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Week 8 Game Recap: Miami Dolphins 14, Pittsburgh Steelers 27


What you need to know

Miami Dolphins

Just when it looked like everything was starting to turn around and that Miami might finally get their first win, the offense stalled, and the defense could not stop James Conner in the second half. The Dolphins kicked things off with an interception and a stop on 4th down in the 1st quarter and turned both turnovers into touchdowns. They held the lead going into half time and then the wheels fell off. Miami replicated what the Steelers did in the 1st quarter and threw an interception and then was stopped on 4th down and had both ensuing Steeler drives go for touchdowns. Miami proceeded to fumble twice in the 4th quarter and again turned it over on downs. It was a great first half and then a very forgettable second half. Miami traded away their starting running back in Kenyan Drake before their Monday night game and the rushing attack floundered. Miami drops to 0-7 on the season and will take on the New York Jets at home next weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Sometimes it just takes the a team a little time to warm up. In these cases the team needs something to rally around or something to get them all on the same page. In Week 8, the Steelers spent 90% of the first half sleep walking through the game. On the first pass attempt of the game, Mason Rudolph threw an interception. After a lack of sustained success on the following draft, and almost throwing an interception, the Steelers were finally able to start moving the football on their third drive and were really able to start hitting on all cylinders late in the second quarter when, on a blown assignment, Diontae Johnson scored right before half.

Going into the second half, even being down a touchdown, the momentum shift towards the Steelers. The defensive line was able to get to penetrate through the Dolphinís offensive line and the secondary was making plays. The Steelers were able to end the game with 27 unanswered points and the Steelers new acquisition from the Dolphins, Minkah Fitzapatrick, ended the game with two interceptions.

Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 34 - 190 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 5 - 17 - 0
Everything was looking great in the first half for Miami and Fitzpatrick. He was completing short throws and moving the ball down the field at will and turned two separate drives into touchdowns for a 14-0 lead. The first throw came after a Pittsburgh interception and went for 5 yards to Albert Wilson. It was a short throw with Fitzpatrick rolling to his left and finding Wilson in the flat after motioning all the way across the formation. A wash of receivers worked to the inside and picked off Steelers defenders and made for an easy path to the end zone for Wilson. The second touchdown went to Allen Hurns from 12 yards out. Hurns caught the ball well short of the first down and a combination of poor tackling and defenders trying to strip the ball rather than take him to the ground allowed him to power into the end zone. The play should have ended well short of a touchdown, but the Steelers could not wrap him up. It was after this point that the wheels fell off for Fitzpatrick and the entire offense. The rushing attack stalled, and the Steelers were able to sit back and defend the pass. Fitzpatrick threw an interception just before half time as he was targeting Nick OíLeary. The pass was behind him and was tipped into the arms of former Dolphin Minkah Fitzpatrick. The ball looked to hit OíLeary in the chest and should have been caught, but instead it was intercepted, and the Steelers drove down for a touchdown and pulled the game to 14-10 before half time. The second interception came on a deep shot to Jakeem Grant where Fitzpatrick over threw his receiver. The ball was again intercepted by Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers scored a touchdown on their ensuing drive. Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Fitzpatrick twice this week and it led to 14 points for Pittsburgh. The final nail in the coffin came in the 4th quarter when Fitzpatrick was sacked, stripped, and recovered by T.J Watt. It was a 10-point game at this point, but the Miami offense had done nothing to make it look like they would score again. The great start was wasted, and Fitzpatrick will have to try again against the Jets next week.

RB Mark Walton, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 35 - 0, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (6 targets)
Walton was handed the keys to the Dolphins offense when the team traded Kenyan Drake to Arizona, but he was unable o do anything with them. Walton rushed a team high 11 times with his longest rush going for 9 yards. There was no competition from Ballage behind him and the next closest rusher was Fitzpatrick this week. The team rushed a total of 19 times for 60 yards and Walton only accounted for a little more than half of that. He chipped in 3 catches on 6 targets and his longest reception also went for 9 yards. The biggest issue this week was putting the ball on the ground. The Steelers had just taken a 10-point lead and Miami was driving to try and get back into the game. Walton made his 9-yard reception and was stripped as he was going to the ground and diving for the first down. It was the epitome of the Dolphins season thus far. Walton has little competition for carries the rest of the season, but Miami will most likely continue to play from behind and abandon the run early. He is the lead running back on a bad team behind a poor offensive line.

WR DeVante Parker, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 59 - 0 (8 targets)
Parker continues his turn around and led the team in receiving yards again this week. He caught 6 of his 8 targets and had the second lonest play of the game with a 15-yard reception. Grant had more yards receiving than anyone had rushing or receiving. He was used as a possession receiver this week with short to intermediate passes for first downs. Parker has been one of Fitzpatrickís favorite targets since taking over for Josh Rosen and the chemistry is apparent. The fire sale has continued in Miami and Parker is a name that has been mentioned in trade rumors and could be the next player on the move out of Miami.

WR Preston Williams, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 42 - 0 (7 targets)
One of the lone bright spots for the Dolphins this year has been Williams. He has traded top weeks with Parker and has been good for a few plays. This week he caught 4 of his 7 targets for 42 yards and had his longest catch go for 14 yards. The offense did not try and push the ball down the field this week and outside of the poor tackling on the Hurns touchdown, the Steelers wrapped up the other receivers and did not leave many yards after the catch. Williams has been one of the best undrafted rookies this season and looks to be safe in Miami for next season.

WR Allen Hurns, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 1 (1 targets)
Hurns looked like he was going to be the odd man out with Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, DeVante Parker, and Preston Williams getting the majority of the looks. This week he was able to make the most of his lone reception and take it 12 yards in for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick got the ball to Hurns in the seam short of the first down marker and Hurns put his shoulder down, protected the ball, and forced himself into the end zone. The Steelers seemed more interested in trying to strip the ball and worked to hold Hurns up rather than tackle him to the ground. Hurns powered it in for the score and caught his lone target this week. The receiving core for the Dolphins is looking very crowded right now and it will be tough for Hurns to see consistent work.

WR Albert Wilson, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 1 (2 targets)
It has been a very slow start for Wilson after returning from injury. In the last 3 games he has just 44 yards on 7 catches and has not been heavily involved. This week he finally broke through with a touchdown on his lone catch of the day. Wilson came in motion across the formation and ran a rub route into the flat with the outside receiver carrying his coverage into Wilsonís man. Wilson caught the ball in the flat and walked into the end zone for an easy 5-yard score. It was a simple and well executed route for the first touchdown of the game.


Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Mason Rudolph, 77 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 36 - 251 - 2 TD / 1 INT
For a young quarterback it is important to start in a rhythm. Unfortunately, Week 8 did not start off well for Mason Rudolph. His first pass of the game went for an interception when he was targeting Juju Smith-Schuster. The line in front of Rudolph was collapsing on him and his arm was hit as he threw the football. On the second drive of the game for the Steelers things almost were worse for Rudolph. On his first deep pass of the game, the call originally on the field was another interception. Rudolph threw the ball to James Washington and the ball popped out of his hands and a defender made the play. Fortunately, the defender stepped out of bounds before he had control and the ball was given back to the Steelers who ultimately turned the ball over on downs. At the end of the second quarter, with less than a minute left, the Dolphins brought a blitz against Rudolph and left Diontae Johnson in man coverage. The Dolphins blew their assignment and allowed Johnson to have free run over the middle on a slant route. Rudolph was able to deliver an on-time pass to Johnson which allowed him to work after the catch. Rudolphís best throw of the night came in the third quarter. The Steelers were still down 14-10 and were marching down the field. Rudolph delivered a well placed 50-50 ball right in front of the end zone for Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster was able to take the ball away from the defender and score a touchdown. Against another defender on another team, this well placed ball could have easily been an intercepted pass. James Conner, Rushing 23-145-1, Receiving 3-5-0 (5 targets) In this game, Conner was the engine of the offense. He had his longest run of the season, 25-yards, and was routinely shedding tackles and stiff-arming defenders to the ground. Connerís best run of the game came on a broken play in the second half. The play was drawn to go to the left side of the line, but the offensive line was collapsing in front of him. Conner had the vision to cut all the way back across the formation, shed a tackler and carry the ball for a 17-yard gain. Connerís lone touchdown of the game was on a touchdown to bring the Steelers to the 9-yard line. The Steelers were in the shotgun formation and they ran a simple draw up the middle. Conner, as always, followed his lineman up the middle. Conner stretched his arm out and reached the ball just over the goal line for a touchdown. Overall, without Jaylen Samuels on the field the Steelers do lose versatility. James Conner is the workhorse and the player who spells him, Benny Snell, works between the tackles and not in the open field as a receiver. Conner left Week 8 with an apparent AC sprain. No additional information has been released on his health or if he will be available for Week 9.

RB Benny Snell, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 13 - 0
This was not the right game for Benny Snell. While he did have opportunities, Snellís skillset matches up to what the Miami Dolphins do well between the tackles. To take things a step further, Snell had one run of five yards. His remaining 4 carries went for eight total yards. Snell left Week 8 with an apparent knee injury. No additional details have been released.

WR Diontae Johnson, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 84 - 1 (7 targets)
This is Johnsonís fifth game with over five targets, third game with a touchdown and highest yardage total of the season. All of this and Johnson wasnít targeted for the first time until the second quarter. Overall, Johnsonís game was a step forward, but there were still some mistakes. Johnson was called for an offensive pass interference. The call was reviewed, but there was not enough proof to rise to the level of overturning the call on the field. On another play, Johnson slipped at the top of his route and was not able to come back for the ball. Johnsonís touchdown on the day came on a 3-20. For some reason the defense dialed up a walk around blitz and left the receivers in man coverage. The coverage on Johnson was blown and Johnson was free on a slant route over the middle of the field. Johnson displayed exceptional burst after the catch and good vision around the end zone where he had the ability to turn around the defender and follow his blockers for a touchdown.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 103 - 1 (9 targets)
Smith-Schuster had his best game of the season and his first 100-yard game since Week 16 of 2018 against the Saints. The star receiver was targeted heavily in this game, but didnít connect with Rudolph until the second quarter. Smith-Schusterís first target of the day ended up being an interception. The day didnít get any easier for Smith-Schuster until the offense found ways to scheme him away from Xavien Howard. In the second half, after Howard exited the game due to injury, Smith-Schuster began to come alive. Smith-Schusterís touchdown came in the third quarter on a contested catch. For most wide receivers they wouldnít have fought for the ball. Smith-Schuster not only fought for the ball in the air, but he took it away from the defender and was able to dive towards the end zone to score. Smith-Schuster wasnít done on the day. On the Steelersí last touchdown drive of the day, Smith-Schuster drew a 25-yard defensive pass interference and made a 9-yard reception to bring the Steelers inside the 5-yard line.

TE Vance McDonald, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (4 targets)
McDonaldís performance was forgettable in Week 8 against the Steelers. When McDonald was targeted, it was as a fourth option behind Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Conner. Even with Mason Rudolph finally throwing the ball more than five-yards beyond the line of scrimmage, McDonald was only able to achieve an 8.8 aDOT.