Mack: Steelers’ Mid-Terms Start Monday Night

Post-Bye Bounceback Must Begin With Drubbing Of Dolphins

Chris Mack
October 28, 2019 - 11:35 am

© Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - The Miami Dolphins will not provide much of a test for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. At least not if you’re looking for a win or a loss as a simple, bottom line assessment. 

The Steelers’ current test is one they’ve had plenty of time to study for and that simply begins Monday at 8:15pm, with the conclusion of their mid-terms still a couple of weeks away. After spending the last 14 days sitting around waiting to continue the positive momentum born from a defensive thumping of the Chargers in Los Angeles -behind Devlin Hodges at quarterback, no less-  they will play three times in the next 14 days. 

All three games in this season-defining stretch are at home. And it starts against the lowly Miami Dolphins, a team so bad that they're telling their starting running back to stay at home lest a possible trade become more attractive to the organization than the player actually being on the field.

Understanding the tried-and-true trope that "a win is a win," this where a win needs to be so much more than just a win. As an aside, if a win *isn't* a win, what is it? Does it fall in to the category of "moral defeat"? What constitutes a "moral victory"? I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know this: The Pittsburgh Steelers need to stomp the Dolphins. 

Not just because the style points are necessary. They aren't. This isn't the Amway Waterpik USAToday Coach's Poll where you drop three spots in the rankings if your QB throws three interceptions in the midst of a 41-24 drubbing of North Carolina A&T. 

This is, though, an offense that needs to demonstrate some chemistry between their four key pieces, in Coordinator Randy Fichtner, QB Mason Rudolph, RB James Conner, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. It's an offense that can't afford to go three-and-out on their first few series and then retroactively reference the "rust" that may have built up during the bye week. 

Rudolph needs to have a 24-for-28 for 250+ yards, three touchdown performance.

Conner needs to touch the ball at least 20 times for at least 100 all purpose yards and a score.

JuJu needs to do what we saw him do so often before he was the team's #1 receiver and pull down 7 or 8 balls for 100+ yards and a score.

And Fichtner needs to display a scheme and attack that puts those three in position to do all of the above. After a horrid gameplan against San Francisco, Coach Randy resorted to the wildcat and some jet sweep trickeration to get points on the board against a terrible Bengals defense four weeks ago. Against Baltimore the offense started to resemble -well, a legitimate offense- once Fichtner allowed his rocket-armed, Big XII QB to throw the ball farther downfield than his back-up running back. Despite Rudolph's absence in the 4th quarter of that Ravens' game and the entirety of the win in Los Angeles, the offense has certainly looked more vertical.

Will Fichtner, and just as importantly Rudolph, Conner, and Smith-Schuster go out and produce points without anything "gimmicky," as Mike Tomlin called the wildcat in the immediate aftermath of the win over Cincinnati? Will there be confidence shown in Rudolph by Fichtner, and just as importantly, confidence shown in the receivers downfield by Rudolph? Will any of us believe in Conner or JuJu to secure the football in crunch time until we see them do it again after fumbles against the 49ers and Ravens turned a possible 4-2 team into a 2-4 underacheiver?

There are a lot of questions being asked of the Steelers as they try to fight back from that 2-4 start. 

They can find some answers in how they handle the Dolphins on Monday night. 

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