The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Monday ngiht when they hosted the Miami Dolphins in Week 8 of the regular season. After the prime time affair on Monday Night Football it is time to see who performed well, and who left a lot to be desired.
Improvement was evident in some ways, and hopefully will continue, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left plays on the field can be deemed ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.
Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 8...
Stat Line: 23 rushes, 145 yards, 1 TD / 3 receptions, 5 yards
James Conner showed fans what they have been missing all season when he was running wild in that awesome color rush uniform, but Conner’s dominance was a big reason why the Steelers dominated the time of possession. Pittsburgh possessed the ball 35:18 to Miami’s 24:42, and a huge shout out to Roosevelt Nix and the offensive line for paving the way for No. 30 to have his first 100 yard rushing performance of the season. The shoulder injury is troubling, but you had to expect Conner to get dinged up at some point this season.
2nd Half Mason Rudolph
Stat Line: 20/36, 251 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
In our post-game podcast I asked Lance Williams if the second half Mason Rudolph would be good enough for this team to win moving forward and he said yes. I agree. If the Steelers can have Rudolph calm, poised and under control moving forward they can make some noise with the defense amped up the way it is. However, there was that first half...I’ll get to that later.
Stat Line: 2 tackles, 1 solo, 2 INTs
Going against his former team you have to think Minkah Fitzpatrick wanted to make a play for his new team. Make a play to help turn the tide and prove he didn’t make a horrible decision wanting out of Miami. I’d say he did that when he had two interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Steelers’ defense has become a takeaway machine since acquiring Fitzpatrick after Week 2.
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 3 solo, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QB Hits
T.J. Watt is a stud. Period. I could just stop there, but I won’t. It is tough to find a player who shows the hustle, work ethic and desire of a T.J. Watt. Watt is developing as a pass rusher, and is a monster when he rushes the passer. Is there still room for improvement? Absolutely, and that should be a scary proposition for opposing teams.
Stat Line: 5 receptions, 9 targets, 103 yards, 1 TD, 20.6 average
If Conner needed that 143 yards on the ground, JuJu Smith-Schuster needed this 103 yard performance equally as bad. Smith-Schuster finally broke through and again showed he is one of the best combat receivers in the league. Hopefully this is just the beginning for Smith-Schuster and his offensive production.
Stat Line: 1/1 on challenges
It is hard to believe, but Mike Tomlin won a challenge, and it was a good one too!! When it looked like the Dolphins had gotten a first down after a Ryan Fitzpatrick fourth down scramble, Tomlin’s challenge turned the first down for Miami into a first down for Pittsburgh. It was his first successful challenge since 2017.
Stat Line: 4 Turnovers, 4 Sacks, 10 QB hits, 60 yards rushing, 190 yard receiving
It will be talked about a lot moving forward, and it should be, but this Steelers’ defense is becoming a legitimate force in front of our own eyes. Sure, it was the Miami Dolphins, but the defense did what they were supposed to do. One area to clean up is definitely their third-and-long defense. Other than that, this defense could be dominant.
1st Half Mason Rudolph
Stat Line: Stat Line: 20/36, 251 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
I’ll call it rust as an optimist, but the pessimist in me just wants to say Mason Rudolph was awful to start this football game. Whether it was the gift interception on his first throw of the day, or how all of his throws lacked any type of velocity as he wasn’t stepping into this throws. He settled down, but I’m holding out hope Rudolph’s awful start was because he hadn’t played in almost 3 weeks and coming off a hit that left him unconscious and concussed.
Stat Line: Most embarrassing TD I’ve seen in a while
The Dolphins’ second touchdown where four defenders failed to bring down the ball carrier was downright embarrassing. This defense isn’t perfect, and the tackling needs to improve if they want to continue to trend in the right direction.
NFL Officials and Reviews
Stat Line: Awful OPI call, and overall time taken for Tomlin challenge/overturn
Officiating any sport is difficult, but the NFL has a long way to go before they start to really get this process right. Whether it was the bogus offensive pass interference call on Diotate Johnson, which wasn’t overturned when challenged by the booth, or how it took almost 10 minutes for the crew to sort out Tomlin’s challenge of the spot on the 4th down rush by Fitzpatrick. It is a bad look, and needs fixed; however, I’m not holding my breath.