Steelers crumble late, fall to Dolphins 34-28

It was a play symbolic of a lost season, filled with hope and

despair and all the things in between.

In the end, though, Antonio Brown’s frantic dash to the end zone

after a five-lateral comedy of errors turned out to be nothing more

than a stat-padding exercise in chaos.

When officials ruled Brown stepped out of bounds at the Miami 12

after time expired to assure the Dolphins of a 34-28 victory, any

realistic hopes the Steelers (5-8) had of reaching the playoffs

vanished.

Now, nothing but a long December and perhaps an even longer

offseason awaits.

”We’ve still got jobs,” Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor said.

”We’ve still got games to play. We’ve got no time to be whining,

pouting, thinking about the season, talking about the

playoffs.”

Now, there’s no point. Not after Pittsburgh allowed Miami (7-6)

to feel right at home at snowy Heinz Field.

The Dolphins’ 34 points were a season high as they rolled up 360

yards total offense, including 80 on a four-play fourth-quarter

drive that ended with Charles Clay running through a pair of arm

tackles by Troy Polamalu and Cortez Allen for a 12-yard score that

gave the Dolphins the lead for good with 2:53 remaining.

”I was trying to get the ball out,” Polamalu said. ”I’ve just

got to make the tackle.”

Caleb Sturgis tacked on a field goal to push Miami’s lead to

six, but the Steelers had one last shot when they took over at

their 20 with 1:08 left.

Three plays went nowhere and on fourth-and-4 from the Pittsburgh

26, things got crazy.

Emmanuel Sanders caught the pass and made it 20 yards before

running into trouble. Sanders flipped it to Jerricho Cotchery, who

handed it to Le’Veon Bell, who then tossed it to 330-pound tackle

Marcus Gilbert. Gilbert gave it to Roethlisberger, who ran to the

Pittsburgh 33 before throwing what appeared to be an illegal

forward pass to Brown. No flags were thrown, however, as Brown

raced down the sideline.

As the Dolphins gave chase, Brown crossed the goal line. While

he celebrated, an official pointed at the turf and ruled Brown’s

left foot stepped out of bounds at the Miami 12. That sent the

resurgent Dolphins spilling onto the field after the franchise’s

first win in Pittsburgh in 23 years, one that came in the

unlikeliest of settings.

”I thought I had it clean,” Brown said. ”I thought I

separated really good getting to the sideline, but it didn’t seem

quite enough.”

Roethlisberger passed for 349 yards and three scores, but the

Steelers (5-8) lost their second straight game to assure the

franchise of consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time

this decade.

”It definitely (stinks) man,” Sanders said. ” What do you

guys want me to say? I’m going to stop playing football? No.”

Daniel Thomas ran for 105 yards and a score for Miami. His

zig-zag 55-yard burst at snowy Heinz Field set up Clay’s winner.

Ryan Tannehill completed 20 of 33 passes for 201 yards and three

scores for the Dolphins. Miami blew a 10-point third-quarter lead

but rallied to win for the third time in its last four games.

”I think I need some blood pressure medicine or something,”

Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. ”That’s December

football.”

The defeated capped a distracting 10 days for the Steelers. Head

coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for interfering with Baltimore

kickoff returner Jacoby Jones during a loss to Baltimore on

Thanksgiving night. The kind of furor overshadowed the fact what

little margin for error the Steelers had heading into the final

month was gone.

Now it’s vanished completely along with the hopes of climbing

out of an 0-4 start, a deficit safety Ryan Clark said the team

could have pulled itself out of with better play.

”If these (last) two weeks go different, if we beat Oakland,”

he said. ”We can point to a lot of situations where if we make

plays in certain games 0-4 wasn’t insurmountable.”

NOTES: Miami WR Mike Wallace had two catches for 19 yards in his

return to Pittsburgh, where he played from 2009-12. … Miami RB

Lamar Miller left in the third quarter with a concussion and did

not return. … Roethlisberger’s first-quarter touchdown pass to

Sanders gave him 213 in his career, breaking a tie with Terry

Bradshaw for the most in team history … Polamalu returned an

interception 19 yards for a score in the third quarter, the fifth

touchdown of his career. … Brown became the second Steeler to

reach 90 receptions in a season. Hines Ward did it four times.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org