By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the second half trailing 10-7 after a Ben Roethlisberger fumble. The Miami Dolphins got the ball first and drove down the field to start the second half.
There was a scary moment when Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark collided. Taylor stayed down for a while, but eventually jogged off the field and returned after two plays. By that point, however, the Dolphins were already down to the 13.
On second and four, Ryan Tannehill was forced the throw the ball away after pressure by Jason Worilds. The third down pass was caught, but the officials flagged Clark for a hit on a defenseless receiver anyway, giving them half the distance to the goal. Daniel Thomas walked into the end zone on the next play to take a 17-7 lead.
Ben Roethlisberger took his time to find Will Johnson near the left sideline for nine yards. On second and one, Roethlisberger looked deep for Markus Wheaton, but the ball was incomplete. On a play fake on third and one, Roethlisberger went over the top to Heath Miller for a big gain down to Miami’s 44. On the next play, Roethlisberger found Antonio Brown over the middle. Brown found the sideline and rode it 41 yards for the score to get back within three points.
Jason Worilds stopped a first down run for a two-yard loss on the Dolphins’ first play back on offense. On second down, Troy Polamalu stabbed the ball out of the air and returned it for the score to put the Steelers back on top, 21-17.
On third and four, Charles Clay secured a deep pass in front of Cortez Allen down to the 25-yard line. Thomas nearly broke it for the score on the next play as Cameron Heyward dragged him down by his jersey. Now from the 12, Clay picked up six on first down. Thomas picked up two yards to set up third and two from the four. Tannehill hit Brian Hartline for the score as the Dolphins went back up 24-21.
Le’Veon Bell picked up 10 yards on a pass, which was enough to negate a holding penalty. On second and 10, Brown took a big shot and couldn’t hold on to the ball. Roethlisberger winged it up to Brown on third down, however, and picked up the conversion.
On the next play, Roethlisberger hit Emmanuel Sanders on a catch and run down to the 28 for 21 yards. Bell picked up nine on the following play. After a near interception, Roethlisberger fired a bullet to Cotchery for the touchdown to regain the lead, 28-24.
The Steelers were threatening to force a three and out, but Clay was able to avoid Polamalu’s tackle on third and eight and got the first down. After seven yards by Thomas, Polamalu helped break up a pass to Hartline to force a third and three.
The Steelers were able to manage one first down, but on third and four, Roethlisberger was unable to get the ball to Sanders, who was arguing that he was held on the play, so Pittsburgh was forced to punt with plenty of time left in the game.
The Dolphins took over from the 21. On first down, LaMarr Woodley nearly sacked Tannehill near the goal line. Tannehill just barely escaped a grounding penalty. On third down and seven, the pass was not enough for the first down thanks to the tackle by William Gay.
With just under eight minutes to play, Roethlisberger looked downfield for Cotchery for 19 yards on first down. Bell could only fight for one on the ensuing play. Cody Wallace was then flagged for a false start. On second and 14, Ramon Foster was flagged for being downfield too early. Now on second and 19, Roethlisberger hit Brown for just five yards. The third down pass was knocked away in front of Cotchery to force a punt.
With 4:31 to play, the Dolphins started on their own 20. Hartline picked up nine yards on first down. The Steelers lost sight of Thomas on second down, as he broke free and wriggled his way for over 50 yards. Two plays later, Clay broke tackles from Allen and Polamalu to find the end zone and take a 31-28 lead.
After a holding penalty on the kickoff, the Steelers began from the 10. Roethlisberger’s first pass went over the head of Bell. He looked long for Cotchery, but couldn’t find him, setting up third and 10 deep in their own territory. Sanders couldn’t hold on to the third down pass.
On fourth down, Roethlisberger scrambled for it, but didn’t get it. Wallace was also flagged for a penalty anyway. The Steelers stopped the Dolphins on the ground on three straight plays, leaving just over a minute left in the game, then kicked a field goal to make it 34-28.
Sanders’ return was dropped just shy of the 20-yard line. With 1:03 remaining, Roethlisberger needs to travel about 80 yards for the win.
On first down, he narrowly escape a sack by dumping the ball off to Bell, but the throw was too high and the pass was incomplete. On the next play, he was unable to escape the sack. He barely escaped yet again on fourth down, barely even getting the snap off.
The Steelers nearly had a miracle on their hands when a final lateral from Roethlisberger to Brown wound up in the end zone, but Brown ever so slightly stepped out of bounds to end the dream, and probably the season.