The 5: Steelers to watch against the Miami Dolphins
Week 7 of the 2022 NFL regular season is underway, and the Pittsburgh Steelers grabbed a morale-boosting win last week over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ahead of playing their second Florida-based team in back-to-back games. This Sunday, the Steelers (2-4) will attempt to continue clawing their way to the top of their division on the road against the Miami Dolphins (3-3).
Several players look to be ready to return to the field after injuries limited the team, which gives Pittsburgh a much-needed boost. In this article, we’ll look at some of those injuries and five Steelers worth watching in Miami.
Signs point to the second-year tight end being ready to go after suffering a concussion in Week 6. His counterpart, Zach Gentry, also appears healthy. In their absence, Connor Heyward made the longest offensive play for the Steelers this season per PFF.
To say that Pittsburgh is prepped to expose the middle of the Miami defense is an understatement. The Dolphins have allowed 312 yards and 3 touchdowns to tight ends through 6 weeks of play; one tight end has logged a 100+ yard game against them this season.
“We played two really good defenses the last two weeks. We have another one this week,” said offensive coordinator Matt Canada this week. “Having (Freiermuth) back adds [for] us another really viable weapon… We’ve got good weapons. But having Pat back is awesome.”
With a patchwork of defensive backs, the Steelers were able to limit Tom Brady and his top receivers from having a blowout game. Terrell Edmunds really stood up from a veteran standpoint.
“(Edmunds) played really well last week… he was the veteran out there. He was the guy who has played a lot of football for us. I thought he did a really good job leading the way for us on the back end.” – DC Teryl Austin
Pittsburgh looks like they’ll get Minkah Fitzpatrick back from a knee injury. Prior to Week 6, the safety was third on the team with 33 tackles over all.
Hill and Waddle are two of the fastest receiving duos in the league and lead the NFL with 701 and 533 yards receiving respectively. Taking away their ability to get open will require Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, and the entire defensive backfield working in-sync with each other.
“Respect who they are as an offense,” Witherspoon said this week about how the Steelers’ defensive backfield has to respond to opponents’ offensive abilities. “(It’s) our job week in, week out to understand that.”
Cam Heyward speaks to the media about Minkah Fitzpatrick, the win over Tampa Bay, the upcoming game against the Dolphins and more. pic.twitter.com/SJOg0JiAuL
— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) October 20, 2022
Cameron Heyward and the defensive front
Miami truly presents a unique offensive challenge for the Steelers. If Tua Tagovailoa is a full-go at quarterback, Pittsburgh’s defensive front – led by savvy veteran Cameron Heyward – will need all hands on deck to keep the young gunslinger from running rampant.
Larry Ogunjobi and Chris Wormley have shown themselves to be capable of helping plug run gaps and allow Alex Highsmith, the current NFL sacks leader, and other players along the defensive front to create a log jam that kept Tom Brady uncomfortable.
While Tagovailoa has a completely different style, pressure up front could shake his confidence after seeing time on the sidelines following two recent concerning injuries. Disrupting his rhythm will go a long way in creating positive opportunities for the Steelers defense.
Watch for Heyward to lead from the front and vocalize with his teammates along the defensive front to give everything they’ve got to get off the field and give an improving Pittsburgh offense chances to put points on the scoreboard.
Kenny and Mitch
The early impressions given by head coach Mike Tomlin and others on the Steelers staff is that the reins of the offense are in Kenny Pickett‘s hands this weekend in Miami. After being a full participant in practice Thursday, the only thing that might keep Pickett from earning a start would be regression from the progress he’s made already in working through the concussion protocol.
“He can drive the intermediate throws. He can get the ball down the field. He can definitely scramble to run or scramble to throw. He’s making quick decisions for them. They do a pretty good job of putting in plays where he gets a quick read, and he can make those decisions. I think he’s been productive for them.” – Dolphins DC Josh Boyer on Pickett
The Dolphins are obviously preparing for Mitchell Trubisky as well. After seeing what Trubisky did in the final quarter of last week’s game, Miami’s coaching staff would be irresponsible not to.
Pickett already has the support of his offensive line who are well aware of the rookie quarterback’s situation. “With (Kenny) going down last game and possibly coming back this game, I think it’s a more of an alert. But our senses and techniques will always be at the highest level to make sure that doesn’t ever happen,” said Mason Cole.
Should Trubisky need to enter the game, the offense will still need to rally together – in both the run and passing games – in order to grab a road win. Attention to detail earned Chase Claypool accolades in Week 6, and the receivers and backs will need to step up in support when asked to make plays.