PITTSBURGH — The Steelers offense started their Week 8 game against the Miami Dolphins in a bigger rut than, well it wasn’t quite as big as the rut that swallowed a PAT bus downtown on Monday morning, but the image was certainly evocative.
In his first game back at Heinz Field since leaving in ambulance to be treated for a concussion on Oct. 5, Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph looked totally out of sorts in a first half that saw the winless, hapless and widely thought to be tanking Dolphins sprint out to a two-touchdown lead.
But the Steelers dug their way out of that hole thanks to a stout defense and the running game behind an inspired performance from James Conner to claim a 27-14 victory over the Dolphins.
Former Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick provided two interceptions as the Steelers defense forced four turnovers and caused Miami to turn the ball over on downs two more times.
Fitzpatrick’s first interception came just before the half and a horrifically blown coverage allowed Rudolph to find Diontae Johnson for a 45-yard catch-and-run score, with James Washington providing a pair of score-sealing blocks along the way.
At halftime, the Pittsburgh public works crews finally freed that bus from the sinkhole, and coincidentally, the Steelers surged. In the second half, Fitzpatrick intercepted his former teammates Ryan Fitzpatrick for the second time at the Steelers’ 3-yard line.
Rudolph then directed a 12-play, 97-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to a leaping JuJu Smith-Schuster in the corner of the end zone. Rudolph finished 20 of 36 for 251 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Conner and the defense took over from there. Conner added on another touchdown on a 9-yard draw in the fourth quarter. He closed his day was 23 carries for 145 yards, one shy of his career high.
The Steelers kept taking the ball away, too. Mike Hilton forced a fumble as Miami was entering field goal range and Steven Nelson fell on it. Later, T.J. Watt did it all himself with a strip sack of Fitzpatrick and fumble recovery.
The Steelers improved to 3-4 on the season and will stay at home to face Indianapolis next Sunday.