|Date of game: 12/8/2013
Recap: Pittsburgh vs. Miami
Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Pittsburgh Steelers nearly pulled off a miracle, but Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone on a final play that featured five laterals, and the Miami Dolphins escaped snowy Heinz Field with a 34-28 victory.
Charles Clay's gritty 12-yard touchdown catch with 2:53 remaining put the Dolphins in front and Caleb Sturgis added a 27-yard field goal for a six-point margin before the Steelers got one final chance.
They almost pulled it off in a finish that would have rivaled the Cal-Stanford collegiate game from 1982.
Facing 4th-and-9 from his own 21 with just a few seconds remaining, Ben Roethlisberger's pass was caught up the right sideline and the laterals began.
Roethlisberger wound up with the ball again and flung it toward Brown along the left sideline near the Pittsburgh 40. Brown eluded a couple of Miami defenders and took it all the way to the end zone for what would have been a stunning finish, but officials ruled he stepped on the sideline at the 13-yard line to end the game.
"I tried to make a play," said Brown. "I thought I had it clean."
The Dolphins appeared on their way to another narrow defeat, trailing by four late in the fourth quarter with the ball deep in their own end, but Daniel Thomas broke free for a 55-yard run to set up a first down at the Pittsburgh 16 and two plays later Ryan Tannehill hit Clay in the flat.
Clay shook off Pittsburgh defensive backs Troy Polamalu and Cortez Allen, kept his feet on the snowy field and raced the rest of the way to the end zone to give Miami a 31-28 edge.
The Steelers then turned the ball over on downs inside their own 20 when Roethlisberger's fourth-down run came up a yard short and the Dolphins tacked on Sturgis' field goal with 1:08 left to set up the wild finish.
"Not enough playmaking by us," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. "Obviously enough playmaking by them."
Tannehill completed 20-of-33 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a Pittsburgh score. Clay caught seven passes for 98 yards with two scores and Thomas finished with 105 yards on 16 carries for Miami (7-6), which has won two straight for the first time since opening the season with three consecutive wins.
The Dolphins had their largest scoring output of the season and remained tied with Baltimore for the final AFC wild card spot. The Ravens own the tiebreaker based on a Week 5 win in Miami.
"We talked to the guys last night and told the guys this is the start of the fourth quarter of our season and that play in the fourth quarter was going to be important and that we were going to have to step up to make some plays and that's exactly what happened," said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.
Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes for the Steelers (5-8), who have lost two straight after a three-game winning streak and saw their already slim playoff hopes virtually dashed.
Pittsburgh trailed 17-7 after the Dolphins scored on their first possession of the second half, then took the lead with a pair of quick touchdowns.
Roethlisberger answered the Miami touchdown with 43-yard scoring strike to Brown just four plays after the kickoff and Polamalu picked off Tannehill two plays into the next Dolphins possession. Polamalu raced 19 yards for the go- ahead score, leaping over a group of players and sticking the ball over the plane of the goal line to give the Steelers a 21-17 lead.
Back came Miami, as a 40-yard pass to Clay on third down led to a 4-yard Tannehill touchdown pass to Brian Hartline. The play was initially ruled incomplete as Hartline made the catch in the front corner of the end zone and landed out of bounds, but it was overturned on a Miami challenge.
Pittsburgh marched right back down the field and again moved in front on the first play of the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger hit Jerricho Cotchery with a 16-yard touchdown pass to cap a 78-yard drive that included a pair of third-down conversions.
The next two Miami possessions ended in quick punts before Tannehill got the ball at his own 20 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining and got the big plays from Thomas and Clay.
Each team went three-and-out on its first possession in the snow, but the Steelers marched 74 yards on 12 plays with their second offensive series for a touchdown. They converted a trio of third downs on the seven-minute drive, including a 5-yard scoring strike to Emmanuel Sanders for the score.
The Dolphins answered with a 30-yard field goal from Sturgis. Tannehill did most of the damage on the eight-play set with his legs, rushing for eight yards to convert 3rd-and-3 and following with a career-long 48-yard run on a read option.
After a trade of punts, Cameron Wake forced a fumble from Roethlisberger and the Dolphins cashed in the short field to take the lead. Tannehill completed each of his three passes on the 31-yard drive, the first two to former Steeler Mike Wallace for 19 yards -- his only two catches of the game -- and the last a 6-yard toss to a wide open Clay for the touchdown.
Miami blocked a Steelers punt with 40 seconds left in the half and took over at the Pittsburgh 42. Sturgis soon after came on for a 52-yard field goal attempt toward the open end of the stadium that came up short and Polamalu was there to take it back. Polamalu found a wall of Dolphins and threw a lateral, but Steve McLendon was tackled without difficulty as time expired in the half.
Conditions improved after the break and the Dolphins took the second-half kickoff 80 yards for a score. Tannehill converted 3rd-and-1 with a 20-yard pass to Clay and also found Thomas out of the backfield for another first down on 3rd-and-4 inside the 10. Thomas scored from the four on the next play to increase the Miami lead to 17-7.Game Notes
Roethlisberger surpassed Terry Bradshaw's club record of 212 career touchdown
passes with his first-quarter toss to Sanders ... The Dolphins had allowed
just one touchdown reception by a wide receiver entering the contest and
surrendered three to the Steelers ... Miami running back Lamar Miller left the
contest in the first half with a concussion ... The Dolphins have at least one
takeaway in each game this season ... Polamalu notched his 32nd career
interception and third touchdown ... Miami coach Joe Philbin is 6-for-6 on
challenges this season ... The Dolphins snapped a five-game series slide.