Week 7 Recap: Grand Theft Miami

Mike Tomlin likes to say “Style points don’t matter.”  That’s his unique way of saying it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win.  It’s a good thing games aren’t judged on style because the Pittsburgh Steelers would’ve been mocked by Perez Hilton for their 23-22 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

For the second week in a row, the vaunted Steelers defense made a mediocre quarterback look like an All-Pro.  Chad Henne, who threw four picks in his last two games, completed 23/36 for 257 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.   While the defense did force a Brian Hartline fumble, they managed only one measly sack.

You knew it was going to be one of those days when rookie Emmanuel Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff.   After forcing a field goal, the defense found themselves right back on the field thanks to a brainfart by Ben Roethlisberger on the Steelers’ third offensive play.   With the pocket collapsing all around Big Ben, he decided to try an inane flip pass to Redzone Redman with two guys holding on to him.  The ball dribbled harmlessly to the turf where linebacker Koa Misi fell on top of it.  Once again, the Steeler D held the Fins to a field goal.

Late in the first quarter, the offense finally got on track.  Highlighted by a leaping 43 yard catch by Hines Ward, the Steelers ate up over eight minutes of clock with a thirteen play 80 yard drive.  The drive stalled inside the Miami 10 and they settled for a Skippy Reed field goal.   The Fins next possession ended with the Hartline fumble, which set the Steelers up deep in enemy territory.  They took the lead on a 21 yard TD to Hines, who eluded three defenders on his way to the end zone.   Ward, who would finish with 7 catches for 131 yards and a TD, was brilliant all day long.

The Dolphins moved the ball effectively on their next drive but once again had to settle for a field goal.  Sanders, who to his credit did a very good job on kickoff returns after the early botch, brought the ball out to midfield.   On their first snap, Big Ben hit a streaking Mike Wallace for a 53 yard touchdown bomb.  That would be the last pass Wallace caught all afternoon as the 60 Minute Man only showed up for 30 this week.

Miami answered with their first touchdown drive of the game.   Picking on the Steelers secondary, particularly Bryant McFadden, Henne moved the team 60 yards in a little over three minutes.  A little 8 yard out to Davone Bess turned into a 26 yard touchdown when he broke out of a Willie Gay tackle, sidestepped a whiffing Ryan Clark, and outraced Lawrence Timmons to the end zone.  It was a comedy of errors which brought back horrible memories of last year’s inept pass defense.

It didn’t help that guys were falling by the wayside left and right.  First, Flozell Adams had his ankle rolled up and was replaced by Jonathan Scott.  The lack of Flo and the horrible Doug Legursky no doubt contributed to Rashard Mendenhall’s worst game of the season (15 carries for a putrid 37 yards).  Then Mister Woodley disappeared with a hamstring injury of undetermined severity.  Rookie Jason Worilds replaced him and actually showed some flashes of brilliance.  He’s a hellacious pass-rusher who reminds me a bit of Jevon Kearse with his speed off the edge.   However, he’s clearly a one-trick pony at this stage, as all he seemed to do was go after the QB where Woodley is flexible enough to run with tight ends or drop back into coverage..

The third quarter began almost as disastrously as the first with the Dolphins returning the opening kickoff 46 yards.  Thankfully, it was called back due to a holding penalty.   But the Steelers good fortune lasted all of three plays.  On the third snap of the second half, Aaron Smith left the game with a torn tricep.  He’ll undergo an MRI later today but it looks like he’s out for the season.  Again.

The Ben-to-Hines Connection resumed on their first possession of the third, hitting twice for 36 yards.  On a third and 12 from the Miami 18, Ben had his second brainfart of the afternoon.   Scrambling away from danger, he sprinted a good two or three yards past the line of scrimmage before deciding to release the ball.   That’s an illegal forward pass, FYI.  Skippy = Field goal.

Miami pounded out another field goal drive to end the quarter.  The fourth was uneventful for the first six or seven minutes as the teams traded punts.  Then came Big Ben Brainfart #3 when he was sacked by two Dolphins and the ball popped free in the struggle.  Make like a groupie in Milledgeville, Ben.  GO DOWN.

Luckily, Maurkice Pouncey snagged the ball to prevent any further tragedy.  The Fins, perhaps invigorated by their sudden defensive superiority, moved the ball confidently down the field.  Two long passes against our Swiss Cheese Secondary led to yet another Miami field goal.  This boot shockingly put the Fins ahead 22-20 with five minutes left.

Sanders set the Black and Gold up at mid-field with another fantastic kickoff return.   Time for some Big Ben heroics.  A 29 yard screen to Mewelde Moore (where’s he been hiding?) got them down to the Miami 14.  A Redman run and an unnecessary roughness penalty later, it was first and goal from the 4.  Two more runs gained bupkiss.  Then came the play which will live in infamy.

Look, I’m pretty much the biggest Steelers homer you’ll ever meet.  I believe Super Bowl XL was officiated fairly, that Ben shouldn’t have been suspended for hitting on skanks, and James Harrison is a clean and honorable player.  But even I cannot defend what happened on third down.  The refs blew it in our favor.

Ben took the shotgun snap and immediately took off running on a designed scramble.  About a yard short, he dove for the end zone, stretching out hoping to break the plane.   The Miami defender smacked him in the elbow before he crossed the white line, causing a fumble.  The ball rolled into the end zone where two or three Miami players jumped on it with only Doug Legursky anywhere close to the pigskin.  Whistles were blowing as one ref was signaling touchdown while the others were rushing in to sift through the pile.  A Miami player emerged with the ball.

Due to the one ref calling touchdown, the play went to review.  It was pretty clear Ben fumbled before breaking the plane so that wiped the score off the board.  The issue then became who recovered the fumble.  For the first time that I can remember, the ref explained that you had to see clear proof of who recovered the ball otherwise the fumbling team retained possession.   Since you couldn’t see who had the ball in that scrum of humanity, the Steelers kept the ball.

How was it not clear who recovered that ball?  There were three Dolphins lying on top of the football!  I understand because they didn’t call it a fumble on the field and didn’t un-pull the pile, it’s hard to determine who had it initially.  But barring bottom of the pile finger biting and groin twisting by Legursky, I’m fairly certain Miami had possession.

Now, let’s forget the hysterical whining from South Florida for a second.  Yes, they got hosed.  But there was also two and a half minutes left.  Even if Miami were given the ball, the Steelers had three time outs plus the two minute warning.  They could’ve easily forced a punt and given Ben plenty of time to work the team into game-winning field goal range.  Likewise, Miami still had over two minutes to drive into last-second field goal range themselves.  So let’s not act like this blown call completely ended the game.

After Skippy’s field goal put the Steelers ahead, the Dolphins took the field with time on the clock.  Miami ran four plays netting a grand total of four yards.  On fourth and six, Worilds blasted Henne, hitting him just as he was about to throw.  The duck wobbled through the air where Silverback narrowly missed coming down with an INT.

I guess I could be an optimist and say, “If the Steelers played this bad and still won, that’s a pretty good sign.”  But, man, if the Dolphins could finish even 1/3 of their drives, we would’ve had a blowout of the wrong kind.   This game was like a microcosm of everything that went wrong last season from crippling injuries to key players, dumb mistakes at the worst times, almost no running game, and absolutely atrocious play from the secondary.  And that’s a nightmare I think we’d all prefer not to relive.

Topics: Aaron Smith, Baltimore Ravens, Ben Roethlisberger, Big Ben, Black And Gold, Black And Gold Blog, Chad Henne, Charlie Batch, Davone Bess, Dennis Dixon, Devone Bess, Hines Ward, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Lamarr Woodley, Maurkice Pouncey, Miami Blown Call, Miami Dolphins, Mike Tomlin, Mike Wallace, Milledgeville Ben, Nice Pick Cowher, Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers Blog, Roethlisberger, Roethlisberger Concussion, Roethlisberger Fumble, Ronnie Brown, Steeler Nation, Steelers, Steelers Blog, Steelers Nation, Stillers, Super Bowl Champions, Tomlinisms

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  • Russ

    Watching the game myself, yes Miami appeared to have initially jumped on the ball, but let’s be honest. How often is there a fumble where you were sure you knew who recovered the ball only to have the refs signal that a team had possession but when the pile clears the other team had the ball?? It happens, and nothing was clear yesterday. If the refs had not signaled a TD could a Steeler maybe have continued fighting for it and gained possession? I believe Roethlisberger stated that he had a hold of the ball at one point and let go when the ref said it’s a TD get up? It was a close game that has been spoiled because of this stupid call. Keep winning Miami so we can see you again in the playoffs; and hopefully it will be another good one!

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Yeah, Ben claimed he had “a hand” on the ball then released it when he heard a ref shouting “TD! TD!”

      But the Dolphins players are saying a ref told them “We know you guys recovered it.” so who to believe? I don’t think you can put stock in what either side claims because what are they gonna say?

      The only thing I must correct is the REFS did not signal touchdown. The ONE linesman on the far sideline signaled it. The other 6 refs were looking at the pile. Watch the replay, none of them signal anything except that one lone ref (who happens to live in Washington PA, by the way. Not hatin’, just sayin’.).

      • Mike

        Chris: Gotta correct you. Gene, the referee, is from Union Town, PA. The original official who ruled the Touchdown was the Pilon judge. The Pilon judge overruled the back of the endzone judge. The Pilon judge didn’t have a view of Ben losing possession before the plane of the goal. He saw Ben have possession, then dive hiding the ball and didn’t see it out of his possession until after he crossed the goal line. The review in slow motion is the only way anyone saw that it was a fumble. Also, you can see in plenty of photos that Ben was in between 2 Miami players, with Legursky, with their hands on the ball. It wasn’t as clear as you are writing it. Not trying to be a homer, but that is what I see from the pictures. Plus, during the replay you can see the ball squirting around before the pile builds up and site of the ball is lost. I see Ben underneath a bunch of white and black jerseys. It makes sense that we would let go once they signal TD and a Miami guy would emerge.

        • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

          All day on Pittsburgh sports radio they’ve been saying Gene Steratore, the ref, was from Washington, PA. Whatever, it’s not that important.

          The head linesman, Jerry Bergman, was also from the Pittsburgh area. He’s the one who made the TD call. He’s the one I was referring to when I said only one person called it a TD and that one person happened to be a local. I may have mixed up the two hometowns but my point was correct.

          And your point about the linesman not seeing the fumble makes no sense. It’s clearly a fumble. Ben fumbled it before he broke the plane. If the linesman was in position to see him break the plane, he had to be in position to see him fumble it. The two actions happened almost simultaneously. How do you see one and not the other?

          That’s HIS JOB to see if the ball is fumbled or not. If all he saw was the dive and then the ball rolling in the end zone, that’s even worse because then he’s GUESSING that the plane was broken. He shouldn’t be signaling TD if he’s not sure or there’s a possibility of a fumble. That’s terrible refereeing. He should’ve stood there like the other refs did and let the scrum sort itself out. THEN they could’ve looked at the replay and determined if there was a fumble or not.

          Any way you slice it, he blew it in the Steelers’ favor while the Fins got hosed. Not trying to be mean or single you out but it I’m glad most of the people I heard on the talk shows today were good enough sports to acknowledged it was a horrible call.

          • Mike

            I wasn’t arguing where Gene was from, I said Union town because I know some friends who live there who know him. I didn’t know the other ref was from Pittsburgh too. Also, I didn’t say it wasn’t a bad call. I just said it wasn’t as close as you made it seem or as easy as a call. We all made our determination in slow motion. His happened in full game speed. When you look from the Pilon judge’s view (and there is the video of it) you can see Ben dive with possession, then roll and you can still see the tip of the ball, while the ball still looks to be in Ben’s possession while he crosses the plane. From the camera coming from the back of the endzone, it is clear as day. I don’t know how they determine it from there, but all I know is once the line judge determines it’s a TD, the play is dead and the rest of them stop officiating. He saw a Ball in Ben’s possession while he crosses the plane, even in slow motion from his angle, the ball still appears in Ben’s possession, you can’t tell it came loose prior to the break of the plane. From his angle, it appeared clear. All the ball has to do is be in Ben’s possession while breaking the plane. From that camera angle, it’s easy to see why he saw that at full speed. Even though, other camera angles proved otherwise, at full game speed and from the pilon view, the pilon judge didn’t have that luxury. Calling me a poor sport and lack there of is irrelevant. I am arguing your point from the pilon judge’s view at full game speed as he saw it and he saw touchdown and at that moment, nothing else matter because the play was dead. If it was not near the endzone then the play obviously would have continued and the scrum play out. Your opinion lies with the back camera view and when the Steelers players stop fighting allowing Miami to come up with the ball. Naturally, that looks fishy, but from the Pilon judge’s view, the guy who determined the field ruling, it was a TD and the play from that point on was dead. It’s the only way you can decipher this situation and that part only is the bad call. However, like I said, it wasn’t as easy a call when you break it down and look at it from that point of view. Sportsmanship? Why go there?

  • Rick

    The fins lost the game because they couldn’t score from deep in Steeler territory twice in the first two times the Steelers touched the ball and fumbled and a third time from the five yard line later in the game.

    In addition, they had two and a half minutes at the end to get their act together and only made four yards in four plays. Even their coach was honest enough to admit that they should have scored and won and didn’t.

    At the end Doug Legursky and Jonathan Scott were at the bottom of the pile and both had their hands on the ball with Legursky in control of it. The refs told them the play was over and they let the ball go. Then the fins player held up the ball as if he had it all along.

    If the fins would have scored on at least one of their three blown opportunities the last fumble would have been a moot point. They lost because they didn’t know how to win in the trenches – not just because of a fumble in the final quarter.

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Yeah, Legursky says he had a piece of it. Ben claimed he had an arm on it. Jonathan Scott claims he had a hand on it. The Dolphins say the refs told them “We know you guys recovered it.”

      That’s an awful lot of hands on one lousy football.

      If you honestly think the Steelers recovered that fumble, no doubt about it, congratulations. You’re a bigger homer than I am. LOL

      You are right about the Dolphins having nobody to blame but themselves for failing to capitalize on all the Steelers mistakes. But considering they only allowed ONE sack and held Mendy to 37 yards, I wouldn’t exactly brag about how well the Steelers played “in the trenches.”

  • http://gottogovacationrentals.com Dave

    The Dolphins defiantly have no one to blame but themselves. You can get to nicer gifts than what the Steelers gave them to start the game. And all the could do with it was get 2 field goals. If they had converted on those chances it might have been a lot more emotionally damaging to the Steelers and caused them to doubt their changes to win. Sucks to be them. They should look in the mirror to see who cost them the game.

  • kyle miller

    I’ve been a reader of yours for a while now. Keep up the good work. I could’t agree with you more about last game. The Steelers love giving us all anxiety I swear. It really felt like last year. I thought the same thing you did too. The Phins had time to come back after the fumble. I’m just glad we didn’t have to be in a position to use our last time outs and put it in Ben’s hands. I know he had a good game, but it felt like the magic was running out. Especially losing Aaron Smith……..

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Thanks, Kyle. I’m sure you saw my “Know Thy Enemy” post for the Dolphins where I was talking with a Fin Fan who didn’t understand why the line was only 3 points. People don’t realize the Steelers NEVER make anything easy. They win comfortably once, maybe twice a year if we’re lucky. The rest of the games we have to sweat it out.

      I agree with the “magic running out.” Not so much Ben but once Smith was gone, Miami started running A LOT better. Assuming we’d get a 3 and out with Miami running three times was by no means a sure bet.

  • Derrick

    I don’t think Henne is a bad quarterback. He played a bad game against new england. If you deduct that game he has like 9 TDs and 2 INTs. Drew Brees threw 4 last week and he is considered a great QB and also has a ton more experience.

  • Mike

    Bro,

    In the head-on shot from across the endzone it shows Ben fumble, then the Miami guys jump on it, then the ball pops out again, then Ben grabs it, then the city of Miami and Legursky (who needs to go back to the practice squad for a month or more) land on top of him. I know this sounds like I was watching from a grassy knoll, but I watched the replay a few times. The problem is CBS just skips straight from one shot of the fumble to another so many times they don’t follow through on the one that matters. He had it. No question. Not that it matters, we got the W.

  • todd

    Chris, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Steelers letting the clock run out in the first half rather than try to get in field goal range. I was dumbfounded that they would let the opportunity slip by for more points!