48 Plays That Shaped The Steelers 2013 Season: Week 14 Versus Dolphins

By Alex Kozora

Before turning out attention to the start of training camp, we’ll revisit 2013 one more time. This is a brand new series that will be recapping each game by highlighting three plays that shaped the final score – and the 2013 season – of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Week 14 was the final loss Steelers’ fans had to endure in 2013. But one of the toughest, a 34-28 heart-breaker to the Miami Dolphins.

Play #1 – 4th Quarter: Daniel Thomas’ 55 yard run

In a wild and crazy game that isn’t decided until the final snap, it’s only appropriate that all three plays come within the last four minutes of the final quarter.

First, a little background to drive this point home in the most depressing way imaginable. In 2013, Daniel Thomas ran for a grand total of 406 yards, averaging an ugly 3.7 YPC. Two weeks prior, he suffered an ankle injury that left many to conclude his uninspiring season was over.

So consider it a surprise when Thomas suited up for the Week 14 contest at Heinz Field.

And a shock when he busted out for 106 yards on 6.6 yards per carry. If you’re counting, that 106 mark accounted for 26% of his rushing yards on the year.

The coup de grace comes with 3:59 remaining in the game. Pittsburgh, desperate for a win, cling to a 28-24 lead.

The Steelers, as they so often did in 2013, are in dime against a pistol formation out of 11 personnel. Pittsburgh becomes defenseless against what essentially mimics as an old school “Student Body Left” with the center and left guard pulling. They make quick work of Will Allen and Troy Polamalu.



Thomas runs into the second and third level virtually untouched, not meeting his first true resistance until Ryan Clark nearly 20 yards into his run. Thomas cuts back to the right, eluding Clark and causing Cortez Allen to slip and fall on the snowy field in the process.

William Gay saves the likely touchdown, chasing Thomas down and latching on from behind, bringing the burly back down at the Pittsburgh 16. It’s a 55 yard gain. To put that in perspective, 39 more yards than the second-longest rush Thomas had in 2013.

It leads to a Dolphins’ touchdown and in another depression-induced segue, our second play of this article.

Play #2 – 4th Quarter: Charles Clay’s 12 yard touchdown

Part of the reason why Thomas’ long run stings so much is due to his poor season. Another in a long list  of names who had career games against the Steelers. But make no mistake, Charles Clay is not one of those players. He quietly finished the year with 69 catches and six scores, making him one of the most underrated players in national circles.

But his 4th quarter touchdown, his second of the afternoon, against the Steelers is one that should have never happened. While it faces stiff competition, it’s one of the most disheartening plays of the season.

Second and six for Miami, again, still down by four. Ryan Tannehill tosses a quick curl to Clay who catches it without issue against the off-coverage Cortez Allen. Given Dick LeBeau’s philosophy, keep everything in front and tackle the catch, it’s nothing new.

Except the “tackle” never happens. Allen misses first, followed by Troy Polamalu making an attempt that is too high. Allen fails for the second time and Clay shakes him off as he waltzes into the end zone.

It gives Miami a 31-28 lead with little time left.

Ugly missed tackles like the ones seen in this play are so rare for a Steelers’ defense – well-coached and technically sound. They severely lacked there last season and it killed the defense.

Play #3 – 4th Quarter: Last play lateral

It should have been so memorable. Instead, it’s one we try to forget.

Little more needs to be written. Down six, ball at their own 20, Steelers with three seconds to work with, just getting lined up in time before the clock strikes zero.

It would take a miracle. Or a lateral.

On a play where six Steelers touched the ball – including Marcus GilbertAntonio Brown races down the left sideline and into the end zone. For a brief moment, it appears a miracle has just been pulled off.  But the official correctly rules that Brown steps out of bounds at the Dolphins’ 12.

It sums up the Steelers’ season. So close, so far away.

And if you’re anything like me, you jumped around in state of ecstasy for a full minute before someone told you Brown stepped out. Not even a woman can break a man’s heart like football does.

Previous Weeks

Week 1 Titans
Week 2 Bengals
Week 3 Bears
Week 4 Vikings
Week 6 Jets
Week 7 Ravens
Week 8 Raiders
Week 9 Patriots
Week 10 Bills
Week 11 Lions
Week 12 Browns
Week 13 Ravens

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • steeltown

    Another crazy game. I remember being VERY upset after this one. Pretty ugly day for the Defense, snow game or not


    This was when I knew we were our of the playoffs, and deservedly so, as how can our vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers lose in the SNOW to the warm-weather Dolphins?! Unfathomable!! This year will be much more fun to watch imho. Go Steelers!

  • dgh57

    That last play with A. Brown stepping out of bounds wouldn’t of been necessary if we would of taken care of business and stop making average players look like Pro Bowlers which seemed to be the story in 2013. The sideline wasn’t our friend last season either what with the Tomlin incidence in Baltimore and Sanders stepping out of bounds earlier in the year on a KO return. Clay walked into the endzone and a wide open pass reception for another TD, and Tannerhill taking off for a 48 yard run. On top of all that we were even playing in Steeler type weather! Just a awful game to watch and try to endure with the missed tackles and so on.

  • steeltown

    That first gif just about sums up the season for Taylor and Clark

  • Xclewsive

    Woodley got zero push and washed into the Cam Heyward who I believe could of at least made a play on the ball.

  • Hamburger95

    Hi Alex

    What happen to the break down of player assignments on the QB read option keeper by Ryan Tannehill that resulted in a 48 yards gain .

    Could you please explained player assignments on this particular play .

    Thank You

  • Alex Kozora

    I had written it briefly in my post-game writeup that week. Think Troy got caught guessing instead of filling the “B” gap like he was supposed to. Allowed for a huge running lane for Tannehill.

  • Hamburger95

    Alex thank you for responding back to me .
    Have nice evening

  • Virdin Barzey

    Agreed. Absolutely horrible.

  • Code Warrior

    On play #2 it’s clearly poor tackling by Allen and Troy but I also don’t like the lackadaisical attitude of the other defenders just jogging or trotting to the ball. RUN to the football. Play through the whistle. Again – fundamentals. It’s hard to say whether Timmons or Heywood or someone else would have got there in time to make a difference but that’s point… without the effort we’ll never know. All 11 flying to the ball is a championship attitude.

  • I think you’re right. I went back and looked. Had at least Heyward went full speed, I think he would have met him on the sideline and saved the touchdown. 4th quarter, everyone’s tired, you gotta want it.

  • This game broke my heart. Like Alex, I was jumping around my living room like a mad man. Then come to find out the game was over and the Dolphins had won. No one in my house told me what was going on, they were all worried about how mad I’d be. So they just watched me celebrate. lol SMH. So I figured it out for myself. The only positive spin I can seem to put on last season, besides finishing 6-2, is that everywhere we went wrong, these younger players will no doubt learn from it. I can guarantee you that each missed tackle, each blown assignment, and each time the hustle was lacking, Tomlin made it painfully clear when they were watching film on it. That Miami game though, WOW.