Matt Moore had done a good job protecting the ball since stepping into the starting lineup. He had eight touchdowns vs. three interceptions heading into Sunday. Along came the Steelers, who forced turnovers on three consecutive possessions straddling halftime, and that was that. Moore conceded a strip-sack-fumble when blindsided just before halftime, another strip-sack fumble to open the third quarter, then threw an interception to make the rest of the game an afterthought.
Jay Ajayi didn’t get 200 yards. Or even 100. It wasn’t so much his fault, since he had nowhere to run. The only daylight he saw was whenever he looked to see Le’Veon Bell carrying for the Steelers.
Kenny Stills made a nice adjustment on a 36-yard catch to set up Miami’s first field goal. But it wasn’t a sign of things to come, only a blip on the radar. DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry had the kind of quiet afternoons that the Steelers could live with.
Confusion struck at the worst possible time. The Dolphins had taken an interception by Michael Thomas and driven to the Pittsburgh 8 on the strength of a 37-yard pass to DeVante Parker when it happened. James Harrison, of all people, was allowed to burst in untouched on Matt Moore’s blind side and the predictable ensued. Moore fumbled, end of half, Steelers still up 20-6 when it could have been 20-14 and looked like a different game.
The Dolphins’ high-priced line was unable to inconvenience Ben Roethlisberger, which would be bad enough, but too often the D-line was unable to shed blocks, which cleared running lanes for the remarkably patient Le’Veon Bell. And even when the linemen clogged up the middle, Bell moved the pile like a rugby scrum getting bullied around the pitch, running for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Kiko Alonso made a couple of nice plays in the red zone. Other than that, the linebackers did what Miami’s linebackers did all season (see grade for further comment).
A secondary decimated by injury was shredded by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. The Dolphins said they could not allow Brown to catch the ball in space. He opened the game with 50- and 62-yard touchdown receptions. That’s a lot of space. Fill-in safety Bacarri Rambo took too many bad angles, overestimating his quickness.
Jakeem Grant, who fumbled a kickoff return, needs to improve ball security if he is going to have an impact next season. Andrew Franks made a couple of short field goals under adverse conditions. Kenyan Drake added a 58-yard kickoff return.
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