Game Review: Steelers drive tank through Dolphins coverage

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. When confronted with facts that contradict beliefs, ideals and values, people will try to find a way to resolve the contradiction to reduce their discomfort.

If you are a Miami Dolphins fan, this is a familiar feeling in 2019. Whenever the Dolphins do anything that a normal, competent football team does. When they drive down to the end zone in the last seconds and go for two. When they pick off the quarterback and score on the turnover of possession. When they put their opponent at 3rd and 20 with seconds left in the half. This is what we want, don’t we? No. We do not. Apparently, not everyone is on board with the strategy for this season. Not everyone has read this.

That 3rd and 20 call. Leaving an area that you could drive a tank through. The Steelers took advantage of a peculiar defensive call and turned a tide after Miami had shown some promise in the first half, going up 14-0. Was it deliberate? Was it a calculated move? Does it matter?

Let’s say it was deliberate. You can gnash teeth and wring hands about the integrity of the game, but all professional sports have elements where the rules are exploited for great benefit. Was it a calculated move? If it was, then it would be staggering if that decision were to be repeated in a more high-stakes environment. Either way, it was a call that should ultimately help Miami.

Credit: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

Part of the failure of the call that changed the momentum of this game was the busted coverage. Was it Bobby McCain who has been a mixed bag moving from slot corner to safety? Was it Xavien Howard, uncharacteristically letting his man go uncovered?

The film suggested it might be Howard’s error that blotted a good start to the half. Howard, one of the few players on the current roster who will be around next year, added to his collection of picks at the start of the game, beating JuJu Smith- Schuster to the ball. Having demonstrated that he can live with elite receivers, Howard backed off, possibly protecting a knee injury that has plagued the former second-round pick all season. Howard has now been placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the rest of the season.

That wasn’t the last of the Dolphins roster moves in the aftermath of a seventh consecutive loss. Nick O’Leary had another inauspicious outing, culminating in the ball bouncing off his chest, into the arms of former team-mate, Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins have since cut O’Leary, who will hopefully recover from this career setback.

Credit: Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

The Dolphins also traded for Los Angeles Rams corner Aqib Talib and a fifth-round pick, in exchange for a draft pick to be named later. Talib is currently on IR and may not play a single down for the Dolphins. What the move does is buy yet another draft pick for 2020, bringing Miami’s total to 15.

That is what Dolphins fans have to concentrate on in those moments of discomfort. Next year, not next Sunday. Next weekend promises to bring another Sunday of dealing with those feelings, matching up against division rivals, fellow competitors for the number 1 pick and under the charge of former a Miami Head Coach, the New York Jets. Time to reprogramme the belief system for the eighth consecutive week.

Feature Picture – Credit: Joe Sargent/Getty Images

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