newsdolphins pick off pickett in end zone to preserve 16 10 win over steelers

Dolphins pick off Pickett in end zone to preserve 16-10 win over Steelers

Scott Ratcliffe
Pittsburgh Steelers
(© dean bertoncelj – Shutterstock)

Pittsburgh had the ball and was driving in the final minute of Sunday’s primetime AFC matchup in Miami with a chance to tie or take the lead, but rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s final pass attempt of the night was picked off in the end zone by Dolphins cornerback Noah Igbinoghene with 18 seconds to play to seal a 16-10 Miami win.

Tua Tagovailoa, who had missed the previous two games with injuries, got the Dolphins (4-3) out to a 13-point advantage early on, as the Steelers (2-5) were able to mount a comeback but couldn’t deliver the final blow.

Pickett, who was making his own return to the field after sitting out the second half last week with a concussion, had driven the offense 62 yards — with no timeouts — down to the Miami 25-yard line in the closing moments, and likely could have picked up a big gain if he had decided to tuck it and run, but instead tried to find Diontae Johnson for six.

Igbinoghene had other ideas, though, and was in the right place at the right time for the game-clinching play, which was initially called incomplete and out of bounds, but was reviewed and reversed, and the home fans began to celebrate.

“It was just miscommunication,” said Pickett after the loss. “I thought [Johnson] was going to come back down, he went vertical. That’s on me. I’ve either got to throw it away and give us another chance, or make a better throw over the top to him there, so that’s definitely on me.”

Tagovailoa led the Dolphins on scoring drives on their first three possessions, finishing with 261 yards (21-for-35) through the air and a score, while adding 4 carries for 15 yards.

Tagovailoa was 6-for-7 for 68 yards on the game’s opening drive, capping it off with an 8-yard toss to Raheem Mostert to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead less than five minutes in.

After a quick Pittsburgh three-and-out and a 23-yard Pressley Harvin punt, Miami began its next drive from its own 45-yard line, and the Dolphins were on the move again. The Steeler defense was able to get a third-down stop after allowing the Dolphins to advance to the 6-yard line, limiting them to a 24-yard Jason Sanders field goal to make it 10-0 with 5:32 left in the first quarter.

Just two plays later, Pickett was intercepted for the fifth time this season, as his intended receiver, Chase Claypool, slipped and fell on the play, and Miami’s Justin Bethel came up with the easy pick, and the Dolphins took over from their own 47.

Tagovailoa marched his team right back down the field, as Pittsburgh cornerback Levi Wallace nearly had an interception of his own on the ensuing Miami possession, but couldn’t bring it in, one of four crucial dropped takeaways on the night for the Steelers secondary. Sanders added a 42-yarder a couple of plays later to stretch the lead to 13-0 with still 2:27 on the first-quarter clock.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth, in his first game back after suffering a concussion two weeks ago against the Bills, hauled in the initial Steelers first down of the night just before the end of the period, as Pittsburgh was outgained 165-35 across the opening 15 minutes.

Rookie Jaylen Warren then picked up 4 yards and a first down on a fourth-and-1 from midfield to keep Pittsburgh’s first scoring drive alive. Later, on a critical third-and-3, Pickett couldn’t connect with Johnson, but Chris Boswell ultimately got the Steelers on the board with a 45-yard field goal, and it was 13-3 with 11:44 left until halftime.

Just before the break, Pickett engineered a 13-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, completing an 8-yard toss to fellow rookie George Pickens — marking the first six points scored by a Pittsburgh wide receiver this season — and the Steelers only trailed by three, 13-10, with 1:50 to go in the half. Pickett, who was 8-for-8 for 64 yards on the drive, also made a key play with his feet on an important third-and-long to set up the score, taking off and hustling 16 yards before sliding down at the Miami 22-yard line.

Cam Sutton let a would-be interception slip through his grasp with 15 seconds left in the half, as Miami tacked on another Sanders kick, and the Dolphins led by six at the break.

The Steelers came up with a big stop on a fourth-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 14-yard line on Miami’s first possession of the third quarter, but let another potential takeaway fall to the ground later in the period, as safety Terrell Edmunds dropped a Tagovailoa pass attempt.

“We’ve definitely got to take advantage of them, because it could’ve been a turning point in the game and it could’ve helped us out in the long run,” Edmunds said of the missed chances to flip the field on the dropped interceptions.

Added Minkah Fitzpatrick: “Those are game-changing plays. They take points off the board for the opposing team and gets the ball in our offense’s hands, and we didn’t do that today.”

Nobody could get anything to work offensively after halftime. Pittsburgh punted on each of its first five second-half opportunities and was intercepted on the final two. Miami punted on its next five possessions before taking a knee to close the contest.

Edmunds broke up a deep ball intended for the league’s leading receiver, Miami’s Tyreek Hill, on a third-down conversion as the clock went under eight minutes, with Pittsburgh still trailing by six.

The Steelers were flagged for an illegal shift on third-and-1 from the Dolphins’ 15-yard line with time winding down, then committed a hold on the following play, making it third-and-16 from the 30 instead. Pickett was then intercepted by Miami safety Jevon Holland with 2:57 remaining.

“There are some things to build on, but obviously turnovers, they can’t happen. That cost us the game,” said Pickett. “So I’ve got to fix that. I’ll be in there tomorrow getting to work on it and getting ready for next week.”

Head coach Mike Tomlin was clearly frustrated when the Steelers had to burn a precious timeout with 6:47 to play, as they used their last one with 2:41 on the clock. Wallace dropped yet another sure turnover on the Dolphins’ next drive, but the Steelers got another stop and had one last chance, getting the ball back with 2:31 to go.

On fourth-and-4 from the Pittsburgh 32, Pickett found Freiermuth for a 21-yard pickup into Dolphins territory. Johnson then made a sweet move two plays later to avoid a tackle, pick up another first down and get out of bounds to stop the clock with 42 ticks left at the 33-yard line, but it was ultimately all for naught.

“Sometimes when it’s a one-score game and it’s back-and-forth like that and the defenses are controlling it, defensive splashes are ultimately the deciding factor,” said Tomlin. “We didn’t give our offense a short field by producing a turnover or two, and [the Dolphins] did.”

Mostert had a game-high 79 rushing yards on 16 carries, while Jaylen Waddle (4 catches for a game-high 88 yards) and Hill (7 grabs for 72 yards) paced the Dolphins’ passing attack. Miami put up 372 total yards for the game (261 passing, 111 rushing).

Pittsburgh totaled 341 yards (246 passing, 95 rushing). Pickett was 32 for 44 (73 percent) for 257 yards, a touchdown and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 20 yards on 3 carries and was sacked twice.

Najee Harris led the Steelers with 65 yards rushing on 17 carries, while Freiermuth posted a team-best 75 receiving yards on 8 catches.

“I think we’re getting closer,” Harris said of the offense coming together. “I think a lot of guys are finding their roles in the offense… we’ve just got to cut out a couple things and just keep finding ways just to get better.”

The Steelers will travel to face the league’s only remaining undefeated team — the 6-0 Philadelphia Eagles — next Sunday at 1 p.m. (CBS).

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website,, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.