2nd HalfOur 1st drive of the 2nd half did not result in any points, but we ate up nearly 5 minutes of clock and drove all the way down to the Miami 35 before punting. We should have had points however. Batch took a horrible sack for a -10 yard loss that ostensibly took the Steelers out of FG range. Gardocki followed that up with a dumpy punt that went into the endzone for a touchback. On a more positive note, Hines Ward caught two more passes over the middle. On the second, Hines took a big blow while in the air, but he held on for the 19 yard gain. What a warrior Hines is. I can't believe I doubted him in the least.
On the Dolphins next drive, they quickly found themselves in great shape after Marty Booker's 52 yard gain against the right side of the Steelers secondary. Ryan Clark finally dragged him down, but at this point, I was legitimately worried that our corners were not playing well enough to keep Miami out of the endzone, despite how well our front 7 was doing. Ronnie Brown had his most successful drive of the game running the ball, carrying it 3 times for 18 yards and a TD following Booker's big play. On that drive, Brown had 4 carries for 20 yards. For the game, he finished with 30 yards on 15 carries. That's 11 carries for 10 yards the rest of the game. Shows you just how good we were against the run last night. 17-14 Dolphins
After a -3 yard Parker run, and a -3 yard sack of Charlie Batch, momentum had officially swung in Miami's favor. The Steelers were likely going to have to punt back to the surging Dolphins offense as they were faced with a 3rd and 16 on their own 12. HUGE break for the Steelers as they are awarded a fresh set of downs after an Illegal Use of Hands penalty. Hines Ward made a big play on 3rd and 4, and things were looking up once again with about 3 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.
Nate Washington continued his solid night with a 5 yard 1st down grab on 3rd and 2. Batch made a nice decision and tucked it away for an 11 yard scramble shortly thereafter. On the last play of the quarter, Parker emphatically burst through a gap on the right side before being brought down on the Miami 25.
As the 4th quarter began, it looked like we were at least going to tie it up at 17 with a FG. On 3rd and 6, Nate Washington took a reverse from Verron Haynes and picked up 8 yards and a 1st down. It was the closest thing to a trick play that we saw all game, and it sure came at an opportune time. Willie Parker got the ball down to the Miami 1 with consecutive 6 yard gains before the play that almost ruined Steelers fans' nights across the country. We were on a 17 play, 8 ½ minute drive, and we fumble on the friggin 1 yard line. Batch simply never had a good grasp on the ball as it was snapped to him, and a pulling Alan Faneca knocked the ball squarely out of Batch's hands. Very reminiscent of last year's play against the Colts. At least there was no return, and the Dolphins took over inside their own 5.
Time for the defense to leave its mark on this game. And it did. Polamalu almost forced a turnover, jarring the ball from Chris Chambers on a reverse before he could even make the exchange. Unfortunately the ball didn't bounce our way and they retained possession. On 3rd and 2 on the Pittsburgh 41, our defense made one of the bigger plays of the game, stopping Ronnie Brown for a -2 yard loss. Ike Taylor showed why he's an elite run-stopping corner by making the play.
The Steelers regained possession at their own 13 with 6:25 to go. I didn't even have time to start yelling at Batch to engineer one more drive; on our first play from scrimmage, Heath Miller sprung free on a crossing route and outraced Zach Thomas and eventually a safety for an 87 yard touchdown! Miami was so lost on this play. A safety didn't even come into the picture until Miller was at the Miami 40. Whisenhunt strikes again and it's 21-17 Steelers .
Our defensive line really dug in at this point. On 1st down, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel pressured Culpepper into an incompletion. On the next play, Ike Taylor came on a blitz, and Culpepper threw an ill-advised ball that was picked off by Troy! Steelers fans collectively sighed a breath of relief, as it seemed we were going to escape with some late 4th quarter heroics.
On 4th and 4, Jeff Reed had a chance to at least guarantee overtime for the Steelers with a 43 yard attempt, but he duck-hooked his kick, and Miami was still alive. Reed did make all 4 of his XPAs, but man that kick was ugly. I don't know if it was a bad snap or hold, but wow, it wasn't even close.
Culpepper leads the offense back on the field for what needed to be a TD drive. Again, no time to blink, as his first pass of the drive is picked off by Joey Porter and returned for a TD. Nail in the coffin. Game over. 28-17 Steelers!