David Todd: Quick Thoughts On Week 6: Steelers Versus Dolphins


After two impressive wins at home, the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to South Florida and produced one of the most ignominious efforts in recent memory losing 30-15 to the Miami Dolphins. The Steelers were completely dominated on both sides of the ball, but still managed to have a chance late because of the Dolphins’ own ineptitude. It was not to be. Defensively the Steelers allowed 222 yards on the ground and again produced zero sacks or turnovers. Offensively they had seven drives in the heart of the game where they ran 28 plays for 92 yards, generating zero points and two turnovers. This against, statistically, one of the worst defenses in the league.

In the process they lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a few weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Steelers have now had consecutive terrible performances on the road, getting outscored 64-18 and get manhandled and beat up in the process. They missed an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC North as all three teams lost Sunday and now a scorching-hot Patriots team comes to town looking to solidify their preeminent position in the AFC.

Injuries:

*Roethlisberger’s injury is the news of the weekend. He apparently got hurt on a rather benign looking pass play where he got his feet tangled up and grabbed by the ankle, but didn’t even go down. He missed some snaps at the end of the first half, but returned to play the entire second half, albeit in a diminished capacity. He had surgery Monday morning and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. Not ideal, but not a season-killing scenario.

The Steelers had a bunch of players including Darrius Heyward-Bey and Vince Williams leave the game with heat-related cramping. This is indefensible. The Steelers knew the weather conditions. It is incumbent on the training staff and players to make sure they are properly hydrated in the 72 hours leading up to the game. A really surprising and disappointing aspect of the loss. The only other injury of note was a knee injury that safety Mike Mitchell suffered early, but he did return.


The inactive list consisted of Marcus Gilbert, Markus Wheaton, Cody Wallace, Ryan Shazier, Cameron Heyward and Shamarko Thomas, all injured, and third-string QB Zach Mettenberger.

Offense:

The offensive gameplan was a disaster and its execution was worse. The Dolphins came into the game with the 32nd-ranked rushing defense giving up 150.3 yards/game but the Steelers only ran the ball 16 times. 97 of their 297 total yards came in the last 4:20 seconds with the outcome decided. To that point in the game Roethlisberger was 11-24 for 92 yards and 2 INTs and Antonio Brown was a non-factor again. The offensive performances in the last two road games have been terrible.

The Good:

*Le’Veon Bell was good when he touched the football, but he didn’t get it enough. He finished with 10 carries for 53 yards and 6 receptions in 7 targets for another 55. I expected Bell to touch the ball 25-30 times. The fact that he didn’t was a big contributing factor in the loss. Bell became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 1.500 receiving yards in just his 38th game. Edgerrin James had done it in 42 games.

*Darrius Heyward-Bey showed he still has great speed and toughness on his 60-yard on his end around for a TD. It was the longest rushing TD for the Steelers since Willie Parker went 80 yards against Cleveland back in 2005.

*Cobi Hamilton played in his first regular season NFL game and had two catches including a nice 23-yard touchdown catch late.

The Bad:

*Ben Roethlisberger was terrible. He had a passer rating of 57.1. Only Landry Jones, who came in for four snaps and threw one incompletion was worse this week. He graded out even worse by Total QBR where his 4.9 was the second lowest rating by any QB this season. Ben looked bad early and even worse when he returned injured in the second half, missing badly on his first four throws and throwing his second INT. Ben’s home/road splits over the last three years have become a cause for concern:

Ben threw a TD late to even out the road numbers at 18. Small comfort. He has to do better and he has to find a way to get Antonio Brown more involved. In three of the six games this season Brown has only four catches.

*As was the case in Philly, the Steelers offensive line got dominated by the opposing front four. They again had trouble with the wide-9 setup as Cameron Wake and Andre Branch combined for 2 sacks and 4 QB hits. The OLine was again flagged for numerous holding and false start penalties. The inconsistency of this unit has really hurt the offense.

*Eli Rogers had four catches but also a drop when he had tons of room ahead of him. The offense needs the receivers not named Antonio Brown to step up and be more consistent. Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Rogers have dropped way too many balls.

*Both Rogers and AB failed to get out of bounds on catches in the last few minutes as the Steelers were trying to play fast. Lack of awareness and not enough urgency from Ben on the drive.

Defense:

Another poor performance from the defense. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler is going to have to figure out away to get more pressure on the QB. They have yet to register a sack on the road and only have 8 on the season. Decent red zone defense and a bunch of mistakes by the Dolphins kept this from being the blowout it probably should have been.

The Good:

*Miami converted only two of their six red zone opportunities into TDs, but they were as responsible as the Steelers D. DeVante Parker dropped a would be touchdown and on another possession a TD was called back due to penalty. Both drives resulted in Miami FGs.

That’s all I’ve got for the good.

The Bad:

*The run defense was terrible. Jay Ajayi ran for 204 yards on 25 carries becoming just the fourth back since 1970 to put up 200 against the Steelers D. On his last carry of the day he went over right tackle, broke a Robert Golden tackle and then sprinted past a disheartened Steelers D for a 62-yard TD.

On Miami’s first drive of the second half, up 16-8, Damien Williams got a handoff at the Steelers 24 on 2nd-and-10 and broke about seven tackles before being tackled for a 10-yard gain. That play typified the Steelers performance. There had to be  twenty missed tackles on the day and the Dolphins had eight runs of 10+ yards.

*The Steelers outside linebackers might be the worst position group in football. There are getting nothing from Jarvis Jones, James Harrison, Arthur Moats or Anthony Chickillo. Usually solid against the run, they weren’t even that on Sunday.

*William Gay got beat deep on one play and dropped an easy interception on another. On the deep ball, Gay appeared to think he had the play covered. He didn’t. Huge gain. The interception was a chance for a big play in Miami territory. For a defense that doesn’t make many big plays, they have to come through when they have the opportunity.

*Artie Burns had a bad day. He was poor in run support, got beat on a long pass when he was attacked with two verticals and blew the coverage and he was running his mouth. Not a good look.

Special Teams:

The Good:

*Big Daniel McCullers came through with a blocked FG.

The Bad:

*Jordan Berry had his first bad game of the season averaging just 36.0 yards on five punts.

Coaching:

This was a miserable performance and responsibility starts at the top. The Steelers are 5-11 in their last 16 road games against opponents below .500. This isn’t a narrative and it starts with the head coach, his staff and the quarterback. The Dolphins left 14 points on the table with two TDs they should have scored and two missed FGs. The game wasn’t as close as 30-15 suggests.

The Good:

*The Steelers again converted a 2-point conversion attempt and are now 2-2 on the season and 10-13 since last year.

The Bad:

*The gameplans were ineffective and no halftime adjustments were implemented. This was a coaching failure across the board.

*Leaving Ben in the game with 50 seconds left, down 30-15 is indefensible. He had one banged up knee and the Dolphins rusher were running over the Steelers Oline. Ben banged up his other knee in this last series of plays.

*Landry Jones entered the game with just over five minutes left in the second quarter and the Steelers trailing 9-8. On his first three plays he handed to Le’Veon Bell for 12, 8 and 6 yards. The Steelers were facing a 3rd-and-1 (through was a false start penalty after the 12-yard gain) at their 46 with 3:07 left in the half. I generally don’t like to question singular play calls because of the preparation that goes into a weekly game plan, but this was really poor. Todd Haley called a pass play, Jones bobbled the snap and then threw incomplete. The Steelers punted and Miami went right down the field for a TD. It was a terrible play call. Hand the ball to Bell.

Big Officiating Calls:

*As usual the officials weren’t perfect in this one. Some of the early 15-yard penalties seemed a bit much. The holding call on David DeCastro was a big call that was debatable, but the officials didn’t decide the outcome.

The Dolphins did try an onside-kick which the Steelers recovered. However, Miami executed the kick before the officials were ready so they re-kicked and kicked deep the second time.

Up Next: The Steelers will take on the New England Patriots (5-1) at Heinz Field. Kickoff at  is scheduled for 4:25 pm EST.

Reminder: You can hear me on the postgame show with Charlie Batch across the Steelers Football Network (WDVE, ESPN, steelers.com or the Steelers Gameday app) after every Steelers game and on weekdays on ESPN Pittsburgh 970 and 106.3 FM from 4-7 pm. You can follow me on twitter @DavidMTodd.

  • PaeperCup

    Officials ignored the horsecollar tackle on Bell, and that late hit call on Mitchell was bogus.

  • Brendon Glad

    They deserve to get lambasted in all types of media…from National TV, to radio, to internet Steelers analysis like this…to twitter…to everything.
    And besides the fact that it’s the truth, there is the fact that the Steelers of the last 30 years cannot handle praise very well. And tend to do better when ripped to shreds in the media.
    The 2005 and 2008 teams frustrated me to no end. I complained about them constantly to my friends who would listen (Steelers Depot either wasn’t there, or I wasn’t aware of it yet). And JUST when it became fairly certain that the Steelers were not a factor (as they stood at 6-5 in 2005…and as they got obliterated by Tennessee in 2008…that’s when they responded.
    And it goes on and on. Last year, they needed a miracle to make the playoffs…and made a good showing once they got there. Those are just off the top of my head.
    It’s too many to even remember…I just feel safe to say that almost every Steelers fan agrees with this…the more pats on the back the Steelers receive from the world, the less we are rewarded. The more slaps in the face they receive from the world, the better chance they have of actually doing something.
    But it must be sincere. And I am sincere in saying that the 2016 Steelers are so overrated that it ain’t even funny.
    DO NOT BE TRICKED IF THE STEELERS HANG IN THERE AGAINST THE PATRIOTS. BELICHICK WILL DO THAT IF HE SURMISES THAT HE WILL NEED HIS A-PLUS STEELERS GAME-PLAN LATER.
    I’m not going to say he will throw the game, because it’s too early…but he knows he owns the AFC East. The Steelers will receive Belichick’s C- to D+ game plan.
    In Belichick’s perfect world, the Pats BARELY beat Landry Jones. And gives a bunch of false-film to the Steelers coaching staff for future reference. So that the common analyst and fan will say…”Oh wow! The Patriots only beat the Steelers 24-17…AND the Steelers did not have BEN!” Don’t FALL FOR IT, WORLD!

  • Brendon Glad

    Think about it…Let’s say the Pats KNOW that a certain matchup is a gimme for Brady.
    Maybe it’s Gronk on a play-action seam route…maybe it’s even more simple as a WR matchup with a CB that they have deemed “weak”.
    Why would they ever show it? Even if behind? When they KNOW they always are going to the playoffs. And probably have a hunch the Steelers will also.
    See, the Steelers can’t ever assume that. Because the Ravens and Bengals have been good enough for enough years to create that. The Bills Jets and Dolphins don’t create that for the Pats.
    I’m actually HAPPY that Ben is missing this game. Because I know what Belichick does, (at least in my mind). He WANTED to see how his team would handle a C- game-plan on the road against Ben’s Steelers. Probably would lose…that’s ok, with him. Because he knows the Steelers would give everything they had (game-plan-wise) to that game. And when the Steelers won, the media would crown them…and the Patriots could somehow slide under the radar, yet again.

    Now, Landry Jones as QB makes it a weirder situation for all involved.
    The Steelers probably can’t give the Pats their best-look…and Belichick MAY NOT be able to create a sub-par game-plan that can create the angst he wants within his own locker-room.

    I’m interested in how this is handled. But make no mistake. BELICHICK is handling this game. He will either choose to blow the Steelers out…or let them hang around.

  • Brendon Glad

    Did the Steelers deserve to win the game, or not? Did they deserve to lose a really close game or not? They got what they deserved.
    It’s obvious their play flows directly opposite of the flow of how the world feels about them. And has been doing that for years.
    After 3 quarters, I was hoping Miami would win by 40. Because apparently they need to be blasted all over the media world to gain the proper focus.

  • Steeler-Drew

    The players were bad but the coaching staff was equally as bad. Tomlin leaving Ben in is about as bad as the the 3rd and 1 call. And does the coaching staff ever make half time adjustments. The last time I can remember was against Denver at home. Time to move on but at some point Tomlin and the coaching staff has to learn when it’s time to take Ben out and to make changes when things are not working.

  • Kevin artis

    I agree with the part about the OLBs are the worst position group in football. I would have never thought in 38 years of being a fan that the Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebackers are the worst in football.

  • Craig M

    Mr. Rooney, are you aware of the lack of adjustments, the bad play calling, the issue of playing down to poor quality teams, the placing of our franchise QB into unnecessary danger?

  • Jason

    I stopped reading your novel after reading that we would receive Belicheck’s C- to D+ game plan. Plain silliness to put it nicely.

  • Bill

    Just some thoughts:
    Steelers have 4 above average players on the defense. two were out.
    Steelers defense is not good when all the starters are on the field. Despite ramblings to the contrary, yards given up is a measure of your defensive efficacy.
    Just not enough effective defensive talent and defense has no personality or identity.

    Steelers strength is offense and offensive strength are the WRs & Ben; Receivers are banged up and except for Brown, are raw. Bryant is the missing link; his absence really hurts this team.
    Offensive line is playing poorly especially DeCastro; Gilbert and backup were out..
    Big money TE earns it on the sideline.
    There’s little doubt that the coaching staff and personnel department are culpable; to what extent? They likely are the primary cause of the poor performances. This team routinely plays poorly against lesser teams, why?

    We were all too optimistic at the start of the season; we underestimated the impact of Bryant’s suspension and all knew the defense sucked but we expected the Super Bowl anyway; shame on us!
    And a final thought: is Big Ben burned out?

  • Disqussant

    They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. This post enumerates a litany of problems and patterns of problems that have been plaguing this team for years.

  • Dshoff

    To leave Ben in at the end of the game, AFTER he was injured is just plain STUPID. Sure, every player wants to stay in the game, even after they have a concussion! It’s the coaches resposibility to sit players when it is correct to do so. A game is just a battle, the season is the war. Don’t risk your General in a lost battle and risk losing the war.

  • T3xassteelers

    Yeah, coaches don’t take a week off cause they ‘COULD’ face each other later.. Besides tape is out on everything anyways lmao

  • Shawn S.

    Anyone catch McCullers tackling Mike Mitchell? I mean grabbed him by the shoulders and took him down with all his weight. Didn’t even realize it was his own teammate. Embarrassing.

  • Rusted Out

    I totally understand leaving Ben in at the 4:30 mark, down two possessions, but they burned 3.5 mins on that drive with zero sense of urgency, and the no-huddle was nowhere to be found! WTF??? So if you were content with letting the time run out, why is our one legged franchise guy out there? What is the logic and game strategy behind that?

  • Rusted Out

    They’re aware that they have to step in and address draft needs. Apparently the FO still thinks best player available is a luxury they can still afford. When your base defense is nickel and dime, yet you neglect the secondary for years, you might have a bit if a problem.

  • Steeler-Drew

    There was also no logic in leaving Ben in for the Eagles game when it got out of hand. Or no logic in calling for a fake FG in that situation. People can defend and praise Tomlin all they want but what they can’t defend is that often times he does not use logic in his coaching decisions and he doesn’t seem to learn from them.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    To be fair, this last draft they didn’t draft best available and did draft need and secondary. But they waited too long to address it.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    No, he isn’t burnt out. He plays at an elite level most of the time. It seems that when he is off, so is every other position. I really feel it is coaching prep during the week that causes these problems.

  • Rusted Out

    Exactly what I meant. Ownership literally forced the pick, and rightly so. This FO hasn’t drafted a solid DB since 2003!

  • Rusted Out

    Let’s take an inventory:
    – consistently loses to bad teams
    – worst clock management I’ve ever seen
    – Does not seem to learn and progress from past mistakes
    – Has never drafted a solid DB in his tenure and adopts a Tampa 2 style defense

    this list can get so long. Do you have a list of positives aside from overall regular season win %

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Gotcha. I read your post wrong.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Agree on all counts. Another big one is questionable in game decisions. The whole Tampa 2 defense has me curious. Tomlin and Butler talked about in the offseason how they needed to start getting pressure with just 4. I wander if Butler was just walking the company line. Which brings us to how much is Tomlin involved in the game plan on defense every week. Butler came out like a gunslinger last year and this year is a total about face. Although they were short of talent they accumulated sacks and created turnovers. I’m curious if Tomlin is handcuffing Butler with the game. They should have realized they didn’t have the talent to put pressure with just 4 before the year started. But now with them continuing to try after multiple failed attempts it’s becoming just plain idiotic.

  • Rusted Out

    Completely agree and share your pain. So if we know Butler was the one dialing up pressure with 5 last year with a poor secondary, where did this “must get there with 4” crap come from? It’s Tomlin! He’s trying to relive his glory days with the Bucs. We do not have Warren Saap, Rhonde Barber, and John Lynch on this team. It’s proven to be a less effective defense for this Steelers team. Please pay attention to the product you are putting out Mike!