Emmanuel Sanders can't come up with a pass as he's defended by Miami's Nolan Carroll in the fourth quarter at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.
Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll breaks up a pass intended for the Steelers' Markus Wheaton in the third quarter at Heinz Field.
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
Miami's Daniel Thomas carries against the Steelers in the third quarter at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 349 yards and three touchdowns, with 267 yards and two touchdowns coming in the second half when the Steelers rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit. However, a fumble on a sack -- his first turnover in three games -- led to a Dolphins touchdown in the second quarter. On a day when he passed Terry Bradshaw for the most career touchdowns in team history, it was another failed chance for a last-minute comeback.
The Steelers failed to rush for more than 100 yards for the 10th time this season and didn't have a run longer than 9 yards. They also pushed their streak of not having a 100-yard rusher to 21 consecutive games, longest in the league. Le'Veon Bell was solid again, rushing 15 times for 61 yards and catching five passes for 28 yards. However, he carried just five times for 21 yards in the second half.
Antonio Brown's 43-yard catch-and-run touchdown provided a big momentum switch in the third quarter, but all anyone will remember is him stepping out of bounds at the Miami 12 after a 55-yard run with a lateral on the final play. Emmanuel Sanders caught the first touchdown, a 5-yarder, but he also dropped a pass on third-and-10 with 2:33 remaining that forced the Steelers to go -- and fail -- on fourth down.
Roethlisberger was sacked three times, the most in the past four games, and was hurried into a number of throws. But the team averaged 4 yards on 21 rush attempts despite not having a run longer than 9 yards. C Cody Wallace, making his first NFL start, gave up a sack on the first pass attempt of the game. And G Ramon Foster wiped out a 12-yard gain on second-and-14 with an illegal downfield penalty in the fourth quarter.
The defense gave up runs of 48 and 55 yards, accounting for 103 of the Dolphins' 181 rushing yards, the third-highest total by an opponent this season. But it was the 55-yard run by Daniel Thomas -- the 11th scrimmage play of 50 yards or longer against the Steelers -- that led to the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. It has become redundant to say Cam Heyward has developed into a dominant player after he had a team-high 10 tackles, a sack and a batted pass.
The decision to leave Jason Worilds at left outside linebacker and start LaMarr Woodley at right outside linebacker after a three-game absence was the right one. Worilds had two sacks for the second game in a row and third time this season, in addition to making eight tackles, three for losses, and having two quarterback hurries. Woodley rotated with rookie Jarvis Jones, but each got caught inside on the two long runs.
Troy Polamalu made the big play that highlighted a six-play, 14-point turnaround for the Steelers, returning an interception 19 yards for a diving touchdown. But Polamalu and cornerback Cortez Allen each missed tackles on the winning 12-yard touchdown to tight end Charles Clay, appearing to have him stopped at the 7 on second down when he broke free. The secondary had trouble all day locating Clay, who scored two touchdowns.
After allowing a 73-yard kick return and botching a field goal against the Ravens, the Steelers were guilty of another gaffe when Mat McBriar had a punt partially blocked late in the first half from his 42. The block, though, did not result in any points. But Stevenson Sylvester's holding penalty on the kickoff following the Dolphins' last touchdown forced the Steelers to start from their 10. Give Polamalu and Ike Taylor props for returning a missed field goal a combined 67 yards at the end of the first half.
It sounds like a broken record to say big plays and missed tackles contributed to the defeat, but that is what has been happening all year to the Steelers and it hasn't been corrected. That's the reason Mike Tomlin decided to go on fourth-and-10 from his 10 with 2:33 remaining rather than punt -- he didn't trust his defense. What's more, the Steelers panicked with their play-calling and decisions on the final two drives. With another chance to stay relevant for the postseason, they failed again.
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