DOLPHINS 30, STEELERS 15
Steelers' record: 4-2
One year ago: 4-2
Series record (including playoffs): Series tied, 13-13
The Steelers' record in games vs. opponents with losing records is and has been a popular topic among factions of their fan base, and this game in Florida vs. the 1-4 Dolphins – with the impending matchup with the New England Patriots looming – was shaping up as a test of the Steelers' focus.
"You don't get to sit in these rooms that encompass the 32 cities that make up the National Football League if you're not capable of overcoming adversity," said Coach Mike Tomlin about the issue of handling success. "All of these guys, globally speaking, in the NFL have overcome major injury, have overcome disappointment and setbacks associated with chasing their dreams. That's why they're (in the NFL). Their ability to handle the success of being (in the NFL) ultimately defines the journey that is their professional football career."
In those seasons when the Steelers have been legitimate contenders, they have not had problems in these kinds of games. In seasons when they weren't, they have had problems in these kinds of games.
Complicating things for the Steelers – as has been the situation for the previous couple of weeks – is their list of injured players. Two weeks ago, it was seven. Last week, it was nine. This week against the Dolphins, it was six, but that didn't include Sammie Coates, who was in uniform despite having stitches in his hand and what was reported as a broken index finger. Then things got even worse when Ben Roethlisberger left the game with around eight minutes left in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Game action from Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins.
The injury happened on the play in which he rolled to the right and attempted to get the ball to Sammie Coates, only to have it intercepted by Reshad Jones. On the rollout, Roethlisberger had to step out of an attempted tackle, but it seemed as though the injury happened after the ball was intercepted. Roethlisberger ran over to get in the area as Jones started to return the interception, and he was blocked by linebacker Donald Butler, who fell on the back of his knee. Roethlisberger would return and play the second half.
HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
Where the fault lies for this performance will be the hot topic throughout Steelers Nation until the ball gets placed on the tee for the start of the game against New England next Sunday, and in the immediate aftermath it doesn't seem possible to absolve anyone.
Often times in games matching teams at opposite ends of the won-loss spectrum, there is a time early on when the team with the better record has an opportunity to establish its superiority and doesn't take advantage. That typically allows the underdog to gain some confidence, and from there what was expected to be a laugher turns into a ballgame.
Here is one such instance:
The Steelers erased a 3-0 deficit with a 60-yard end around to Darrius Heyward Bey that gave the Steelers an 8-3 lead following the successful 2-point conversion pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Le'Veon Bell. On the ensuing Dolphins possession, the Steelers defense recorded a three-and-out, and the ball went back to Roethlisberger and the offense at the Pittsburgh 31-yard line following the punt.
The Steelers offense recorded a couple of first downs, and eventually found itself facing a third-and-10 from the Miami 29-yard line. But on that play, Cameron Wake defeated his block and sacked Roethlisberger to knock the Steelers out of field goal range. The Steelers wouldn't score again until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
Jay Ajayi, who finished with 204 yards on 25 carries, went 62 yards for a touchdown on Miami's first offensive play after the Steelers scored a touchdown to cut Miami's lead to 23-15.