It’s hard to believe but the NFL season will officially conclude its midway point tonight, when the (2-6) Pittsburgh Steelers meet the (0-7) Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football live from Heinz Field (8:15 PM ET on ESPN).
The NFL’s 100th season has seen some really good things and some really bad. The two teams who will play under the Monday Night lights, are part of the really bad. Both the Dolphins and Steelers have struggled this year: they have just two victories between them. Both of those belong to Pittsburgh, a team that had much higher hopes this year than a 2-6 season. That was before a season-ending injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It has been something the Steelers haven’t been able to overcome.
Miami seemed to accept a futile season prior to the year beginning. They dumped a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, something many have suggested was a conscious decision by the team to tank for the first overall pick in the draft, a pick that is looking to be Alabama standout quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Monday night games normally feature more of a marquee matchup but perhaps this one will deliver in a roundabout way. Aside from a game earlier this season against the Washington Redskins, which the Dolphins lost by one, this could be Miami’s best shot to pick up their first and perhaps only victory on the year.
No Brown, No Bell, No Ben
For the better part of the last decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers were an absolute force to be reckoned with in the AFC. Why? Because of their three-headed “B” monster. The Steelers had one of the best running backs in the league during that time in Le’Veon Bell, one of the best wide receivers/deep ball threats in the league in Antonio Brown, and a quarterback who tied it all together by being able to throw a great deep ball as well as screens for the running game, in Ben Roethlisberger.
That trio brought the Steelers no shortage of wins, AFC North crowns, and playoff victories. It was one of the best such trios in the NFL. Entering this year, it had disbanded. Brown went from the Steelers to the Oakland Raiders to the New England Patriots to out of the NFL due to conduct concerns. Bell went from the Steelers to making a statement by sitting out the 2018 season, to finding his new home with the New York Jets. Roethlisberger, who was prepared to face a season without his top two weapons, didn’t even get the chance as he suffered a devastating injury in week two of the season.
That has kind of been the story of the Steelers this year. The team was truly a sum of its parts and this year, those parts are nowhere to be found. Replacing Bell is James Conner, who stepped up huge for the team last year but hasn’t quite gotten it going in 2019. Connor only has 235 yards on the ground and just 74 carries. He has yet to record a 100-yard rushing game this year. Brown’s production has yet to be replaced as #2 target Juju Smith-Schuster hasn’t quite stepped up the way Pittsburgh was hoping. Smith-Schuster is second to Connor in total receptions as shockingly, he has only been targeted 25 times. That ranks 54th in the NFL. Much like Connor, he has yet to top 100 yards in a single game as well.
Smith-Schuster and Connor have a favorable matchup tonight however as Miami’s defense, much like the rest of the team, is pretty terrible. The Dolphins rank 30th in the NFL overall in total defense as well as 31st against the rush and 22nd against the pass. The Steelers will be led at the QB position by Mason Rudolph, who the hope is will be the quarterback of the future. Might he finally get it going on Monday against a vulnerable opponent? The Steelers certainly hope so as they are holding onto an outside hope of the playoffs. Right now, five wins is leading the wildcard so the Steelers stand to close that gap and keep their hopes alive on Monday.
Does Miami Have a Chance?
The short answer: Yes, but it won’t be easy. This season has not held many positives for the Dolphins. Kenyon Drake has really struggled running the ball and is yet to top 50 yards in a single game this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to have run out of the Fitz Magic he had when he excelled at the Buffalo Bills not long ago. The defense has been atrocious, allowing less than 30 points just once and allowing over 40 points twice. In all but one game, against the now 1-7 Redskins, the Dolphins have lost by at least 10 points. They have lost by over 40 points twice and over 20 an additional two times.
In short, the Dolphins have been historically bad but that doesn’t mean they are going to continue going that way. In their last two games, the Dolphins have played the best they have all season. To say they are getting better might be an overstatement, but they certainly aren’t getting worse and for a winless team, that’s something to celebrate.
One of Miami’s lone bright spots has been Taco Charlton, who has embraced his fresh start with his new team. Despite how bad Miami has been, Charlton has shown promise, leading the team with three sacks, a mark that already ties the career-high he had with the Dallas Cowboys in his rookie season. Charlton is one of a handful of pieces that the Dolphins hope to rebuild their team around. Against Rudolph, he will have a chance to show he is worth that investment.
Our Betting Preview’s Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Predictions & Picks Verdict
The Steelers and Dolphins have both had their struggles and while things are looking up in Miami, they aren’t quite looking up enough for us to back a Dolphins win. That said, the Steelers are favored 14 points by the American sports gambling firms and given how Miami has closed the scoring gap of late, it seems there could be value on picking the Dolphins to cover the points. So that’s our pick for our Miami Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers predictions: