MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins have erased the ghosts of "Sunday Night Football" pasts.
Miami (4-3) came up with two key late interceptions and held on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10 despite a scoreless second half for both teams.
The Dolphins scored 13 of their 16 total points in the first quarter. Then the defense stepped up when it mattered most.
Miami safety Jevon Holland intercepted Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett with just over three minutes remaining. But the Steelers forced a three-and-out, giving Pittsburgh one last chance to tie the game and potentially win it on an extra point.
Instead, Pickett made an ill-advised throw to the deep left corner of the end zone that was intended for Diontae Johnson in the waning seconds, but cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was there to pick it off.
"It was just miscommunication," Pickett said. "Thought Tay was going to come back down. He went vertical. That's on me. I've either got to throw it away to give us another chance or make a better throw over the top to him, so it's definitely on me."
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, making his return Sunday night for the first time since being stretchered off the field in a loss at Cincinnati, found running back Raheem Mostert on an 8-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to help the Dolphins take a 7-0 lead.
"It felt good running out the tunnel," he said after the game. "The atmosphere was great. A lot of support from the fans, and just being able to be out there with my teammates, it was awesome."
A 47-yard field goal by Jason Sanders just before halftime padded the score for Miami, playing on a Sunday night for the first time in five seasons.
Sanders booted a pair of field goals from 24 and 42 yards out, giving the Dolphins a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Steelers (2-5) got on the board early in the second quarter, capping a 12-play, 48-yard drive with a 45-yard field goal by Chris Boswell.
Pittsburgh controlled the clock for much of the second quarter. The Steelers found the end zone for the first time when Pickett threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to receiver George Pickens in the right corner of the checkered paint. It was the culmination of a 13-play, 86-yard drive.
After Miami's defense forced a three-and-out to start the second half, the Dolphins put together an 8-play, 58-yard drive but came up with nothing to show for it after a questionable decision to go for it on 4th-and-3 at the Pittsburgh 14-yard line. Chase Edmonds was stuffed by Steelers linebacker Myles Jack for no gain, resulting in a turnover on downs.
"I'm very aware that it's one of those things that if it works, it's a great play, and if it doesn't, you know … it could be a deciding factor in the game," first-year head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters after the game.
McDaniel said he recognized that Sanders was kicking well and a field goal would have made it a two-score game.
"It was something that I felt pretty good about it working out," he said. "It didn't, so that's something that I take full responsibility for."
Tagovailoa looked sharp in his return, completing 21 of 35 attempts for 261 yards and a touchdown.
The same couldn't be said for Pickett, whom the Steelers drafted with the 20th overall pick. He finished with 257 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked twice.
Tagovailoa found top receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle often. Hill caught seven passes for 72 yards, while Waddle had four catches for 88 yards.
Mostert also came up big on the ground and through the air. He was the team's leading rusher with 79 yards, in addition to four catches for 30 yards and the score.
McDaniel credited Tagovailoa for playing turnover-free football and praised the defense for creating them.
"This is something that we've been making a big point of emphasis within the team on turnover differential," McDaniel said. "So it's something that we've been focusing on, getting one early, and then at the end of the game when it mattered most to get two more was obviously the difference in winning and losing."
It was Miami's first "Sunday Night Football" victory since the package moved to NBC in 2006.