I didn't know Dolphins could swim in the snow

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

With the backdrop of a snowy and cold Heinz Field, the Steelers defense had a chance to make a late-season statement and help the team remain in the playoff hunt. However, thanks to breakdowns at critical moments, Dick LeBeau's unit is one of the main reasons why Pittsburgh's playoff chances are all but finished.

As my mom would say, the atmosphere at Heinz Field for the Steelers critical Week 14 match-up with Miami looked like a "snow globe." The reason, of course, was because it was cold and very snowy in Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

What better climate to play a team from South Florida in December with a potential playoff spot on the line?

Ever see those NFL Films shows documenting classic cold weather games from years gone by? They almost always involved teams like the Steelers, Packers, Bears and Vikings (pre-dome). And when a team from the North actually played a home game against a team from a warmer climate such as Miami, didn't it just look all but hopeless for the team from said warmer climate?

On Sunday afternoon, with several inches of snow already on the grass of Heinz Field at kickoff, a December blowout of the Dolphins could almost be predicted as the latest leg of an improbable run to the postseason for a Pittsburgh team that started the year 0- 4 for the first time since Richard Nixon was in office.

Dolphins can't swim in the snow, can they? I mean, snow is still H2O, but it's the frozen kind. And while Dolphins are mammals who require oxygen, they certainly could never thrive in below freezing temperatures, with snowflakes beating down on their cute little heads, right?

Wrong.

With several Steelers defenders acting as if they were trainers teaching offensive tricks, these Dolphins demonstrated a unique ability to swim through the snow and cold to the tune of a several big plays and a huge rushing performance.

OK, enough of the "dolphins as salt-water animals" narrative. It's weak and vulnerable to attack--kind of like Pittsburgh's defense on Sunday afternoon.

It's weird that I'm writing a critical article about Pittsburgh's defense on a day when future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu actually accounted for the team's second defensive touchdown of the season when he intercepted a Ryan Tannehill pass in the third quarter and scored on one of his patented "I'm a Crazy Tazmanian with long hair" leaps into the end zone. But a critical article is the only one fitting for a defense that allowed the Dolphins to score 24 second half points--including the game winning touchdown catch by tight end Charles Clay, who broke three tackles (two by Polamalu) and scampered the rest of the 12 yards to the end zone with 2:53 remaining in what would eventually be a 34-28 Miami victory.

Speaking of scampers, running back Daniel Thomas paved the way for the winning score when, earlier in the drive, he zigged and zagged for 55 yards, this after the defense allowed Tanneheill to rush for 48 yards on a read-option play in the first quarter to set up Miami's first three points.

For the day, Dick LeBeau's charges, once known for their ability to be impenetrable against the run, gave up 181 yards on the ground--that's the kind of cold weather will a team from Pittsburgh should be imposing on a team from Miami, not the other way around.

Ten days after the unit failed to force a turnover or punt in the loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, Sunday's wasn't the kind of defensive effort desired for a team that could call its playoff possibilities tenuous at best.

When you take the 48 yard run by Tannehill, along with the 55 yard run by Thomas, and you combine them with big plays of 81, 79, 70, 61, 60, 57, 55, 51, 47, 41 and 41 yards by opposing players earlier in the season, it's easy to see why "old, slow and done" might be a great way to describe the Steelers once proud defense.

Cameron Heyward looks like the next great Steelers Pro Bowl defensive end , and inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons may yet be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, but as for the rest of the defense? Its inability to wreak much havoc on Sunday afternoon (other than the occasional personal foul called on Ryan Clark) allowed a 6-6 Dolphins team to come into Heinz Field for a critical early December battle and splash around the snow and slush long enough to walk away with a much needed victory.

Because of that, the Steelers playoff chances are under water and will probably remain submerged until next summer, when they can be thawed out by the hope and optimism of training camp.

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