Week eight of the NFL season sends the 0-6 Miami Dolphins up to face the 2-4 Pittsburgh Steelers for a Monday Night Primetime showdown.
Miami head coach Brian Flores is still looking to get his first win with the Dolphins and will be trying to do so against the six-time Super Bowl winners. With the Dolphins looking to show any life on the season, a national matchup would be a great start. They’re heavy under dogs, as they’ll come in as the 31st best team in the NFL, just ahead of the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals.
Mason Rudolph will return from injury to lead the Steelers who are looking to get their third win on the season to open up their division and catch up to the first place Baltimore Ravens. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has his team tied for second in the AFC North with the Cleveland Browns. This has to be looked upon as a must-win for Pittsburgh to still have a shot at the division title.
With such a big game for both teams on the horizon, there’ll be a number of players to keep tabs on in the game.
Mark Walton gets the start, Kenyan Drake likely traded
Dolphins starting running back Kenyan Drake did not travel with the team to Pittsburgh for the matchup as his name has frequented more on the trade block. Now that he has no shot to make any impact in the game, eyes should turn to RB Mark Walton. Just two weeks ago, Walton was third on a miserable RB depth chart for Miami, but has since leap-frogged Kalen Ballage and is slated to start on Monday. Walton has lead the Dolphins RBs the last two weeks in total yards.
DeVante Parker’s on a hot streak
Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver, DeVante Parker, is another player to watch out for in the Monday Night game. Parker is second on the team in terms of receiving yards, third in receptions and now with touchdowns in his last three games, leading the team in receiving touchdowns (3). His personal TD mark ties him with the team’s total rushing scores on the year, making him responsible for 43-percent of the team’s scores this season.
“I mean any time a guy has production in games on a consistent basis, we want to keep going to that particular player. I think we’ve gotten that from a few guys. DeVante comes to mind. Preston (Williams) comes to mind. Mark Walton comes to mind,” Flores said. “When guys have production in games, you want to get them the ball a little bit more. But at the same time, you see that not just in the games but that happens in practice and it carries over to the game more times than not. I would say that’s been the case with the guys I just mentioned. DeVante is part of that.”
Prior to Parker’s TD streak, the former first-round pick had just six catches the first three weeks for 131 yards. Parker has struggled during his tenure in Miami and has not lived up to expectations in any of his first four seasons played with the team. However, Flores still feels Parker is coming in to do his job day-in and day-out.
“I don’t see any confidence issue with DeVante. I think he’s as confident in his ability as anyone on this team. I think he’s playing that way right now. If those were issues before, I can’t speak to them; but I see a confident player. Hopefully he continues that route,” Flores said. “(Wide Receivers Coach) Karl (Dorrell) is doing a great job with him as well as (Offensive Coordinator) Chad (O’Shea) and the offensive staff. Hopefully we just continue on that trajectory.”
Pittsburgh to be lead by Conner, Rudolph
Opposite the Dolphins, the Steelers’ Rudolph, and RB, James Conner, are a pair of players to watch out for on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins defense allows an average of 256.5 passing yards per game, and 160.8 rushing yards per game. They also give up more than two passing TDs per game and more than one rushing TDs per game.
With the uncertainty of the backup RBs in Pittsburgh, Conner could be due for an even more extended workload. Jaylen Samules is back practicing, but officially carries a questionable designation for the game. Benny Snell also looks to have reps, but uncertain of how many, due to the status of Samuels.
Having also turned the ball over to opponents 13 times and having a turnover differential of -11, Miami will need to improve its play-call control going into a game on the road, where the crowd is almost never on your side.
Kayla Morton contributed to this article.