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How the Dolphins can beat the Steelers on Sunday Night Football – Dolphins Wire

The Miami Dolphins turn back the clock Sunday night in a prime-time matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only will Miami host the AFC bout, but they will also honor the 50th anniversary of the undefeated 1972 Super Bowl champion Dolphins team. A perfectly timed situation to celebrate, well, perfection.
After a two-plus game absence, the Dolphins will regain their unquestioned leader and most valuable player, Tua Tagovailoa. The story at this point has been told the world over, and following injuries that literally spanned head-to-ankle, the quarterback returns under the lights.
The stage is set already, but throw in a supporting cast of characters that includes the returns of ex-head coach Brian Flores and former top draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick to the script, and what you have is must-see-TV on NBC again.
Those are just a few of the storylines outside the lines that will play out on Sunday night, but when focusing on the action on the field, here’s how Miami can get back to their winning ways, and snap their three-game slide.
Last season, the Dolphins finished fifth in the NFL in sacks. So far, through six games in 2022, Miami is in the bottom third of the league with just 12. Their 48 sacks last season came from all angles, as they accumulated the most lost yardage by opponents in the league in 2022.
Clearly, one can look at the absence of lock-down cornerback Byron Jones, who has yet to play this season due to his placement the PUP list. His presence last season opposite Xavien Howard certainly helped create coverage sacks and the ability to use blitz packages from nickel corners and safeties.
Injuries all over the cornerback room have led to adjustments in the Dolphins’ defense, yet the payouts have yet to be seen, as Miami only has one interception so far this season, and that was back in Week 1.
Enter Pickett, a rookie quarterback who’s coming out of concussion protocol, on the road under the lights, and this could be the breakthrough game for the Dolphins’ defense.
Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer has a chance to prove to the league and nation, that this is his defensive unit and blueprint, and not that of his former boss, Flores, who’s now a Steelers defensive assistant.
Miami pass-rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips have combined for just 2.5 sacks, and this game is perfect for them to get going. Complimentary edge-setters like Andrew Van Ginkel and Melvin Ingram need to hurry Pickett into costly mistakes, and hopefully make life easier for depth corners like Noah Igbinoghene.
Which leads to…
In a loss within a loss last week, the Dolphins suffered a huge one in the season-ending Achilles injury of slot-specialist Nik Needham. Lost for the season, Miami has been hit hard in the secondary even dating back to the summer, losing Trill Williams.
Heading into Sunday night, Keion Crossen is doubtful and undrafted rookie Kader Kohou is questionable. Igbinoghene, who played very well last week against Minnesota, needs to build on that performance should his number be called, which is likely in some capacity due to those injuries.
This young cornerback crew must mix with the veteran leadership of Howard. If Kohou returns, he can continue to build on the impressive start to his rookie campaign. Despite missing last week, he leads all undrafted rookies this season with 213 defensive snaps, 21 total tackles and one forced fumble.
As for Igbinoghene, building off last week is imperative for his progression, development and, frankly, future in Miami. His career has had more downs than ups, but a solid performance in primetime in a pinch can elevate his stock in South Florida.
It’s Mostert’s backfield now in Miami, and Sunday night is key for him to continue a solid stretch. The last three games, despite losses, saw Mostert take control as the Dolphins’ lead runner, as Chase Edmonds has yet to find a true running rhythm.
Mostert has upped his yards per carry average to 4.4 and faces a Steelers defense that gives up an average of 120.2 rushing yards per game – 18th in the NFL.
The Dolphins should be able to control the clock and extend drives against Pittsburgh, as the Steelers are 26th in the league in third-down defense. Miami does need to improve on their offensive conversions on third down, as they currently sit at 27th in the league.
Mostert specializes in chunk plays, and while those have been few and far between this season, it could be just what Miami needs to make life easy for the returning Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins have suffered four straight games seeing three starting quarterbacks leave the game early due to injury. Clearly, this is something that the offensive line needs to worry about with Tagovailoa back and facing a Steelers team with NFL sack leader Alex Highsmith (6.5).
The Dolphins are tied for 21st in the league in sacks allowed, and this banged-up unit must keep Tagovailoa upright and free from too much harm. The Steelers are missing star sack-specialist TJ Watt, and Pittsburgh, as a team, has fewer total sacks with six than Highsmith himself.
Left tackle Terron Armstead (questionable) is battling a toe injury, and he didn’t participate in Friday’s practice. Center Connor Williams is playing solid, yet has a tendency for the high snap. However, his ability to call out blitzes and lead the line keeps him in the pivot. Left guard Liam Eichenberg needs to improve his play as a whole, and the right tackle spot has been an issue as well with Greg Little filling in for Austin Jackson in weeks 2-5.
Last week, Little moved to the left side in place of the injured Armstead, while Brandon Shell was moved up from the practice squad to slide into the right tackle.
Tyreek Hill leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards, and with a nationally televised game, the Cheetah should be ready to add to those figures by going against the league’s 30th-ranked passing defense.
Tagovailoa also heads into this game as the NFL’s top-rated passer with a 109.9 quarterback rating, so this could be a great opportunity for Hill and Jaylen Waddle to rack up yards.
Waddle is coming off a tough game last week, fumbling late as the Dolphins were threatening. Some quick hit plays allowing Hill and Waddle to do their things will get the ball out of Tagovailoa’s hands promptly.
Adding to the playmaker’s list needs to be Mike Gesicki. Last week, he caught six of his seven targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Whether it was Skylar Thompson or Teddy Bridgwater throwing him the ball, Gesicki was key over the middle, and Tagovailoa needs the big target to be part of the plan Sunday night.
With Hill and Waddle as dangerous as they are on the outside, Gesicki could build off last week with his usage over the middle and, even more importantly, in the red zone. More traditional blocking-based tight end Durham Smythe was out last week and is questionable heading into Sunday night.
Gesicki, who has been part of trade-talk rumors, has been a consummate professional, and while Mike McDaniel’s offense may not be a perfect fit for the franchise-tagged tight end, he’s proven he can answer when his number is called.
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Miami creates roughly $14.66 million.
The 27-year-old took on a bigger role than expected in 2022.
They only have two on the roster at this time.
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Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
Articles: 7580

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