The Steelers followed their surprising win over the Buccaneers in Week 6 with another close loss in Week 7, this time to the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers now have five games that were settled by less than 8 points, with two wins and three losses in those games. This time the Steelers lost 16-10 in a game where they outscored their opponent 10-3 after the first quarter.
Let’s look at how the Steelers played to earn such a result.
The Steelers recorded their fourth game with fewer than two offensive touchdowns in seven games. That’s not good. The Steelers ten points is the second lowest total of the season, with only the three-point showing against the Buffalo Bills standing worse. The Steelers had eleven possessions in this game, meaning they also recorded a game with less than 1 point scored per possession. That’s bad.
Kenny Pickett threw another three interceptions, giving him seven so far this season, and while he may not be throwing picks as often as rookie Peyton Manning did, it’s still far too often and in these one-score games they are costly. Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens ended the game with nice stat lines, but Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool ended with a combined 4.6 yards per target, which brings their combined season numbers down to 5.4 yards per target. Freiermuth and Pickens have a current combined yards per target of 8. It’s not Antonio Brown territory, but it’s good. Pickens and Freiermuth also passed Johnson and Claypool for combined yardage, even though the veteran receivers have significantly more targets, and had more targets in this game (18-15).
The run game is the same as it has been all year and isn’t much different than what we saw in 2019. Since Ben Roethlisberger had his arm injury, the Steelers run game hasn’t had much success. There isn’t a lot of hope for things to turn around either. Pickett will be a rookie all season, the receiver room is pretty well set and the Steelers running back situation is going to stay rough until/unless Najee Harris recovers enough to be the explosive back he showed he could be in his rookie season.
Honor Roll: George Pickens, Right side of the offensive line, Pat Freiermuth
Demerits: Kenny Pickett’s downfield passing, Najee Harris’s agility and acceleration, Wide receiver leadership.
Final Grade: F
The Steelers started out giving up chunk plays and points, settled down, and after Cameron Sutton left the game (coincidence?) shut down the Dolphins offense the rest of the game. The Dolphins aren’t a run-focused team, and the Steelers gave up more than the Dolphins normally run for, but it didn’t hurt them too much. The Steelers were getting picked apart by Tua Tagovailoa early, but again, settled down and ended up holding the Dolphins scoreless the entire second half.
You’d like to see some splash plays, or even one from the Steelers defense, but with no interceptions, sacks or fumbles forced, they didn’t deliver there. The Steelers led the NFL in sacks every year since T.J. Watt was drafted, but right now they rank in the bottom third of the league, despite entering the week with the NFL sack leader in Alex Highsmith.
In-spite of all that, it’s hard to criticize a defense that is missing its best player, had a number of players coming back from injury and held their opponent to 16 points. That should be a win in any week of the NFL season.
Honor Roll: Devin Bush, James Pierre, Cameron Heyward.
Demerits: Dropped interceptions, early miscommunications, pass rush.
Final Grade: B
A shanked punt to start the game hurts the otherwise mediocre to solid punting, even with the Steelers continued great punt coverage. Gunner Olszewski returned as the Steelers returner, and while he had some of his better returns of the season in this game, that really isn’t saying much at all.
A muffed kickoff led to the Steelers being a positive kickoff team this week even with a 28-yard return to start the game. (29-yard line is +4 yards compared to a touchback, but the muff at the 15 is -10, so the Steelers win overall) The Steelers kickoff return team was +2 yards because the one meaningful kickoff return was to the 27-yard line. Chris Boswell made his only field goal attempt of the game.
Honor Roll: Myles Boykin, Chris Boswell, Derek Watt.
Demerits: Pressley Harvin III, playing Minkah Fitzpatrick on punt returns (why?)
Final Grade: C
After a one-week reprieve, the Steelers reminded everyone that they are a very flawed team when they don’t have T.J. Watt to cover for their problems. At this point they are who we know they are. We shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
Final Grade: D
Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers overall performance and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Grade the Steelers Week 7 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
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