The Scouting Report for Sunday night’s Steelers vs. Dolphins game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.
Tyreek Hill & Jaylen Waddle vs. Steelers’ Banged Up Secondary
- Hill and Waddle make up the most dangerous receiving duo in the league. Even for the best secondary unit, they cause problems. With the Steelers being banged up big time in the secondary, this could be a long day chasing these two around the field.
- Hill has been arguably the best receiver in football this season. He leads the league in yards receiving (701) and has helped change the dynamic of the Dolphins’ offense. Hill has unbelievable speed and quickness. He does a fantastic job of creating separation with his feet. He has elite explosiveness and can score from anywhere on the field. He just looks like a different player out there. He has very good hands and body control. His size is his only real weakness, and he is not going to win a ton of 50/50 balls, but his elite speed more than overcompensates for any lack of size. Hill is a game changer and a player you have to pay attention to every play.
- Waddle is a number 1 receiver in his own right. He ranks 5th in yards receiving (533) and yards per reception at 17.77. He is a freaky athlete with good speed and the ability to break tackles. Waddleexcellent good instincts and feel for zone. He does a good job recognizing the defense and sitting in soft spots. He has great ability with the ball in his hands, he is slippery, and has good quickness to elude defenders. He can go over the top as well as take it the distance on screens or short crossers. He doesn’t have natural hands and will have some drops. Regardless, he is a dangerous playeSteelerseelers’ pass defense has struggled regardless of who has been out there. They rank 30th in pass yards per game (277.8) and 25th in pass yards per play at 7.19. They have done a nice job of picking the ball; they rank 4th with a 3.45% interception rate. Some of this can be attributed to their lack of pass rush, but they have not been a lockdown unit by any means. This will be an incredibly tough challenge if their starters can’t go. Witherspoon, Sutton, Wallace, and Fitzpatrick are all questionable. The skeleton crew did a good job against the Bucs last week. They limited the explosive plays and kept things in front. They were sound defensively and didn’t have many busts in coverage. They gave up some yards, but they limited anything down the field. This was an impressive showing for a young unit. However, the Bucs are not nearly as explosive as the Dolphins. They will have a much tougher day covering Waddle and Hill. If Tua is back to form coming off of his concussion, this could be a very long day.
- The firepower of the Dolphins’ offense is going to be far too much for this young secondary group. Hill and Waddle will put stress on the defense and force them to speed up their instincts.
Najee Harris vs. Miami Run Defense
- Harris leads the Steelers with 264 yards rushing but averages just 3.18 yards per carry. His offensive line is not helping him much as he ranks 160th in the league with just .65 yards per contact per carry.
- He has all the tools to be an outstanding back in this league. He has good lateral agility, but he will take what’s there. He runs hard and rarely goes down with first contact. He has good hands and takes care of the football. The only thing he lacks is elite burst.
- Miami is ranked 11th vs. the run both in yards per game and yards per rush, allowing 104 yards per game and 4.19 yards per rush. They lead the league with 28.7% of their opponent runs being for 0 or negative yards, and they are ranked 3rd, allowing just 2.47 yards per run after contact. Overall this is a very physical group that plays on the attack.
- They have been pretty healthy in their defensive front, and they do not rotate a ton of bodies. Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Zach Sieler are the four main guys up front who rotate in their base 3-4 defense.
- Christian Wilkins leads all defensive linemen with 28 tackles on running plays which ranks 18th in the NFL. He is also tied for 2nd in the NFL with 5 TFLs on running plays. Wilkins plays with rare awareness, pad level, agility, and activity for an interior DL. His ability to engage, play through, and slip blocks is outstanding.
- Davis is a massive human who can toss 300-pounders with ease. He has immense talent, but his effort and consistency can be underwhelming. Ogbah plays extremely high and shows very little quickness or explosion. Sieler is a limited athlete, but he is very strong and plays with good effort. You can see why he has been getting as many snaps as he has.
- I love the way ILB Elandon Roberts attacks blockers. Jerome Baker is a three-down athletic backer who plays nearly every snap, but he does not play with the same violence as the rest of the group.
- This doesn’t feel like the game where Harris will break out, especially if the Dolphins jump out front with Tua returning.
Alex Highsmith vs. Miami’s Offensive Tackles
- Miami’s offensive line, especially the tackle position, has been hit by the injury bug this season. LT Terron Armstead was injured in Week 5 and was replaced by Greg Little. Austin Jackson injured his ankle in the first game of the season as well.
- It makes it difficult on the entire offense when you have injuries to the offensive line. Bringing players in and out of the lineup creates havoc for the entire offense.
- The Dolphins have given up 15 sacks on the season and with the changes at quarterback, protecting the passer becomes even more difficult. Each quarterback has different ways they set up and different ways that they work to escape from the pocket. So when you combine new and different linemen and changes at quarterback, it will cause quite a few problems.
- Even with all of their issues on the line and at QB, the Dolphins still are second in the NFL (285) in yards per game through the air.
- Steelers outside linebacker Alex Highsmith is tops in the NFL with 6.5 sacks per game. Even with T.J. Watt being injured, Highsmith has been very productive getting to the passer and must be accounted for at all times.
- Like Watt, Highsmith gives outstanding and relentless effort to get to the passer. He is an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker fit because of his versatility and skill set. Highsmith can bend and dip under OTs with success, and I love the way he uses his hands.
- This Pittsburgh defense will bring Highsmith from different spots on the field and you are not quite sure where he will be rushing from.
- One of the most difficult things that the 3-4 defense brings is the confusion of where defenders will rush from. The 3-4 defense can bring pressure without blitzing because of how and where they align pre-snap.
- Because fewer teams run a ‘true’ 3-4 scheme- this leaves more players for teams like Pittsburgh to draft to fit their system. 3-4 outside backers are much different than 4-3 ends. The true 3-4 outside backer does not need to have the typical size and length of a rush end, but they need to be able to drop, and rush, play the run. Their most important qualities are their motor and effort.
- I expect Highsmith to have a productive game against the Dolphins due to the uncertainty of the Dolphins’ personnel.
Steelers’ Keys to Victory
- Limit Miami’s explosive plays. They have to stay disciplined in their coverage and not have busts.
- Commit to the run and feed Harris to keep the ball away from Miami’s explosive offense.
Dolphins’ Keys to Victory
- Exploit the Steelers banged up secondary.
- Get Tua some easy throws early to get him back into a rhythm.
- Protect Tua to make sure he doesn’t get hit and rattled early.
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