MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Bend but don't break.
That seemed to be the mantra for both defenses here Sunday night at Hard Rock Stadium.
But the Dolphins took advantage of three errant throws by Steelers' rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, picking him off three times, including twice in the final four minutes, as Miami held off Pittsburgh, 16-10.
With both quarterbacks returning from concussions, there figured to be perhaps a little rust. Miami's Tua Tagovailoa hadn't played in three weeks, while Pickett went into concussion protocol after last week's 20-18 win over the Buccaneers, only to be cleared Friday.
But while the Steelers (2-5) dropped four potential interceptions, including two by Levi Wallace, the second of which came with just over two minutes to play, the Dolphins (4-3) hung on for theirs.
"It's about who catches their interception opportunities and who doesn't," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "That's the difference in the game. Defensive splash is ultimately the deciding factor."
Pickett wound up 32 of 44 for 257 yards and a touchdown, while Tagovailoa was 21 of 35 for 261 yards and one touchdown, slowing down after a hot start.
The Steelers largely kept Miami's explosive receivers, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle under wraps, keeping them contained. Waddle had four receptions for 88 yards, while Hill had seven catches for 72 yards.
The duo had come into the game with Hill leading the NFL in receiving yards and Waddle fifth. Together, they averaged 206 receiving yards per game.
And early on, it appeared they would easily pass that total.
The Dolphins grabbed a 13-0 lead before the Steelers picked up their first first down of the game.
Game action photos from the Steelers' Week 7 game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium
Tagovailoa directed a 71-yard scoring drive on the opening kickoff of the game, finishing it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Raheem Mostert for a 7-0 lead.
The Steelers went three-and-out on their opening possession, with Pickett missing a wide open Diontae Johnson down the sideline on third-and-3 to force a punt.
The Dolphins drove to the Pittsburgh 6 on their ensuing possession, but stalled, with Terrell Edmunds breaking up a pass in the end zone intended for tight end Mike Gesicki, and Miami got a 24-yard field goal from Jason Sanders to take a 10-0 lead.
Pickett was then intercepted by Justin Bethel when Chase Claypool got his feet tangled with those of Bethel, giving the Dolphins the ball at midfield.
That set up a 42-yard Sanders field goal and a 13-0 lead for Miami. The Steelers had not yet gotten a first down in the game at that point, having been outgained, 165-13.
"We settled down," said linebacker Devin Bush. "We hurt ourselves because we let them get up on us fast with 13 points. You can't do that."
The Steelers finally picked up a first down on their next possession, driving to the Miami 27 before settling for a 46-yard field goal by Chris Boswell that trimmed the Dolphins' lead to 13-3.
That seemed to settle the Steelers in, as the defense quickly got off the field again, getting the ball back for the offense, though Thomas Morstead's punt pinned Pittsburgh back at its own 14.
Facing second-and-14 from the 10, Pickett connected with fellow rookie George Pickens for a 30-yard gain down the sideline, kickstarting a scoring drive that ended with Pickens catching his first career touchdown pass, a 7-yarder that cut Miami's lead to 13-10 just after the two-minute warning for the first half.
The Dolphins quickly drove into Steelers territory and Cameron Sutton nearly picked off Tagovailoa inside the 10, but dropped the ball and Sanders then kicked a 47-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the first half for a 16-10 Miami lead.
The Steelers punted after a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, and Miami drove to the Pittsburgh 13. But Chase Edmunds was stopped on back-to-back runs, first by Cam Heyward, then by Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Jack to turn the ball over on downs.
Neither team threatened again until the Steelers took over at their own 18 with 7:56 remaining in the game.
With a light rain falling, Pickett drove the Steelers methodically downfield, eating up yardage and time off the clock.
Pickett picked up a third-and-1 on a sneak to the 14, but the Steelers were penalized for an illegal shift on the play, pushing the ball back to the 20.
On the next play, Pickett scrambled for the first down, but left tackle Dan Moore was called for a holding penalty with 3:06 remaining, making it third-and-16.
"I'm still ticked off about it," said Moore of the holding penalty. "It is what it is. You've got to flush it and go on to the next play.
"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties, not being able to finish drives. I don't think it was anything they did to stop us."
Pickett was picked off by safety Jevon Holland on a pass intended for Johnson on the next play. Holland returned the ball to midfield, turning the Steelers away.
The Steelers got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining and Pickett directed them to the Miami 25 with 25 seconds remaining, but his back-shoulder throw to Johnson wound up getting caught by cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, who tapped both feet in bounds to turn the Steelers away again.
"There's some things to build on, but turnovers, those can't happen," said Pickett. "That cost us the game. I've got to fix that. I'll be in working on that tomorrow and getting ready for next week."