The Dolphins got off to a tremendous start on Monday Night Football, but they couldn’t close things out against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw first-quarter touchdown passes to give the Dolphins a 14-0 lead, but Pittsburgh came back to score the final 27 points to win 27-14.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph threw two touchdown passes, including a game-turning 45-yard throw to Diontae Johnson late in the first half, and James Conner had a touchdown run. Kicker Chris Boswell added a pair of field goals.
Cornerback Xavien Howard returned to the lineup for the Dolphins, though he left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. He did come up with his first interception of the season in the first quarter.
Thanks to Fitzpatrick’s TD passes, the Dolphins moved out to their largest lead of the season at 14-0.
The strong first-half showing began with Howard’s pick of Rudolph after defensive lineman John Jenkins, who was a major factor early on, pushed center Maurkice Pouncey back into his quarterback.
After a nifty 17-yard completion to Jakeem Grant, Fitzpatrick hit Wilson on a crossing pattern and Wilson raced to the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to give the Dolphins the early lead.
The Dolphins’ second score came after the defense held when Pittsburgh went for it on fourth-and-6 from the Miami 37, Rudolph’s pass falling incomplete.
Fitzpatrick completed a 15-yard pass to DeVante Parker soon after to convert a third-and-14, keeping alive a drive that ended with his 12-yard touchdown pass to Allen Hurns when Hurns willed his way into the end zone.
Charlton’s third-down sack ended Pittsburgh’s ensuing drive.
Pittsburgh cut into the Dolphins’ lead with a 42-yard field goal by Boswell that ended a drive that featured a 34-yard completion to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The momentum took a big turn late in the first half when former Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick picked off Fitzpatrick after his perfect pass to Nick O’Leary bounced off the tight end’s chest high into the air.
The Dolphins appeared poised to end the Pittsburgh drive, but Rudolph connected with Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown pass on third-and-20.
Pittsburgh took the lead with a 97-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that began after Minkah Fitzpatrick recorded his second interception.
The Steelers faced a second-and-20 early in the drive, but Rudolph threw a 21-yard pass to James Washington. Eight plays later, Rudolph connected with Smith-Schuster for a 26-yard touchdown.
Another key play came late in the third quarter when the Dolphins went for the first down on fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 47-yard line. Fitzpatrick ran a bootleg and dove for the first-down marker, with the officials spotting the ball at the 46 for a first down.
But Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin challenged the spot and, after a lengthy review, the officials moved the spot back a few inches and a measurement showed the ball coming up just short of the marker.
Four plays into the fourth quarter, after a 25-yard defensive pass interference penalty on the Dolphins, Conner scored to make it 24-14.
A sack-strip of Fitzpatrick by T.J. Watt set up Boswell’s second field goal to make it 27-14 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins’ two best drives of the second half ended when running back Mark Walton fumbled after catching a short pass in Pittsburgh territory and later when Fitzpatrick was sacked on a fourth-and-7.
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, the former Arizona Cardinals first-round pick, played his first game for the Dolphins after being activated off PUP earlier in the day.
The Dolphins return to Hard Rock Stadium next Sunday to face the New York Jets.