The Pittsburgh Steelers got into the win column for the second straight game, defeating the Miami Dolphins 27-14 on Monday night. Coming out of the bye, the Steelers have improved their record to 3-4 in 2019 and look to get back to .500 next week against the Indianapolis Colts. Before moving on due to the short week, let’s look at some of the numbers from Week 8.
In typical Steelers fashion coming out of the bye, Pittsburgh failed to score points in the first quarter. It has become a trend of the Steelers to notoriously start slow after their week off, although they have managed to still earn a victory in most of said games. The last time the Steelers scored a point in the first quarter coming off of the bye was in 2015. If looking for a first-quarter touchdown, the Steelers haven’t had one following the bye week since 2008.
Another factor with the same number is the number of first downs the Steelers had on their opening offensive possession of the game. In this case, the Steelers only ran two plays as Mason Rudolph threw an interception to end their opening drive. The Steelers still have not achieved a first down on their game-starting possession since Week 1 against the Patriots.
Unfortunately, the Steelers’ defense didn’t show up in the first quarter either as they spotted the Dolphins a 14-point lead in the first 13:26 of the game. Fortunately, it was the last points the Dolphins would put on the board for the evening. Although they were very rusty, overall the Steelers did not panic and methodically got back in the game before taking the lead in the third quarter.
While it didn’t feel this way early on as the Dolphins had the ball for 8:59 of the first quarter, the Steelers completely dominated the time of possession on Monday night. Having over a 10 minute advantage definitely helped the Steelers put things away late in the game as it was the opposing defense which was overworked rather than their own.
One reason that the Steelers were able to hold onto the ball for such an extended period of time was the efficient and effective running of James Conner. Notching 145 yards on 23 carries, Conner averaged 6.30 yards per rush. As a team, the Steelers still averaged 5.45 yards per carry making for a very substantial rushing attack. In looking at the running game from the defensive standpoint, the Steelers held the Dolphins to 3.00 yards per carry with 57 yards on 19 aattemps.
Although it was the Steelers who turned the ball over early on, it was the defense forcing four takeaways which helped the Steelers get back into the game. Along with the four takeaways, the Steelers totaled four sacks of Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, three of which came late in the game to help seal the victory.
Turnovers are important, but points off of turnovers are even more beneficial. Over half the Steelers points came off of their defensive takeaways Monday night against the Dolphins. Most importantly, it was the first two takeaways that the Steelers converted into touchdowns. The first takeaway was at a key moment of the game which allowed the Steelers to cut the lead to four points heading in the halftime. The second touchdown off of a takeaway was a 97-yard drive which gave the Steelers to lead for good.
To say Mason Rudolph struggled Monday night would be an understatement, especially in the first half. With halftime statistics of 8 completions on 20 attempts with one touchdown and one interception, Rudolph bounced back to have an efficient second half which was complemented by an exceptional running attack. Rudolph went to 12 for 16 after halftime and notched another touchdown, this time to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Speaking of JuJu Smith-Schuster, for the first time in 2019 he was able to go over 100 receiving yards. Finishing with 103 yards on five receptions and an impressive 26 yard touchdown, Smith-Schuster seemed to be a favorite target of quarterback Mason Rudolph as he attempted to throw him nine passes which was the most to any Steelers receiver.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Monday night against the Dolphins. While many of these numbers are encouraging, the most important number is getting the win. Do these numbers accurately describe what transpired Monday night? Were there any other numbers not listed which really stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.