The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 of the 2019 regular season. After starting the year with a 2-4 record, the Steelers prepare to host the Dolphins on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field.
Since this is a relatively familiar matchup for the Steelers, playing another AFC team, many fans might feel as if they know everything about this matchup. But the truth is there are a lot of different pieces of the overall puzzle between both of these teams, especially with the Dolphins’ roster going through such an overhaul throughout the season.
So, I wanted to get a lowdown on what the Dolphins might have in store for the Steelers by talking with The Phinsider, SB Nation’s Dolphins website, editor Kevin Nogle to pick his brain on the upcoming matchup.
In this second of many installments, I asked Kevin what he thinks the Dolphins will do when they are on defense and trying to stop the Steelers’ offense. Check out his response:
Miami’s defense has been confusing - maybe even more so than Miami’s offense. The pass rush has primary been Taco Charlton and Mark Biegel, players who are new to the team and would never have been considered as a part of the pass rush plan just a few weeks ago. The defensive line is actually getting better against the run lately, so at least there is improvement there. If I were the Steelers, I would attack early with the run, forcing the Dolphins to commit to stopping it, then find the open holes in the middle of the defense.
The linebackers are playing well. Raekwon McMillan is turning into a strong run-stopping linebacker, while Jerome Baker is doing well in coverage for the most part - he will get beat, but he has success too - and he can blitz well, though he is getting hurries and hits, but not sacks. Sam Eguavoen has been a surprise, and he is playing well after coming to the team from the CFL.
The secondary has been a disappointment. This was supposed to be the strength of the defense this year, and so far it has fallen flat. Xavien Howard, if he is healthy and in the game, can be a shutdown cornerback, but he has been beaten at times this year as well. After that, it is a giant question mark. Eric Rowe has been starting, but it is more a default thing than a he earned it thing. I would love to have Codrea Tankersley get activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list, just to see if he can find his form from his rookie year two seasons ago, but that is probably at least another week away if it will happen this year. Reshad Jones has moments where he looks like the Pro Bowl strong safety, but he is not an every-down player anymore, and he has been dealing with injuries this year. Bobby McCain at free safety is transitioning to the role after playing nickel cornerback for the early part of his career, and he is playing it like a solid safety who is still learning the position.
Stay away from Howard if he is playing, and you should be able to find receivers open.
Running a similar feature on his site, I responded to the same question, but how the Steelers’ offense will try and move the ball on the Dolphins’ defense in prime time. Here is my response:
This Steelers’ offense is a tough nut to crack due to the instability at the quarterback position. With Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback there was consistency, as well as an expectation. With Mason Rudolph, who is essentially a rookie considering he never dressed for a game in 2018, you have a young QB who is learning the ropes in the NFL on the fly.
With that said, I think the Steelers are an offense that is starting to find their rhythm and the equation for success. This starts and ends with James Conner. He is the most consistent playmaker the Steelers have on offense right now, and was an integral part of the team’s Week 6 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles. Look for the Steelers to get the ground game going early, and then to open up the intermediate passing attack to get Rudolph back in the groove after his concussion.
Will the Steelers be able to let Mason Rudolph sling the ball around? Or will the Miami defense feast on an over-simplified Steelers offense?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to keep tabs on BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Dolphins in Week 8.