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Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins: Key Matchup Between AFC Playoff Hopefuls Set for SNF

Tua Tagovailoa expected to return for Dolphins while Steelers could have rookie Pickett at quarterback.

"Sunday Night Football" features Miami hosting Pittsburgh in a very intriguing matchup. These two teams haven't played since 2019 when the Steelers won 27-14 in a contest that featured Mason Rudolph and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. The pair put on a show, combining for four touchdown passes and three interceptions in the contest. It was Pittsburgh's seventh win of their last nine in this series, but the Steelers will need some help extending that streak on Sunday.

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The Steelers are coming off a very odd yet very impressive 20-18 victory over Tampa Bay. Pittsburgh saw Kenny Pickett go down and Mitch Trubisky come in to lead them to victory. The veteran went 9-of-12 for 144 yards passing with one touchdown to Chase Claypool with 9:55 left to give them the eight-point lead. It was an ugly effort, to say the least, as the Bucs outgained Pittsburgh by 34 yards, but it was Tom Brady who was ineffective when the Bucs needed him. They contained Tampa Bay's run game well to just 2.9 yards per carry. It's not a formula for victory that often works, but Pittsburgh picked up their second victory.

The Dolphins are on a three-game losing streak after falling 24-16 to the Vikings at home. Miami started the game with rookie Skylar Thompson under center, and he was alright (7-of-13, 89 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT) until he suffered a hand injury, and Teddy Bridgewater, fresh out of concussion protocol, relieved him. The veteran wasn't terrible, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns, but he also was picked off twice and sacked five times. Miami outgained the Vikings by over 200 yards, but three turnovers did them in by the end of the contest. That and the unreliable ground game that picked up only 73 yards on 20 carries as well.

Sunday Night Football: Pittsburgh (2-4) at Miami (3-3)

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 23 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Dolphins -7
Tickets: As low as $229 on*

Three Things to Watch

1. Intangibles
The Steelers are coming off their second win of the season and begin a two-game road trip as they take on the Eagles in Philadelphia in Week 8 before a bye week. The Steelers have had just three home games to four road contests so far and could be playing with some confidence after the Bucs victory. The Dolphins are playing their second straight at home and their second prime-time game over the last four weeks. Miami has two straight on the road in Weeks 8 and 9, traveling to Detroit and Chicago, so focus shouldn't be an issue here for the home team.

2. Consistency under center
The expectation is that Tua Tagovailoa will return from his concussion issues and get the start at quarterback. Miami has seen three different signal-callers under center, but Tagovailoa is the one with the most success. The southpaw from Alabama has eight touchdown passes and three interceptions in four contests and leads qualified passers in QBR (80.0). Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle both played well last week, but the offense figures to be crisper with their starter under center. It'll be interesting to see if Pittsburgh's secondary is at all healthier after playing without four starters last week.

On the other side, Kenny Pickett also cleared concussion protocol so he may get the start. If not, it will be Mitchell Trubisky again under center. Pickett has appeared in three games this season and the first-round pick has one touchdown pass compared to four interceptions. Yet, he's at least inspired some confidence in a fanbase that was tired of the boring offense that Trubisky ran. They'll try to take advantage of a Miami secondary that everyone has had fun picking on so far.

3. Grounding the run
Statistically, these are two of the worst running games in football with the Steelers checking in 28th while the Dolphins are 30th. Najee Harris has averaged a disappointing 44 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. Pittsburgh is spelling him with Jaylen Warren, who is averaging nearly five yards per rushing attempt, but he's averaging less than four of them per game. This shouldn't be an easy matchup, either, since Miami ranks 11th in run defense (104.7 ypg).

Meanwhile, Raheem Mostert is putting up 51.5 yards per game for the Dolphins despite averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He's gotten the majority of the work the last two weeks with Chase Edmonds (2.9 ypc) settling in as the backup. Maybe they'll do a little better against the Steelers, who are allowing 141.3 yards rushing on the road this season.

Final Analysis

Even though the Steelers won last week, I still don't think their problems are fixed. The question is how much will Miami win by not if they'll win at all. The Pittsburgh secondary injuries will be heavily exploited here by first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, who is a great offensive mind. I love the home team if Tua plays and somewhat if Bridgewater is the quarterback. This one should see plenty of points though.

Prediction: Dolphins 28, Steelers 17

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

*Price as of publication.