The Pittsburgh Steelers stopped beating themselves long enough to keep the Miami Dolphins winless.
James Conner ran for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Mason Rudolph overcame a shaky start to throw for 251 yards and two scores as the Steelers pulled away for a 27-14 victory on Monday night.
Pittsburgh (3-4) spotted the Dolphins (0-7) a 14-point first quarter lead before steadying itself to win consecutive games for the first time since ripping off six straight in the middle of last season. Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, acquired in a trade with Miami last month, picked off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice, and Pittsburgh forced four turnovers in all to avoid an embarrassing loss that would have effectively ended the competitive portion of its season.
Rudolph completed 20 of 36 passes, including a 45-yard touchdown to rookie Diontae Johnson late in the second quarter and a 26-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the third quarter that put the Steelers in control. Smith-Schuster caught five passes for 103 yards, his first 100-yard game of the year.
Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 190 yards with two touchdowns and two picks, but a rare hot start couldn’t prevent Miami from staying winless through seven games for the first time since 2011. The Dolphins have dropped 10 straight dating back to last season.
Rudolph stressed he wasn’t worried about the long-term effects of a frightening concussion he suffered against Baltimore on Oct. 6, when he was knocked unconscious from a helmet-to-helmet hit by Ravens safety Earl Thomas. Still, playing for the first time in three weeks, he looked shaky at best and completely out of sorts at worst during an ugly opening quarter that saw the Dolphins grab their first two-touchdown lead over any opponent in more than a year.
Pittsburgh’s first possession ended with Rudolph throwing a pick to Xavien Howard — back in the lineup after missing two games with a knee injury — and its second ended with an ugly fourth-down misfire by Rudolph.
The Dolphins, in the midst of a massive and ceaseless roster overhaul under first-year coach Brian Flores that included trading running back Kenyan Drake to Arizona on Monday for a conditional sixth-round pick in next year’s draft, showed their first extended signs of life in an already lost season.