PITTSBURGH (AP) — Cameron Wake isn’t sure he can keep living like this.
Oh, the disruptive Miami Dolphins defensive end can deal with his resilient team making a playoff run. It’s the way the Dolphins are doing it that is exasperating.
In a season marred by a bullying controversy and nine nail-biters in 13 weeks, this one may have been the most harrowing of all.
Miami’s 34-28 victory in the snow over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday allowed the Dolphins (7-6) to keep pace with Baltimore for the AFC’s second Wild Card spot, but only after Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown stepped out at the Miami 12 following a five-lateral relay that nearly ended with one of the most bizarre finishes in league history.
“I think I need some blood pressure medicine or something,” Wake said. “That’s December football.”
Something the Dolphins looked decidedly comfortable with during a frenetic second half in which Miami blew a pair of leads only to rally behind tight end Charles Clay and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Clay caught two touchdowns, including the winner with 2:53 to go, while Tannehill appeared right at home in the snowstorm that blanketed the field in the first half but did little to slow either team in the second. The second-year quarterback passed for three touchdowns and added a career-long 48-yard run.
“The ball felt good all day,” Tannehill said. “You’re warm on the sideline and once you get on the field, you feel good.”
And the Dolphins look good heading into a showdown at home against AFC East leader New England.
Not so much in Pittsburgh. The Steelers (5-8) dropped their second straight and have been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with three weeks to go.
“Regardless of the record man, you’ve still got to play football,” Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said.
Five things we learned as Miami won in Pittsburgh for the first time in 23 years:
CLAY IS MORE LIKE CONCRETE: The third-year tight end has come into his own this season and his combination of size and strength proved too much for the Steelers. Clay caught seven passes for 97 yards. He beat Cortez Allen, a cornerback, deep for a 40-yard gain in the first half and discarded Allen and Troy Polamalu on his 12-yard game-winner.
Clay caught a short pass from Tannehill then brushed off arm tackles by both Steelers before skipping into the end zone.
“I was trying to get the ball out,” Polamalu said. “I’ve just got to make the tackle.”
STEELERS ARE SUNK: Pittsburgh’s loss dropped the Steelers two games behind the Dolphins and Ravens and one behind the New York Jets for the last playoff berth with three games to go. Pittsburgh is also assured of a second straight non-winning season for the first time this millennium.
“It definitely (stinks) man,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “What do you guys want me to say? I’m going to stop playing football? No.”
DANIEL THOMAS CAN MOTOR: The Dolphins lost leading rusher Lamar Miller to a concussion in the third quarter. It hardly mattered. Thomas finished with 105 yards rushing and a score, including a 55-yard zig-zag through the Pittsburgh secondary in the fourth quarter to set up Clay’s second score.
“I was looking at the defender, I think it was Ryan Clark,” Thomas said. “He looked like he didn’t really want to tackle me, so I tried to make something happen.”
ANTONIO BROWN’S LEFT FOOT IS TOO WIDE: The Steelers nearly pulled off a stunner during a frantic final play.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Sanders for a 20-yard gain, setting off a series of flips and tosses that ended with Brown streaking down the left sideline toward the end zone. Brown celebrated while he crossed the goal line, but an official correctly ruled the left edge of Brown’s left foot was out of bounds.
“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.”
MIKE TOMLIN STAYED OUT OF SIGHT: A week after earning a $100,000 fine for interfering with a kickoff return in a loss to Baltimore, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach stayed well off the field on special teams plays time. Small consolation in a season that looks like another step back for one of the NFL’s marquee franchises.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org