The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their 2022 regular season Week 7 game with a trip to Miami, FL to play the Miami Dolphins. A tough task for the Steelers who are sporting a 2-4 record heading into the Sunday Night Football game.
With this being such a big game, not like every game isn’t a big game, I was able to ask Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider, SB Nation’s Miami Dolphins website, five questions leading up to the game.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
The Dolphins have been without Tua Tagovailoa, and are definitely happy to have him back, but do you think he will be the cure-all for what ails Miami? Losers of three straight rarely just happens out of the blue, but it certainly seems to have worked out that way for the Dolphins. What has gone wrong over the last three games?
The offense has become stagnant without Tagovailoa. Is it just him? Probably not, but he definitely has the best control of the offense and the team rallies around him so well. There have been other injuries, especially along the offensive line where both starting tackles, Terron Armstead and Austin Jackson, have missed time. Both linemen could be back this week, should their respective injuries finally be rehabilitated, but that still is to be seen.
It really does all come back to Tagovailoa, however. If he is able to play - and everything seems to say he will, given he is not even on the injury report - the next question will be the rust versus rest question. He missed two full weeks of practice and playing time. Will he be able to get back out on the field and play like the quarterback with the league lead in passer rating? Or will it take time for him to get back into rhythm?
Waddle and Hill are quite the duo. Has any defense come close to slowing them down? How have they accomplished this feat, and what would you do if you wanted to stop the Dolphins’ high-powered offense?
The most common piece is to roll coverage over Hill, but that seems like an obvious answer. Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, and Skylar Thompson, Miami’s three quarterbacks to play this year, have all shown they are willing to throw to Hill even when he is double covered, and he makes plays no matter what the coverage is. Waddle struggled last week - and I say that despite a six-catch, 129 yards performance - because he is not 100 percent healthy. He has been dealing with groin and shoulder issues, and it just has seemed like he is not fully comfortable right now. If both of them are on their game, it is hard to slow them down because the Dolphins will use them in multiple ways, including rushing, slant/screens, and deep shots using their speed.
Stuff the run and turn the team one-dimensional. The Dolphins’ offense under Mike McDaniel is meant to be a play-action/run-pass option based system, but the Dolphins have struggled to establish the run until the last couple of weeks. If you can force the Dolphins to abandon the run and put all the pressure on Tagovailoa, especially if the offensive line is not 100 percent healthy, you can find success.
With the aforementioned offense getting a lot of the press this season, what about the defense? Statistically they seem like a mixed bag this season, but what are the strengths and weaknesses of the unit?
Health is their biggest weakness. The defense is meant to be a blitzing system, using Xavien Howard and Byron Jones as shutdown cornerbacks, allowing the pressure to get to the quarterback. Howard has been slowed by injuries to both groin muscles this year and Jones has been on the physically unable to perform list all season. Nik Needham, the third cornerback, is now on injured reserve, Keion Crossen is not participating in practices due to a knee injury and Kader Kohou missed last week’s game and is limited this week with an oblique issue. The Dolphins secondary is simply being decimated by injury and it is forcing the team to run more of a base defense with the linebackers and safeties having to assist more in coverage than in creating pass pressure.
Miami is 11th against the run this year, but that is a little misleading. They can struggle to stop the run, especially if the offensive line can create a hole that allows the rusher to get to the linebackers. Players like Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Emanuel Ogbah, and Raekwon Davis live for stuffing the run, but if you are able to neutralize whichever one is in the running lane, the Dolphins could allow chunks of yardage.
How do Dolphins fans feel about Brian Flores? Obviously, he was fired from his job, but have fans just moved on?
It is probably a mix of resentment and indifference at this point. When he was fired, it was a surprise. The Dolphins seemed to be winning, and Flores seemed to be building following the 2019 season. Then came the firing, with reports of a lack of communication across the entire coaching staff, front office, and players, followed by the lawsuit that ultimately led to the Dolphins losing draft picks due to tampering with Tom Brady. I think fans will always remember Flores in the light of the lawsuit and the tampering issues.
That said, I think Mike McDaniel has already proven himself to be a strong hire and that has made Dolphins fans become somewhat indifferent toward Flores. There will probably still be boos and there will be talk on social media about Flores, but honestly, it just feels like he is a chapter of the Dolphins that is in the past already.
At the time of this being written, Dolphins are 7-point favorites at home on Sunday Night Football. But the other caveat here is the O/U set at 45. How do you see this game playing out? Do you think it will be high scoring, or a low scoring affair? Will the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1972 team motivate, or distract the team on Sunday?
I think the celebration should be a motivator for the team. We have not heard officially, but I would expect the Dolphins to come out in their aqua throwbacks for a Sunday night game, and they always play well when they are in those uniforms. I think this could be a high scoring game. I am not seeing this as an 80-point affair or anything, but I see 45 points as low. The Dolphins offense, assuming Tagovailoa is back to form, should be able to find points, and I think Kenny Pickett, assuming he is cleared of the concussion protocol, is starting to settle in as the starter for the Steelers and will be able to put up some points as well. I do not know if I would feel the same way with Mitchell Tribusky, despite the game he had last week, but I think this game is somewhere around 50-55 points. And, I do think the Dolphins, despite giving away seven points, should be able to win this and cover the spread, though as I think it through I am not as confident in that as I would like to be.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 7 game vs. the Dolphins this Sunday in south beach.