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The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the most memorable Steelers vs. Dolphins contests

A look back at the most memorable games in the history of the Steelers and Dolphins

Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers and the Dolphins have been at it for 51 years, and it’s always a great matchup. The rivalry dates back to 1971 and started off with the Dolphins winning the first three games, and the Steelers the next three. From 1981-1987, the mammals took five straight, but Pittsburgh eon five straight of their own from 2004-2010, and have won the last two chapters in the series. This week, BTSC takes a look at the more memorable games that took place between the Dolphins and Steelers.

Here’s a brief tale of the tape:

Points: Points: Dolphins 583, Steelers 572

Wins: Steelers 15, Dolphins 13

Home Record: Steelers 9-4, Dolphins 9-6

Shutouts: 2 - Dolphins 21, Steelers 0 (9/20/1998), Steelers 3, Dolphins 0 (11/26/2007)

Biggest Win Margin: Dolphins 34, Steelers 7 (10/7/1984)

Closest Win Margin: Steelers 23, Dolphins 22 (10/24/2010), Steelers 21, Dolphins 20 (12/13/1993)

Overtime Games: 1 - Steelers 16, Dolphins 13 (11/20/1994)

Postseason Record: Steelers 2, Dolphins 2

December 31, 1972 - Dolphins 21, Steelers 17 (1972 AFC Championship Game)

The renaissance of the Pittsburgh Steelers began a week before with a little-known play called the Immaculate Reception. Because of the NFL’s rotation of home playoff games back then, the last-second home win over Oakland gave the Men of Steel home-field advantage for the AFC Championship Game against unbeaten Miami on New Years Eve. The Steelers got on the board first after safety Glen Edwards intercepted Morall and luck prevailed as the Steelers retained possession of two fumbles by Franco Harris and Terry Bradshaw. Brad was trying to find the end zone on a keeper, but the Dolphins nailed the Steelers QB and the ball careened out of his hands. Luckily Gerry “Moon” Mullins alertly fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown and a Roy Gerela kick-after made the score 7-0. There was major concern though when Bradshaw remained on the Three Rivers turf, and when he wasn’t right upon his return in the next series, forcing another exit that some speculate was a shoulder injury, but ultimately proved to be a concussion. It seemed that the Steelers were on track when L.C. Greenwood helped s field goalhut down the Dolphins offense and force a punt, but a huge play for Miami came on punter Larry Seiple’s run on a fake punt to set up an Earl Morrall to Larry Csonka touchdown toss (where he flattens Mel Blount in the process) to tie the score at 7-7. With Terry Hanratty replacing Bradshaw, the offense was stalling, but the Steel Curtain flummoxed the Dolphins attack as well for a dead-knotted score at halftime. After intermission, Hanratty came out firing to move the Steelers down the field. But the big play was a 24-yard run play courtesy of Frenchy Fuqua that looked like it could go all the way. But the French Count slipped in the open field and was brought down at the 13. The Men of Steel ultimately had to settle for a 14-yard field goal on the drive and a 10-7 deficit for the undefeated phins. But Don Shula’s bold decision to replace Earl Morrall at quarterback in the second half with Bob Griese, who’s injured ankle sideline him for most of the season, paid off. Initially, Joe Greene and the Steelers defense harassed No. 12 in white, but a 52-yard pass play to speedster Paul Warfield got the Dolphins down deep. It looked like the Steelers would thwart that attempt, but a timely Jack Ham interception was negated when an off-sides penalty on Dwight White was called. Jim Kiick’s touchdown run from the two gave Miami their first lead and one they would never relinquish. Hanratty was ineffective, however good enough to get Chuck Noll’s team into position for a Gerela field goal that was blocked. Jim Kiick’s second touchdown run, this time from the three, gave Shula and Co a 21-10 lead. Despite being groggy and no such thing as a concussion protocol or blue tents back then, Bradshaw returned and got the home crowd on their feet with a 12-yard pass to Al Young.

Excitement was in the air as the Steel Curtain held Griese’s offense to a three-and-out. However, TB12 wasn’t right and that disallowed the offense to fire on all cylinders. An interception by linebacker Nick Buoniconti didn’t seal the deal though, as Edwards and White stuffed Czonka on a 4th and one from the Steelers 10. Another miracle wasn’t to be though, as Mike Kolen intercepted Bradshaw to end the Steelers fantastic season. As Bradshaw trotted into the locker room, the home fans gave the blonde bomber a thoughtful ovation, just knowing deep down that this wasn’t the end, but merely a beautiful beginning for Steel City football. Win or lose, the game would become insignificant when news of the tragic death of the Pirates legend Roberto Clemente traumatized the city and shocked the sports world.

December 30, 1979 - Steelers 34, Dolphins 14 (1979 AFC Divisional Game)

A role-reversal from earlier in the decade was in effect as the Steelers were now the AFC’s finest and the Miami Dolphins were trying to overtake the three-time Super Bowl Champs that were looking to cap off the decade with a fourth. However, the Steelers were facing the No. 2 run defense in the league with a unit that wasn’t as dominant as once was during the 70s. But the passing game would come out smoking, as Terry Bradshaw (21/31, 230 yards, 2 TDs) comes out hot, engineering TD drives on Pittsburgh’s first 3 possessions. Sidney Thornton would start the scoring with a one-yard run in the first, followed by a John Stallworth’s (6 for 86 yards, 1 TD) grab of 17 with a failed point-after by the inconsistent Matt Bahr, and Lynn Swann (3 for 37 yards, 1 TD) and his 20-yard TD reception. Just like that, the Steelers led 20-0 before the first quarter gun sounded. In the second, Bob Griese and the Dolphins drove down to the Steelers 6, but a corner-blitz by J.T. Thomas made Griese throw it up for grabs to be intercepted by linebacker Dennis “Dirt” Winston. But the Steelers would give Miami another chance to get back in when Sidney Thornton surrendered the ball on a fumble, but the Steel Curtain stiffened on a 4th and goal from the one and Don Shula’s team turned it over on downs. A Robin Cole disruption of a punt attempt gave the ball back to Pittsburgh late in the half, but a Cole hold on Matt Bahr’s field goal negated it and the first half expired.

To start the third quarter, the Dolphins got a break when George Roberts’ punt phantomly bounced off of the back of Dwayne Woodruff’s cleat, unbeknownst to most, the visitors had the ball deep in Steelers territory. Duriel Harris’ 7-yard TD reception from Griese, followed by an Uwe Von Schamann point-after made the score 20-7. But the Steelers were too much for Miami on this day. The very next drive, Rocky Bleier, following Franco Harris’ long run to the doorstep, took it in from the one to extend the lead back to 20. After Harris and Czonka traded touchdowns in Quarter No. 4, the black and gold were driving in for another score when rookie Greg Hawthorne coughed up the ball and Miami recovered at the enemy 7. But it was over, especially when Woodruff picked off Greise’s final pass in the end zone with time expired. In a banner day in the Steel City. Bradshaw finished 21/31 for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns, Harris ran for a score and 83 of the home team’s 159 rushing yards, while the defense limited Miami to a mere 25 yards rushing in 22 attempts and Jack Lambert, Joe Greene and Gary Dunn combined for 3 sacks of Griese. Chuck Noll’s proclamation to reporters that his team “hasn’t peaked yet” was a stirring reminder to the Houston Oilers who awaited in the AFC Championship game a week later. The rest is history. Great history.

January 6, 1985 - Dolphins 45, Steelers 28 (1985 AFC Championship Game)

The Steelers of 1984 were in their first season post-Terry Bradshaw, lost Jack Lambert for half of the season with a turf toe injury, and were the youngest team in the league. At 9-7, Chuck Noll’s team won a weak AFC Central and snuck into the playoffs as a division winner. After a shocking defeat of the 13-3 Denver Broncos on the road in the Divisional Round, the 14-2 Miami Dolphins, a team that destroyed the Steelers 31-7 in October, were waiting in South Beach with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Everybody knows the story of the Steelers and every other team in position to draft Dan Marino passing on the Pitt quarterback and said QB that broke six NFL full-season passing records in that sophomore season of 1984. That story was on the minds of many when the blitzing barnstormers of the Steel City was matched up against Marino and his high-powered offense, while the ball control Steelers were pitted against the Killer B revival in Miami-Dade.

As expected, Marino struck first with a 40-yard bomb to Mark Clayton (4 for 95 yards and 1 TD) to forge an early lead with 7:15 gone in the first. The Steelers countered with a long run by Walter Abercrombie that set in motion a RIch Erenberg seven-yard saunter into the end zone with 3:30 remaining in the initial quarter. Brothers Glen and Lyle Blackwood both picked-off Mark Malone (20/26 for 312 yards, 3 TDs, and 3 INTs) passes in the second quarter, but the Dolphins only were able to muster an Uwe von Schamann 26-yard field goal. Surprisingly, the Steelers actually took a lead of 14-10, when wide receiver John Stallworth (4 receptions for 111 yds and 2 TDs) pulled-in a 65-yard touchdown reception with 2:52 remaining until intermission. But that wouldn’t last long, as Marino would throw a 41-yard touchdown to wide receiver Mark Duper (5 catches for 148 yds and 2 TDs) and an interception by William Judson then set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Tony Nathan (61 yards rushing, 8 catches for 114 yds and a TD) to give Miami a 24-14 lead before halftime.

Miami’s momentum was maintained in the second half, Marino completed a 36-yard touchdown to Duper. But the Steelers wouldn’t go away so easily into the Miami mid-day sun. Malone found Stallworth once again for a 19-yard touchdown, but the Dolphins scored two more touchdowns with Woody Bennet’s TD run from the one, and Marino’s fourth TD throw, this time to Nat Moore clinched a Super Bowl berth for Don Shula’s team. Malone would connect with Wayne Capers on a 29-yard pass play to close out the scoring, but the clock had already struck midnight on Chuck Noll’s Cinderella Steelers and the white, aqua, and orange proved to be too formidable, amassing 569 yards of offense and Marino going 21/32 for an AFC Championship record 421 yds and 4 TDs. Malone and the Steelers offense did put up big numbers though with Walter Abercrombie, Frank Pollard and Rich Erenberg rushing for a combined 147 yards, but No. 16’s three interceptions ultimately aided the demise of his team. The difference remains that that the Steelers defense couldn’t get to Marino, while the Dolphins capitalized on defense on a plethora of Pittsburgh turnovers.

The game also marked the final playoff appearances of Stallworth, Malone, Lambert, Frank Pollard, Mike Webster, Larry Brown, Donnie Shell, Bennie Cunningham and a host of others. The Steelers fought with great pride and valiance, but the game truly marked the end of the remarkable 1970s dynasty.

November 26, 1989 - Steelers 34, Dolphins 14

Usually dolphins thrive in water and steel rusts, but on this day mascot roles would reverse as the Don Shula’s 7-4 squad was looking to stay in a first-place tie with Buffalo in the AFC East and the 5-6 visitors from the Steel City were just trying to stay a loat against Miami, who they’ve never beaten while on the road. It looked like a beat down in Broward County was about to commence, as Dan Marino led his team to touchdowns on their first two possessions for an early 14-0 lead when Sammie Smith capped off a drive from a yard away and Mark Clayton hauled-in a 66-yard pass from No. 13 to make the score 14-0 early. Those scores done opened up the heavens as a torrential downpour began, dumping two inches of rain, and resulting in pools of ankle-deep water and a whole lot of slipping and sliding. That’s exact what happened to the snap on Reggie Roby’s punt attempt, as Larry Griffin was able to jump on the wet ball for good field position. That break was for naught, as Gary Anderson’s field goal attempt was thwarted by the rain and blocked. One of the most famous NFL Images was caught on camera as Bubby Brister and Mike Mularkey collaborated on a pass, catch, and run of 34 yards. Mularkey would splash and slide another seven yards into the end zone but was deemed down at the one. Merril Hoge then busted into the end zone for the score. On the very next possession, the Steelers defense swarmed as Carnell Lake scoops up Sammie Smith’s fumbled handoff and alertly pitches it to Dwayne Woodruff, who glides in for the score with 6:44 left in the half. On the next play, Carnell Lake blasted Marino, who would land on his shoulder and emerge in wincing pain. A play later, Marino and center Jeff Uhlenhake would have a botched exchange and NT Gerald Williams would recover the fumble, but the Steelers went and failed on fourth down with kicking conditions being less than optimal. The Steelers would get the ball back and Brister would complete a 34-yard pass to Arizona rookie Derek Hill that helped set up an Anderson FG at the end of the first half to be up 17-14 at intermission.

The Steelers kept momentum going upon coming out of the locker room, forcing a punt, and Brister linking-up with Hill again, this time for a 53-yard pass play to the Miami 5. Merril Hoge trekked in for a 5-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 24-14. But the Steelers were rolling and not willing to slow down as evidenced by Larry Griffin’s forcing-out of the football on the ensuing kick allowing Tim Terrell to recover for the Steelers and Anderson knocking in a 42-yarder to further widen the scoring gap. Later, with an Anderson miss and Marino departing for the locker room, Scott Secules came in to try to spark the home team, but a pass bounce caromed off of Jim Jensen into the waiting hands of Greg Lloyd. No. 95 returned the ball to the one, where Merril Hoge closed out the score by pounding in for another one-yard touchdown to close out the scoring at 34-14 at the end of the third. The score would hold as the Steelers looked for dry clothes and a chance to continue on a trip to the postseason.

September 26, 2004 - Steelers 13, Dolphins 3

Rook You Like a Hurricane was the theme for this contest as Hurricane Jeanne caused torrential downpours enough to have the NFL move the game to a nighttime affair. The Steelers were also coming off of a disaster of their own when their prized first-rounder, Ben Roethlisberger, was forced into action after incumbent Tommy Maddox was injured the week before in Baltimore. This was much to the chagrin of veterans like Alan Faneca who was asked if it was exciting to have the prized rookie start, “Exciting?” Faneca retorted to reporters. “No, it’s not exciting. Do you want to go to work with some little kid just out of college?” Ben briefly justified the thoughts of those veteran naysayers when his first pass` ` was intercepted by Patrick. Surtain at an attempt to throw it away. But Mother Nature was playing for both teams’ defenses as dreadful field conditions led to three turnovers in the initial three minutes of play as James Farrior recovered a Donald Lee fumble and Ike Taylor robbed A.J. Feeley on a pass play to lead to the game’s first points, a Jeff Reed field goal. Reed’s only good kick in three, first-half attempts on a swampy surface that made Dagobah look like Phoenix, gave the visitors a 3-0 lead at halftime.

In the second half, both teams traded field goals and more muddy mistakes were made. Ben Roethlisberger (12 of 22 for 163 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) got the Steelers in the end zone on a late scoring pass to Hines Ward (9 catches for 96 yards) to finalize things at 13-3. The Steelers defense was brilliant, collecting four turnovers via two James Farrior fumble recoveries and interceptions for Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend. But the top star that was initially Hurricane Jeanne was forced to step aside as Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger was christened on this wet, tropical night as the next Steelers superstar QB.

November 26, 2007 - Steelers 3, Dolphins 0

The play on the field for this game was absolutely dreadful, mostly in part to the monsoon-like weather that afflicted Allegheny County and the surface of Heinz Field being compromised after a full slate of high school championship and college games being played over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. This Monday Night Football matchup was delayed 25 minutes due to lightning, making the Steeler fans wait for the return of Joey Porter to Pittsburgh. And Peezy made his presence known right away, when he intercepted Ben Roethlisberger on the game’s first drive. But the Dolphins gave the ball right back, when Ricky Williams fumbled the ball and dislocated his shoulder after a hit by James Farrior. Jeff Reed, who would miss a 44-yarder, got a chance to win it on the final play of the game and he did so from 24-out. Hines Ward caught nine balls for 88 yards, Willie Parker’s 81 put him over 1,000 for the third-consecutive year and Ben Roethlisberger led the way going 18/21 for 165 yards and suffering five sacks. The Steelers up their record to 9-2, while the Dolphins remained winless at 0-11.

December 8, 2013 - Dolphins 34, Steelers 28

Seriously, why is the weather frequently a huge storyline when these two teams get together? Instead of quagmire, Heinz Field was the scene of blizzard-like conditions before this contest that would mark Mike Wallace’s return to Heinz Field. The Steelers were fresh off of a devastating loss to the Ravens to drop to 5-7, a $100,000 fine for Mike Tomlin, and were on the verge of elimination. But as bad as it seemed for the home team, on the other sideline, there couldn’t have been a worse scenario for 6-6 Miami. But apparently you can’t freeze these Florida men. The scoring started with Ben Roethlisberger locating Manny Sanders on the team’s second possession for a five-yard score. Ben’s 213th TD pass made him the all-time franchise leader over Terry Bradshaw. But Miami would score ten straight with a Caleb Sturgis field goal after a 48-yard scramble by Ryan Tannehill and a No. 17 to Charles Clay touchdown from the six courtesy of a Cameron Wake strip sack of Ben. The third quarter began with Miami up 10-7, and a flurry of touchdowns, as every possession ended in six. A Daniel Thomas four-yard run (made possible by a sketchy call on Ryan Clark for a helmet-to-helmet hit), a Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown hookup of 43, Troy Polamalu’s 19-yard pick-six, and a Brian Hartline TD reception made the scoreboard between the Ketchup bottles read 24-21 in favor of the visitors. Hartline’s TD on 3rd and 2 (set up by a 40-yard connection between Tannehill and Clay on 3rd and 4) was originally ruled out of bounds, but was justifiably reversed after replays proved that both feet were in.

The Steelers would retake the lead though right at the start of the fourth with a 16-yard scoring connection to make the score 28-24. But three series later, the Dolphins got their groove back when Daniel Thomas’ 55-yard run made possible another Tannehill to Clay joint effort for the score. a did it again in the fourth with 2:53 left in the game and a 31-28 lead. The Steelers would try to rally, but they turned the ball over on downs deep in their own end. That wasn’t it though, as a quick Dolphins three-and-out and a field goal later, the Steelers had the ball back for one last gasp with 1:06 remaining, but nothing worked for Mike Tomlin’s team. With one last play from his own 20, Ben threw an 18-yard completion to Sanders, who ran about five yards and pitched it back to Cotchery, who flipped it Le’veon Bell, who pitched it backwards to Marcus Gilbert, who lateralled it to Roethlisberger, who got it to AB, who took it miraculously down the left sideline for what appeared to be the game winner of epic proportions. But wait, it was deemed that Brown had stepped out of bounds in the clear, by a hair, at the Miami 12-yard line. The ultimate tease for team and fans alike, the Steelers remained snake bitten in a game that would have ultimately been the difference between staying home and getting an invitation to the postseason dance.

January 8, 2017 - Steelers 30, Dolphins 12 (2016 AFC Wildcard Game)

Le’Veon Bell finally got a chance to contribute in the postseason and it was well-worth the wait. With the Heinz Field faithful buzzing, the Killer B’s stung the mammals from South Beach in a rematch of a 30-15 embarrassment in the regular season in muggy Miami. This time around, home field advantage belonged to the winners of eight-straight on their home turf, frigid Heinz Field. The Steelers wasted no time getting up on the visitors early. Antonio Brown (converted short Ben Roethlisberger passes for 50 and 62 yard touchdowns on the Men of Steel’s initial two drives. After a Miami field goal on the next possession, the Steelers hit paydirt again. Le’Veon Bell (2 TDs), who set a franchise playoff record a with 167 yards, pounded his way in from the one with more than three minutes remain in the first. Miami wasn’t going away though and Andrew Franks second field goal was proof of that. The Floridian guests also forced a Michael Thomas interception of Ben Roethlisberger on the next series, but a James Harrison sack and subsequent fumble recovered by Stephon Tuitt at the Steelers 8, wasted it and the halftime clock came due with the Steelers leading 20-6.

In the second half, the Steelers kept pounding away at the Dolphins, with a fumble recovery by L.T. Walton on a Mike Mitchell sack of quarterback Mike Moore and a Ryan Shazier interception. The Steelers turned both turnovers into ten points and a 30-6 advantage after a Boswell field goal and Bell’s second TD run (8 yards) on the afternoon. Miami scored late in the fourth, but the two-point conversion failed. Andrew Gase’s team had another chance to creep back, but the Steelers defense shut the aqua and orange down. Pittsburgh sacked Moore five times, forced turnovers on three consecutive possessions and Bud Dupree’s second quarter hit of Moore was jaw dropping and bone rattling. Roethlisberger finished 13/18 for 189 yards with two TDS and two INTs, but more disconcerting was the walking boot on his right foot. Seven would be okay the following week in the win over Kansas City. The Steelers would ultimately lose in the AFC Championship to New England, but the once 4-5 black and gold were for real in the frozen air of the Steel City on this day.