In a game that featured the Miami Dolphins running the ball for 222 yards (despite coming into the game 28th in the league in rushing yards), Lawrence Timmons throwing up on the sideline, heat cramps, Ben Roethlisberger leaving the game with a knee injury before returning and Jay Ajayi becoming the first running back to rush for 100-plus yards against the Steelers this season, the ending almost seems fitting.
There was almost no other way for it to end other than a Dolphins win, 30-15.
The game was all-over-the-place from its start. Pittsburgh (4-2) was unable to do anything on its first drive, and Miami (2-4) was able to march down the field before settling for a 30-yard field goal. The Steelers then got off to a nice start on their next drive but appeared to be stalled after an 11-yard sack before the Dolphins were called for a 15-yard penalty.
Roethlisberger (19 of 34, 188 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and company made Miami pay when wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey took it 60 yards for a touchdown. Head coach Mike Tomlin made the call to go for two, and Pittsburgh converted.
After that, the Steelers struggled to get much of anything going on offense, but the defense came up big, holding Miami to three field goals and blocking another (yet another was missed, meaning the Dolphins left several points on the board).
But where Pittsburgh’s defense looked awful was in getting any kind of semblance of pass rush on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who, coming into the game, had been sacked once on every 10 dropbacks this season.
Tannehill also came into the game with more interceptions than touchdowns — seven and six, respectively — but Pittsburgh’s secondary failed to create any turnovers. Cornerback William Gay let what should have been a sure pick fall through his hands.
Miami also managed to make the Steelers’ defensive line look silly on several rush plays. Ajayi’s 204 yards were a career-high. The fifth-round pick out of Boise State in 2015 also had two touchdowns.
Coming into the game, the Dolphins were averaging 72.4 yards/game.
And Pittsburgh’s line didn’t look much better on the other side of the ball. The offensive line was frequently destroyed, causing problems for both Roethlisberger, who was sacked twice and pressured several other times, and the running backs, who struggled to tear apart a Miami run defense that, coming into Sunday’s game, was the worst in the league in yards allowed.
Le’Veon Bell finished with 53 rushing yards and DeAngelo Williams had just 10 yards. (The leading rusher was officially Heyward-Bey, who had that 60-yard touchdown.)
The lack of protection played a huge part in Roethlisberger throwing two interceptions, his first picks since playing the Philadelphia Eagles, which the Dolphins were able to get 10 points off.
Roethlisberger was actually injured on the first interception, which came in the second quarter. He was nicked from behind and hurt his left knee. The quarterback, who has a history of injuries, then limped off and headed to the locker room, where he got an X-ray that came back negative. Roethlisberger came back in on the second drive of the third quarter, but he looked like he was struggling to find a rhythm or get back to his pre-injury self.
Roethlisberger wasn’t the only Steeler player to leave the game with an injury. Heyward-Bey missed time with heat-related cramps, safety Mike Mitchell left for a time with a left-knee injury and both Vince Williams and Stephon Tuitt spent some time on the sidelines. Javon Hargrave was also evaluated for cramping.
And Pittsburgh already entered Sunday’s game missing several key players. Defensive end Cam Heyward (hamstring), linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee), wide receiver Markus Wheaton (shoulder), offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and center/guard Cody Wallace (knee) were all inactive.
Without either Shazier or Heyward, Pittsburgh’s defense continues to lack any sort of pop. Pittsburgh has got to be counting down the minutes until those two are back.
Roethlisberger, who has 38 career come-from-behind wins, and the Steelers tried to get something going with less than four minutes left, but, by that time, it was simply just too late.
Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who was just signed off the practice squad, had a 23-yard catch to make it 23-15, but Pittsburgh failed to recover the onside kick, and Ajayi took the ball 62 yards to the house to put the game completely away, 30-15.
This season, the Steelers are 4-0 against teams with winning records last season (Washington, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets) and 0-2 against teams with losing records (the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dolphins).
Image credit: Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald