STEELERS 23, DOLPHINS 22
Steelers record: 5-1
One year ago: 4-2
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 13-11
There is a level of focus required for a team to achieve the level of preparation required to win in the NFL, and the Steelers were tested in that regard what with what came to be referred to as the James Harrison situation. Just one week after the return of Ben Roethlisberger should have ended the circus atmosphere in Pittsburgh, the big top was back because of the fine levied against Harrison and the aftermath.
The Steelers had just taken a 17-9 lead after a 51-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace, and two plays into the ensuing possession the Dolphins faced a third-and-10. Given time to throw, Chad Henne completed a pass to Brian Hartline for a 17-yard gain. The Dolphins went on to complete the 80-yard touchdown drive, and the game was a nip-and-tuck affair from that point.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
With his 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Hines Ward became the fifth player in franchise history to go over 500 points scored. Ward has 502 points, and he now ranks behind Gary Anderson, Jeff Reed, Roy Gerela and Franco Harris.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* Partly because of a second holding penalty on Doug Legursky, the Steelers faced a third-and-16 at their own 46-yard line late in the first period. Dolphins OLB Cameron Wake came in clean off the right side, but Ben Roethlisberger avoided the rush, stepped up and hit Hines Ward for a 43-yard gain to the Miami 11-yard line. Jeff Reed's 22-yard field goal that made it 6-3 two plays into the second quarter.
- Three plays after Reed's field goal, Bryant McFadden forced Brian Hartline to fumble after a short pass completion, and James Farrior's recovery set up the Steelers at the Miami 34-yard line. Hines Ward capped the drive by getting away from Benny Sapp and then Chris Clemons to complete a 21-yard touchdown play that gave the Steelers a 10-6 lead.
- On the play after Emmanuel Sanders returned a kickoff 37 yards, Mike Wallace ran by Dolphins CB Jason Allen and Ben Roethlisberger put the ball right on the money for a 51-yard touchdown that gave the Steelers a 17-9 lead with 5:47 left in the first half.
- The Dolphins had a third-and-short at midfield early in the fourth quarter of a 20-19 game, and Larry Foote stoned Ronnie Brown for no gain to force a punt.
- The Steelers, trailing 22-20, faced a do-or-die, third-and-5 inside the four-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Ben Roethlisberger avoided some pressure and got the ball to Mewelde Moore, who turned the play into a 29-yard gain. The possession ended with the game-winning field goal.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* Coach Mike Tomlin always cites ball protection being one of the keys to winning on the road, and the Steelers got off to a bad start in that area. The Dolphins won the coin toss and decided to defer, and so the Steelers received the opening kickoff. Emmanuel Sanders fumbled when hit by Lex Hilliard, and Reshad Jones recovered at the 22-yard line. Three plays later, Dan Carpenter's field goal gave Miami a 3-0 lead.
- Again, with the ball protection. In the grasp of Cameron Wake on third down of the ensuing possession, Ben Roethlisberger tried to shovel the ball to Isaac Redman, but he was unsuccessful and the resulting fumble was recovered by Koa Misi at the 13-yard line. Three plays later, another Carpenter field goal made it 6-0 with 11:15 left in the first quarter.
- With a 17-16 lead, the Steelers had a second-and-4 at the Miami 28-yard line with 1:03 left in the first half, and they still had two timeouts. An attempted reverse then lost 8 yards when Karlos Dansby broke through to dump Mewelde Moore before he could hand the ball to Mike Wallace, and then Ben Roethlisberger was sacked on the next play by Tony McDaniel to lose 3 more yards. Tomlin allowed the clock to run out without attempting what would have been about a 57-yard field goal.
Over the course of the game's first half, the Steelers lost Flozell Adams and LaMarr Woodley to injuries.
Adams left with an ankle injury, and he was replaced at right tackle by Jonathan Scott.
Woodley injured a hamstring, and he was replaced by a combination of Lawrence Timmons and Jason Worilds. Timmons switched out from inside linebacker on early downs, and then he moved back inside in the sub-packages, and Worilds took the spot outside.
Then early in the second half, Aaron Smith left the game with what was described as an arm injury during the game. On the bench, Smith had his left arm wrapped, and the body language of the players around him seemed to indicate it was not minor.
In his postgame news conference, Coach Mike Tomlin revealed that Smith had a torn triceps. There was no immediate prognosis on Smith, but a torn triceps requires surgery to repair and typically is a season-ending injury.
The only players inactive because of injury were Trai Essex, who missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury, and Brett Keisel, who was sidelined with the hamstring injury he sustained last weekend against the Browns.