Dolphins' costly gaffe, second-half woes show team not ready to win yet

PITTSBURGH -- Once halftime struck, it was time for the young, improving Miami Dolphins' other side to come out. Second-half Dolphins are like a plague this team has been unable to shake, and despite having a halftime lead for the second consecutive week, they broke down, suffering a 27-14 loss on Monday.

This is a different Dolphins team than the bunch that got smacked around by the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in losing by a combined 92 points in the first two games of the season. This Dolphins team plays hard, demands your respect and even threatens to pull off an upset. But this Dolphins team doesn't yet know how to win, and it's like an inevitable hurricane hits this team once it heads to the locker room at halftime.

The Dolphins are 0-7. How do you teach a young, completely remade team that hasn't won a game how to win? That's the problem Miami coach Brian Flores will have to solve to get his squad's first victory.

The Dolphins held a four-point halftime lead Monday, only to be outscored by 17 in the second half. Their second-half point differential is minus-110 through seven games this season, second-worst in NFL history behind that of the 1966 Broncos (minus-114), per Elias Sports Bureau research.

This week's second-half woes included no points, 17 points allowed and three turnovers.

Pivotal play: With the Dolphins holding an impressive 14-3 road lead late in the second quarter, the defense had the Steelers in a third-and-20 before inexplicably calling an eight-man, all-out blitz. With just three men back in coverage, Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson got wide-open and sprinted to the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown.

"We felt like that was the right call in that situation. We blitzed them a few times and had some success and they got us on that one. It's one play in the game," Flores said. "I don't have any regrets on the call. They made a play just like we had made some plays prior to that defensively. We just move on.

"We wanted to be aggressive. You can second guess a lot of calls. I'm not going to second guess that one. ... I'm not going to sit here and say that was the play that was the detriment of the game. We turned the ball over four times. We didn't do enough to win the game."

Miami's momentum completely disappeared. An 11-point lead was trimmed to four. Plus, the second-half Dolphins were lurking. The game was never the same after that play.

QB breakdown: It looked like we were going to get a magical Ryan Fitzpatrick performance as the veteran quarterback lifted Miami to a 14-0 lead with two touchdown passes. He was picking the Steelers' secondary apart with strong reads and good pocket command. Then his outing also flipped late in the second quarter, when a pass bounced off Nick O'Leary's chest for an interception that the Steelers turned into their first touchdown, which trimmed Miami's lead to 14-10.

In the second half, it was a different story. Fitzpatrick went 9-of-17 for 78 yards, one interception and a fumble after the break. Both of Fitzpatrick's interceptions were thrown to former teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Troubling trend: Xavien Howard's knees. Howard left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury and didn't return. This is becoming a bit worrisome because Miami's star cornerback missed the previous two games with a knee injury. He has battled knee issues in the past, including missing the final four games of the previous season because of a meniscus injury.

Howard is the Dolphins' best player, and his long-term health is very important. The next questions are how much time Howard will miss and if the team will decide to shut him down if these knee injuries continue.

Bold prediction for next week: The Dolphins win their first game Sunday against the New York Jets. The Dolphins still haven't figured out how to win. But they are playing much better, and the Jets are trending in the wrong direction. Playing against former coach Adam Gase adds some juice to the matchup, and a home contest against their rivals gets them in the win column.