hard-fought game by both defensive units,” Said Tomlin.
The good news from a scoreless 2nd half is that the Steelers shut the Dolphins’ offense out, forcing them to punt. But the bad news is that the Steelers’ offense was also shut out despite their efforts. The most critical opportunities came on the final 2 drives as Pickett got the Steelers into scoring position, only to have both drives end with costly interceptions.
The Steelers rookie QB, who recovered from a concussion in the Tampa Bay game, showed heart and poise for the Steelers as he tried his best to get the Steelers into the end zone, but unfortunately, to no avail. Pickett would finish the game 32/44 for 257 yards, the TD and 3 interceptions. In addition to his first NFL TD, Pickens finished the game with 6 receptions for 61 yards. TE Freiermuth led the Steelers’ receivers with 8 receptions for 75 yards.
Regarding the offense getting closer to finding their identity, Tomlin replied, “I feel like we are, but we didn’t make the necessary splash plays today to secure victory. But I certainly feel like we are. Certainly.”
Although the Steelers’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half, they also had their challenges as they dropped four would-be interceptions, two from CB Levi Wallace.
“The Dolphins caught theirs and we didn’t catch ours. That’s probably the difference in the game,” said Tomlin. “Sometimes when it’s a one-score game, and it’s back and forth like that and the defenses are controlling it, defensive splash is ultimately the deciding factor.”
In his first return from Concussion Protocol, Tagovailoa finished passing 21/35 for 261 yards and his TD to Raheem Mostert was the game’s first score. But like Pickett, he cooled down significantly, as it was his only TD in the game.
The Steelers are now 2-5 for the first time since the 2006 season under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Cowher. That team had to go 6-2 to finish at 8-8. The question is whether the 2022 Steelers can do the same to reach respectability. To begin that streak, they must now face the daunting task of facing the 6-0 Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field next Sunday.
“We didn’t give our offense a short field by producing a turnover or two, and they did. So, we go back to work.” Said Tomlin. “Disappointing, but we got another big game coming up, and we’ll get focused. We will assess this, learn from it, and put together a plan and ready ourselves for the next one.”
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