The Miami Dolphins visited the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field to finish off NFL Week 8 on Monday Night Football.
Predictably, the game was ugly. Unpredictably, the Fins put up quite a fight. At least, they did early in the game, going up 14-0 in the first quarter.
The Steelers surged late in the second quarter and went into halftime down 14-10. Then, the second half belonged to the home team, and the Pittsburgh-friendly crowd went home sated after watching the Steelers win, 27-14.
These are the biggest winners and losers from the TEAM victory over the TEAM on Monday Night Football.
Winner: James Conner ran wild
The matchup between Pittsburgh’s running game and Miami’s run defense was certainly tilted in the favor of James Conner and the Steelers. Early on, it was obvious that Conner was going to be able to find open running lanes and make big plays.
That trend continued all evening. Conner didn’t get many chances to make plays in the passing game like he typically does, but he pounded the ball for nice gains consistently on Monday night. The end result was a 150-yard, one touchdown game for the third-year back out of Pitt.
Loser: Ryan Fitzpatrick still can’t beat the Steelers
Throughout his long, windy road of a career, Ryan Fitzpatrick had started six games against the Steelers, losing all six starts. It was a long shot for him to break that dubious streak on Monday Night Football, to be sure. But early on, it looked like the FitzMagic might just be strong enough to pull off a miracle.
Unfortunately, after passing for two touchdowns in the first quarter and leading Miami to an early 14-0 lead, both Fitzpatrick and the Fins lost all their positive momentum. Miami’s offense was a train wreck in the second half, and Pittsburgh’s offense started to pick up steam. The end result was a seventh loss in as many tries for Fitzpatrick against this AFC squad.
Winner: JuJu and Diontae came to play
Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph wasn’t sharp on Monday night. Thankfully for him and the offense, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson were. Both of them had incredible highlights in Monday night’s game.
Smith-Schuster rescued Rudolph on an underthrown ball in the third quarter, catching it around his defender’s helmet.
Johnson’s ankle-breaking score in the second quarter was simply scintillating.
The two young receivers put on a show. Combining for 10 catches, 187 yards and two touchdowns, they electrified the crowd at Heinz Field.
Loser: Fins’ run game was MIA
Kenyan Drake didn’t make the trip to Pittsburgh with his teammates, and on Monday morning it became clear why as he was traded to Arizona. Without him in the lineup, and given Miami’s struggles up front on the offensive line, the run game was completely ineffective.
Pittsburgh’s front seven controlled the line of scrimmage all night long. Miami pretty much abandoned the run, and it’s not hard to see why. All told, Dolphins running backs toted the rock just 14 times for 43 yards.
Compounding matters, in the fourth quarter as the Dolphins were driving, down by 10 points, Mark Walton capped off a nice gain by fumbling the ball away.
Winner: Minkah got his revenge
As we detailed in our Monday Night Football preview, Minkah Fitzpatrick had to be itching for a chance to get back at the team that drafted him. The Dolphins traded Fitzpatrick at his request earlier this year. He wasn’t getting the kind of run in Miami that he felt he deserved, and was oftentimes being played out of position.
Now in Pittsburgh, the former first-round pick out of Alabama is thriving. And on Monday night against his former team, he got revenge with not one, but two interceptions of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Those two interceptions mark three total for Fitzpatrick as a member of the Steelers, in just five games played with the organization.
Loser: The PI review system is a joke
Everyone was hopeful when the league implemented the new rule that allows coaches to challenge pass interference. Halfway through the season, though, and it’s painfully obvious it’s not the fix it was billed to be.
Heading into Monday night’s game, almost every single challenge had been upheld after review, despite many obvious cases where the call should have been overturned.
Late in the second half, with under two minutes remaining, Diontae Johnson made an incredible catch down the right sideline. But instead of being rewarded for it, he was called for offensive pass interference. Coaches can’t challenge at this point, so this one was a booth review.
Here’s video of the play. In no way did Johnson commit pass interference.
After review, the call on the field was upheld. Because the NFL is not going to overturn pass interference penalties. Period. That’s something we’ve seen time and time again, and at this point it’s just a huge, sick joke everyone hates.