Written by Ryan Lippert
After a long two weeks without getting to see the black and yellow in action, Pittsburgh Steelers fans finally have something to look forward to on Monday Night. The Steelers will look to stay hot following their week six 24-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. While the Steelers will be looking to get their third win of the season and stay in their division race, their opponent is in a much different situation. The Miami Dolphins are just looking for any kind of positivity after getting off to an embarrassing 0-6 start. With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at this week’s Monday Night Football matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins.
The biggest story for the Steelers so far this season has been whether or not the can get things done on the offensive side of the ball following the departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, along with the injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After a rough start, things have started to get better the past few weeks as running back James Conner seems to be finding his groove and the backup quarterbacks have stepped up. Mason Rudolph led them to a victory over the Bengals looked good against the Ravens before leaving with a concussion. In his absence, third-string quarterback Devlin Hodges did enough to lead the Steelers to victory over the Chargers. Luckily, Rudolph is back this week so they should be able to open up the passing game more. On defense, the Steelers have stepped up their game after a shaky start to the season. They rank 15th in total defense, allowing 354.3 yards per game and 21.8 points per game so far. Their success has been due in large part to the emergence of rookie linebacker Devin Bush Jr., along with newly acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
As for their opponent, the Miami Dolphins have not been able to find success in any aspect of the game and their record obviously shows it. On offense, their draft-day trade for quarterback Josh Rosen didn’t pay off as they expected. This has led them to name veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter. Fitzpatrick hasn’t been much of an improvement as he is 30th in the league in passing with 717 passing yards, three touchdowns, and five interceptions. Things haven’t been any better in the run game as the Dolphins rank 31st in the league in rushing offense, averaging 66.7 yards per game. Their leading rusher is Kenyan Drake who has rushed for 174 total yards and zero touchdowns this season. On the defensive side of the ball, it has been just as ugly for the Dolphins. They are currently 30th in the league in total defense, allowing 417.3 yards per game and 35.2 points per game. The Dolphins are 22nd in passing defense, giving up 256.5 yards per game and 16 touchdowns so far. Against the run, they rank 31st, allowing 160.8 yards per game and seven touchdowns.
Stephon Tuitt, DE: IR (Pectoral)
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR: Questionable (Illness)
TJ Watt, OLB: Questionable (Abdomen)
Overview: The loss of Tuitt is a huge hit to this Steelers defense as he was arguably having one of, if not the best seasons of his career. In his absence, Tyson Alualu will be the starter and we should see newly signed defensive end L.T. Walton, who has seen time on the active roster during his career, get involved in the rotation. The other injuries to JuJu and Watt should be nothing to worry about as they are both expected to play.
Chris Lammons, DB: Questionable (Ankle)
Bobby McCain, SS: Questionable (Shoulder-AC Joint)
Trent Harris, DE: Questionable (Foot)
Xavien Howard, CB: Questionable (Knee)
Reshad Jones, FS: Questionable (Chest)
Daniel Kilgore, C: Questionable (Knee)
Avery Moss, DE: Questionable (Leg)
Overview: The key injuries to watch for the Dolphins are Howard, Jones, and McCain. All three of them are starters in this Miami secondary, so losing any of them would be crucial in this game. Luckily, all three practiced on Thursday so they should be more likely to play. Kilgore is also a huge injury to monitor as you never want to lose your starting center. He was able to
practice Thursday as well.
Juju Smith-Schuster (WR) vs Xavien Howard (CB)
James Conner (RB) vs Dolphins Front Seven
Devin Bush Jr (LB) vs Kenyan Drake (RB)
Steelers Pass Rush vs Miami O Line
Overview: The biggest matchup for me in this one is Juju vs Howard. Juju has struggled to get open as the WR1 for Pittsburgh so far this season. Howard was once regarded as one of the top corners in the league but has yet to come up with an interception this season. Regardless of that, he should still be viewed as a threat and will be another test for Juju. Conner is set up to have a big day against the Dolphins run defense while Kenyan Drake will look to get things going against the impressive rookie, Devin Bush Jr. Lastly, the Steelers pass rush will look to continue to be a big factor this weekend even without Tuitt as they face a mediocre Miami offensive line.
As a Steelers fan, I will admit winless teams make me nervous. The Dolphins will do anything to get that first win at this point in the season and no one wants to be that team to give it to them. While the Dolphins have been terrible so far, they still have some talent and Fitzpatrick is the type of quarterback that could easily go off out of nowhere. With that being said, I still think the Steelers come away with the win in this one but it could be a close game. I see this being a big game for James Conner with over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I also think JuJu could finally find his groove with Rudolph being back. Pittsburgh will pull away in the second half in this one to give them their third win of the season.
Final Score Prediction: Steelers 38, Dolphins 21