Steelers-Dolphins Recap: 23-22 — Fumbles and Defense

After Ben Roethlisberger fumbled at the goal line late in the fourth quarter — and before referee Gene Steratore came out from under the review hoodie to weigh in — I got a call from my buddy Andy.

“Did he score?”

“Nope,” I said before adding, “The thing is, the side judge (or whoever) signaled touchdown so fast who the hell knows who actually recovered the ball.”

And when Steratore finally offered his explanation, he said as much. It was a weird turn of events but not wholly unexpected given the foreshadowing above. Hey, shit happens, and this time it favored the Steelers. That said, I’m sure this is somehow James Harrison’s fault, and he will rightly be fined $75,000 for the transgression. But in the meantime, Skippy converted the 19-yard field goal, giving the Steelers the 23-22 lead, and four plays later, Pittsburgh heads to New Orleans 5-1.

To the South Beach highlights…

* Pittsburgh lost the turnover battle and yet still managed to eke out a victory on the road. Front and center: Manny Sanders had a rough start but recovered nicely. I mentioned it during last week’s Steelers Lounge podcast: subbing Antonio Brown for Sanders is all well and good until he fumbles a return. That took about five seconds Sunday. But Manny had a big third-down conversion — just like last week — but more than that, he had two huge returns, the last setting up the game-winning field goal. I’d prefer avoiding that trade-off every week, but if the bottom line is a Steelers win then, well … bring it on.

* Following Sanders’ miscue and Big Ben’s fumble-pass that gave the Dolphins six quick points, it’s was nice to see the Steelers offense go to the no-huddle. We’ve been begging for it for a couple years now, and Ben, even with a month off, had little trouble running it efficiently. I can’t say enough about the job Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch did during the first four weeks, but what Ben brings to the table is immeasurable. Yes, he holds onto the ball too long, and yes, he takes a lot of hits, but we long ago accepted those shortcomings.

The thing is, the offensive line is — and I feel weird even saying this — vastly improved from 2009 and 2008. Maurkice Pouncey has something to do with that, but Pittsburgh is without Willie Colon — and Flozell Adams for most of Sunday — which means that Sean Kugler probably deserves some kind of award.

* The Steelers’ running game wasn’t a factor in Miami but, ironically, Mewelde More had his best effort of the season. During the preseason, when we all thought Jonathan Dwyer would get cut, Gretz made the case for dropping Moore for Dwyer on the grounds that Dwyer had more long-term potential. I thought it was a crazy notion at the time, but after watching Moore muddle his way through the first five games, Gretz might have been onto something. Well, it took seven weeks, but MeMo finally showed his worth. Good timing, dude.

* The Steelers’ defense had two extremely short fields to start the game. And both times they surrendered a field goal. That’s the difference between being a good team and a Super Bowl contender. Six-0 isn’t concerning. 14-0 and Pittsburgh probably loses.

* JJ mentioned in on Steelers Lounge Podcast #10, but Doug Legursky, who got his fourth consecutive start at right guard in place of injured Trai Essex, had some issues pass-blocking against the Browns last week. A lot of the same — at least early — against the Dolphins. He had two holding penalties in the first quarter, although he appeared to settle down after that. (To be fair, I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to Legursky, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until JJ tells me otherwise.)

* I can’t blame the Dolphins for blitzing Roethlisberger to begin the game since he’s only been back a week, but it’s nice to see Big Ben stand tall in the pocket and deliver accurately under pressure. He did it a few times, but the pitch and catch to Hines Wards for six points stands out. First because Ben recognized the defense and got rid of the ball, but mostly for Hines’ after-the-catch effort to get into the end zone.

* Random observation: no idea what the Steelers were doing at the end of the first half. After a great catch by Hines to get the Steelers into Dolphins territory, Bruce Arians has a relapse and tried a Mike Wallace end-around that was so ill-conceived that Wallace didn’t even touch the ball. A play later, Ben takes a sack, and with timeouts and more than 10 seconds on the clock, the Steelers headed to the locker room. Puzzling.

* When I first saw rookie Jason Worilds in the game late in the second quarter, I wondered if the Steelers were just giving LaMarr Woodley a breather because of the South Florida heat. Turned out, Woodley tweaked a hammy and didn’t return. Worilds had a rough first series, and the Steelers ended up taking him out, moving Juan Timmons to outside linebacker, and bringing Larry Foote in to play inside. But Worilds saw a lot of snaps in the second half, and he was responsible for forcing Chad Henne into an end-of-game pick. (Okay, it was an incomplete pass, but Pittsburgh actually lost field position on the Deebo interception. Let’s call it a wash.) In between, Worilds looked … well, raw.

Not surprising, really, but maybe a concern if Woodley’s injury lingers. Even more so if Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel aren’t available next week against the Saints. But as Mike Tomlin likes to say: if a guy goes down, he expects his backup to step in and perform. It’s one thing to say that against the Dolphins. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out next week — even a Saints team that got housed by the Browns.

Whatever.  For now, the Steelers are 5-1, and start a three-game road trip with a win. We’ll take it.

* One more thing: as usual, we’ll be podcasting it up tonight. Feel free to leave questions or comments for the show here.

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  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    Schefter reporting that Aaron Smith tore his tricep. Again. That’s unreal. Of all the injuries NFL players suffer, tricep is at the bottom of the list. Unless you’re A. Smith. Well, Ziggy, time to step up, dude.

    • Johnnyknoxville

      looks like smiths career is over. thats 3 injuries in 4 years, this guy is having it rough. i dont think he comes back, esp w a tricep injury hte same one that ended his year a 2 years ago (07) i think.

      This sucks…our run d is going to suck….we may not win games.

      • RoB D

        The career probably isn’t over. Just our season. Big difference..

        Only half kidding…this is a weak year, I think, in the NFL as I don’t see a really dominant team out there. We will win or lose with Ben playing a massive role. I just think losing Aaron is every bit as bad as the effect of losing Troy or Ben or..ahem..Pouncey.

        I picked Ziggy to be the breakout player this year and I guess I’d better be right. I read somewhere that he may have some kind of nagging foot injury that is holding him back a little. Well.. heal up, kiddo..it’s hero time.

        • Johnnyknoxville

          actually I dont think its that bad for us this season. everyyear smith was out, so was TP….if TP is healthy we should b fine.

    • http://twitter.com/DonnieDraper Richard Whitman

      Now we are really going to see if Ziggy is a first round talent, and a starter for years to come.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501363946 Ashley Hill

    Bull. Miami won that game.

    • Gretz

      Scoreboard says otherwise. You know why Miami didn’t win? Because it started two drives inside the 20-yard line and didn’t come away with a single touchdown. Nobody to blame but themselves.

    • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

      I agree. Miami won that game. The Steelers are now 4-2. Congrats, Dolphins, on your first home victory this season!

      /love whiners

  • B&G bias

    First the blatant no personal foul call on Harrison … (the referee crew was downgraded due to it) and now this blatantly bad call. You could clearly see two Dolphins jump on the ball, and #59 for the Dolphins came up holding the ball… now who do you think recovered it?

    • Gretz

      And, again, if Miami gets touchdowns instead of field goals when it’s handed two possessions inside the 20-yard line that call doesn’t matter. Oddly enough though, nobody will talk about that this week. It’s much easier to blame somebody else.

  • Steve

    A win is a win, no matter how thin.

  • http://www.steelerslounge.com/ ryan

    On Football Night in America the Ben fumble got about 15 seconds. Tony Dungy: “if you recover the ball, show the official so he knows.” And then we all moved on with our lives.

  • David

    Well, Ryan, you know your new site is a success when you get hit with not one, but two trolls.

  • Cols714

    Good win. I’m am a little bit worried about the pass D. Chad Henne shouldn’t be lighting us up. I’m sure it’s somehow Bruce Arians fault.

    I do have to ask what Tomlin was thinking by not attempting a FG at the end of the half. They could’ve taken a TO with one second and attempted a 55 yarder or whatever.

  • Cols714

    The podcast isn’t working in itunes. Says there is something wrong with the link.

  • Cols714

    Shouldn’t Doug Legursky be the big hero here? If he doesn’t dive into the pile, then it’s pretty ephing clear that the Dolphins recover the fumble.

    He should get every game ball there is. And a raise.

  • Anonymous

    No matter how bad it looks that the referee couldn’t figure out who recovered the fumble, it’s not as bad as the fourth down call in the Colts playoff game on the way to SuperBowl XL when they announced something like “We couldn’t decide if its a false start or offsides, so we’ll just play it over.”

    The big difference of course is that the Steelers overcame that (and the Polamalu interception) and won on the scoreboard, rendering it moot.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    Our first 5 2010 opponents were 5-0 today.

  • Pingback: Steelers Lounge Podcast #11: Steelers-Dolphins Recap -- Big Ben Fumbled! | Steelers Lounge

  • eddie

    after the holding calls on the last drive of the first quarter (ended with reed FG to start the second quarter), bronco legursky was pulled and foster started RG on the next drive (after farrior fumble recovery).

  • eddie

    after that final fumble, and we got the ball back on the half yard line, was anyone surprised tomlin didn’t go for it? FG with more than two minutes left for miami made me very nervous, especially since most of our defense was in the locker room already getting MRI’s…

    three TE’s, and the “holding bronco” legursky in the backfield with redzone redman? c’mon!

    anyway, if we don’t convert, we still had all our timeouts, plus the two minute warning, with henne in the end zone…

  • The-old-gringo

    I had the same angle as the Pittsburgh native Head Linesman that made the touchdown call … I had a higher and better view and there was NO WAY that from that right side of the Pittsburgh Offense you could see the ball or see anything. It is clear that Bergman, a native of Pittsburgh according to the Pitt Post Gazette, had his mind made up that he was going to call a TD … and he did. Then they neglected their duty by not determining who kept the ball during the scrum, something that happens in all games. The replay shows a Dolphin getting up from the pile with the ball. And that is that. They jobbed Miami … and in all of this, we have our politicians in Washington who have gone to the Banana Republic style of decision making and now the NFL has done the Banana Republic sport of Soccer one better with this and many other decisions … let us not forget that Jets interference call versus Denver last week among others.

  • Bill

    Has anyone else noticed that the Steelers are always wearing black on the road. The southern teams are forcing the Steelers to wear their home jerseys so they can wilt in the heat.

  • Bill

    Has anyone else noticed that the Steelers are always wearing black on the road. The southern teams are forcing the Steelers to wear their home jerseys so they can wilt in the heat.

  • Mark

    What was most impressive about the last Worilds play on Henne is that on the previous play Worilds rushed and then chased down the completed pass on the other side of the field. He then had to run back to the line of scrimmage because the Dolphines were in no-huddle. Without any rest, he ran around the right tackle to force the end of game interception/incomplete pass to Jimmy Harrison.

  • Montecarlojohnson

    israelp, it did make a difference because the ref made a bad call by saying it was a touchdown. They should have let it play out to determine who came up with the ball. In a situation where the ball obviously flys out of someones hands at the end of the game where it makes a difference (one team wins based on that play alone) you have to see who comes up with it just in case. Watch the replays and see the Phins fall on it and come up with it first…the game was likely over as the phins probably did recover. Either way it was a bad call before the review took place!