Steelers vs. Dolphins score, takeaways: Defense keys Miami's win over Pittsburgh in Tua Tagovailoa's return
Neither offense scored in the second half
The Dolphins' 16-10 win over the Steelers on Sunday night was a game the 1972 Dolphins were surely proud of. Known for their "No Name" defense, members of the '72 Dolphins -- who were honored at halftime -- were treated to a defensive battle that saw the current Dolphins defense make two crucial stops late to preserve Miami's fourth win of the season.
An offensively charged first half gave way to a defensive-fueled second half. Miami and Pittsburgh traded punts for the majority of the half until the Steelers made two late charges to win the game. Pittsburgh was turned back both times, with Noah Igbinoghene sealing the win with his end zone interception of Kenny Pickett with 25 seconds left. Javon Holland ended Pittsburgh's previous drive when he stepped in front of Pickett's pass intended for Diontae Johnson deep in Dolphins territory.
Miami received just enough offense from Tua Tagovailoa, who played for the first time after missing the last two games. The Dolphins' quarterback threw for 261 yards that included his 8-yard scoring toss to Raheem Mostert on the game's first drive. Miami led 13-0 after the first quarter before Pittsburgh's offense woke up with a pair of second-quarter scores. Pickett cut Pittsburgh's deficit to three points after he hit fellow rookie George Pickens for a 7-yard score with 1:50 left until halftime. The Dolphins managed to get a quick field goal before halftime, a score that would ultimately pay massive dividends during the final stages of Sunday night's game.
Here's a closer look at what went down from South Beach.
Why the Dolphins won
Miami came up with the critical plays on defense, especially on the Steelers' final two drives. Despite playing without several key players, the Dolphins defense forced three turnovers while holding Pittsburgh to 4 of 14 efficiency on third down. Among Miami's top defenders was linebacker Jaelan Phillips, who tallied eight tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The Dolphins offense contributed to the cause by capitalizing on its defense's early success. They also took advantage of their final scoring opportunity in the first half, as Tagovailoa's completions of 32 yards to Trent Sherfield 21 yards to Tyreek Hill set up Jason Sanders' 47-yard field goal.
Miami's defensive performance saved Mike McDaniel from criticism after the Dolphins coach elected to go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Steelers' 14-yard line with 8:43 left in the third quarter. McDaniel called a run to Chase Edmunds that was stuffed by Larry Ogunjobi.
Why the Steelers lost
For a second straight game, the Steelers scored 10 first-half points before failing to score a point in the second half with Pickett under center. While he continues to show promise, Pickett and the Steelers offense continue to endure dry spells. Pickett also continues to throw interceptions at an alarming level; he now has seven in four games.
Conversely, the Steelers defense failed to come up with a big turnover despite Tagovailoa throwing four passes that went in and out of the hands of Pittsburgh defensive backs. Two of those passes would have taken field goals off the board had the Steelers have been able to come up with the play. The fourth missed opportunity, which came when Levi Wallace broke up Tagovailoa's third-down pass with 2:41 left, would have given the Steelers the ball around their own 30-yard line. Pittsburgh instead got the ball on their 13-yard line following a Dolphins punt.
The turnovers marred the good things Pickett did in what was just his third NFL start. The first-round pick went 32 of 44 with 257 yards while completing passes to eight different teammates. He threw eight completions to Pat Freiermuth and six to Pickens, who added to his rookie highlight reel with his second quarter touchdown.
The Steelers appeared to be on the verge of taking the lead after moving from their own 18 to the Dolphins' 15-yard line late in the fourth quarter. But two offensive penalties set up a third-and-16 on the Dolphins' 30. Instead of playing it safe and playing for a possible field goal opportunity, Pickett threw for the sticks and was intercepted by Holland, who made the first of Miami's two big late-game stops.
While Pickett could have made a safer throw, Pittsburgh's penalties on the ensuing two plays put him in a tough spot.
Play of the game
This was an easy call, as Igbinoghene's pick on the Steelers' last offensive play preserved a Dolphins win while snapping Miami's three-game losing streak. The pick, which Pickett said was a miscommunication between himself and Johnson, came after Pickett passed on a chance to pick up a first down with his legs while stopping the clock.
"There were some plays where I could kind of see the first down and tried to get the first down. I came to the sideline after some of those plays ... those things that happen are things that I shouldn't be doing. I'll go back to the drawing board and reevaluate some of those things. But it was a great team victory tonight." -- Tagovailoa to NBC Sports after the game when discussing some of his decisions not to slide on runs
"The Dolphins caught theirs, and we didn't catch ours, and that's probably the difference in the game. ... We didn't give our offense a short field by producing a turnover or two, and they did." -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on the Dolphins' ability to get turnovers, and his defense's inability to do the same, and the impact that it had on the outcome
Other nuggets from Sunday night
- Flores, Fitzpatrick return to Miami
Brian Flores and Minkah Fitzpatrick returned to Miami for the first time since parting with the Dolphins. Flores made his return after an unceremonious exit after leading the Dolphins to consecutive winnings seasons. Fitzpatrick was back after being traded to Pittsburgh just two games into his second season. Fitzpatrick made several big hits against his former teammates while leading a Steelers defense that forced six punts and a turnover on downs in the second half.
- '72 Dolphins honored
The Dolphins celebrated the golden anniversary of Miami's perfect season. Hall of Famers Larry Csonka, Larry Little, Bob Griese and Paul Warfield flanked the Dolphins captains for the coin toss. Members of the '72 team enjoyed the action from a luxury suite before being honored at halftime.
Miami further celebrated the '72 team by changing the end zones while wearing special throwback jerseys.
The Steelers will head to Philadelphia to face the undefeated Eagles. Pittsburgh has not won in Philadelphia since 1965. They've lost their last nine games in the "City of Brotherly Love," with the last loss occurring in 2016. Making the Steelers' task harder is the fact that the Eagles are coming off their bye week.
Miami begins its two-game road trip with a visit to the Motor City to face the Lions. Detroit fell to 1-5 following Sunday's 24-6 loss to the Cowboys. A bright spot for the Lions so far has been the play of rookie Aiden Hutchinson, who had 1.5 sacks in Sunday's loss.
Dolphins going to win this game after Pickett throws a pick to Noah Igbinoghene. Dolphins win 17-16 and move to 4-3. Steelers fall to 2-5.
Igbinoghene keeps both feet in bounds and makes the game-winning interception.
Great move by Johnson go get out of bounds with 42 seconds left. Steelers 33 yards from the end zone.
Freiermutch catches Pickett's fourth down pass, as the Steelers cross midfield with under 50 seconds left. These two have had a connection since camp and it shows up here.
Also wouldn't be surprised to see Pickett take off if the opportunity presents itself.
Obviously the Steelers are going to go where Xavien Howard isn't. Pickett hasn't had any success throwing deep, so it's going to be intermediate stuff with Freiermuth and Pickens.
Steelers pick up first down before the two-minute warning. They have no timeouts and need to go 73 yards for a game-winning score.
Hate the decision to throw on third-and-3 by the Dolphins there. Not only did you fail to convert, but the incompletion stopped the clock. Horrible clock management.
Dolphins to punt, but Levi Wallace remains on the ground after helping break up Tua's pass. That's a fourth dropped pick by the Steelers' defense.
For the second straight week, the Steelers' offense scores 10 points in the first half and zero in the second with Pickett under center, assuming the score holds.
Back-breaker. Holland jumps the route on a Pickett pass intended for Johnson and intercepts him. Sizable collapse by the Steelers once they got into the red zone on that drive.
Brutal. Back-to-back penalties move the Steelers 15 yards in the wrong direction.
Last thing the Steelers needed was a penalty. An illegal shift pushes a third-and-1 into a third-and-6.
If the Steelers pull this off, Mike McDaniel's decision to not take the field goal will be one of the bigger storylines to come out of Week 7.
You can go all the way back to the preseason to see Pickett's clutch gene. This type of moment -- down with the ball in the fourth quarter -- is not too big for him at all.
Clutch completion from Pickett to Claypool moves the sticks. Pickett then hits Pickens as the Steelers cross midfield with under 6 minutes left.
Tomlin not happy that the Steelers had to take a timeout here with 6:47 left in the game. Steelers will need those timeouts if they don't score here.
Edmunds' impressive season continues with his breakup of Tua's deep pass for Hill, forcing a Dolphins punt. Steelers defense comes up big again.
Steelers go three-and-out again. That's five punts on five second half possessions for Pittsburgh. I feel like the Dolphins are going to make them pay for this punt. Some solace for Steelers is Pressley Harvin's booming 55-yard-punt to down Miami inside the 15.
Minkah Fitzpatrick with a solid open field tackle of Gesicki to force another Dolphins punt. Steelers offense has to do something on this drive. Defense hasn't had many breaks this half.
Injury Update | Brandon Jones has a knee injury and is out.— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) October 24, 2022
After scoring 10 points on back-to-back drives before the end of the first half, Pittsburgh's offense has gone silent. Four consecutive punts to begin the second half. Defense has been doing its job holding down this high-speed Dolphins unit.
Agree with Collinsworth on the broadcast. You hold your breath every single time Tua rolls out to scramble. He's put in a tough spot on that play because a slide completely eliminates a conversion on that third down run.
We've got a defensive battle in Miami. Both teams trading defensive stops this half. Steelers defense has done a really good job shutting down Miami's running game and limiting Hill/Waddle's impact.
Unfortunate scene as Dolphins S Brandon Jones leaves the field with an injury. Jones needed assistance walking off the field.
Dolphins safety Brandon Jones is down on the field injured. Leads the team in tackles and sacks along with being second in pass breakups. Would be a huge loss.