Dolphins vs. Steelers: 7 Takeaways from Miami's Wild 34-28 Win over Pittsburgh

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIDecember 8, 2013

Dolphins vs. Steelers: 7 Takeaways from Miami's Wild 34-28 Win over Pittsburgh

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    The Miami Dolphins might be hazardous to those with heart conditions. 

    That's the biggest takeaway from this game, a game that see-sawed back and forth throughout the second half, turning into a 1980s Dolphins vs. Jets shootout once the snow cleared up. 

    Had it not been for Antonio Brown stepping out of bounds 12 yards away from a victory (and the inevitable missed call on Ben Roethlisberger's illegal forward lateral), this article intro would look a lot different. 

    However, Brown did step out of bounds, and the Dolphins left Pittsburgh with their first win in the Steel City since 1990, back when Don Shula and Chuck Noll still played chess compared to Joe Philbin and Mike Tomlin's checkers. 

    What did we gather from this roller coaster of a ride that was Miami vs. Pittsburgh? Plenty, here's a look at said takeaways. 

Ryan Tannehill Continues to Show Growth, Moxie

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    Many Dolphins fans likely threw their hands up after Tannehill threw a pick-six to Troy Polamalu in the third quarter. 

    How could you not? It was the last seven points of a 14-0 run by the Steelers after they went down 17-7, off of a horrible read (a triple-covered Brian Hartline). 

    But pick-sixes can happen to any quarterback, not just Matt Schaub, and the true test for a quarterback comes from how they bounce back. 

    In that case, Tannehill passed with flying colors. 

    In the plays after the pick-six, Tannehill was 8-of-12 for 70 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 121.5. 

    For the game, Tannehill finished 20-of-33, passing for 200 yards, three touchdowns and only the Polamalu interception, earning a quarterback rating of 95.5. 

    It was a great game by Tannehill, but he wasn't alone, and he will have to keep this play up (sans the interceptions) in order to guide Miami into the playoffs. 

Daniel Thomas Put on His Big Boy Pants

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    Daniel Thomas is probably the most maligned skill player on the Dolphins. This has been the case since 2011. 

    But after Lamar Miller went down with a concussion in the third quarter (per James Walker of ESPN.com), Thomas had to carry Miami's running game. 

    Game over one thinks, as Thomas has not only struggled throughout his career (and this season) with Miami, but he's also coming off of an injury that he suffered two weeks ago that made many think his season was over. 

    Derrick Rose wishes he could have Daniel Thomas' season-ending injury, as he was my offensive co-MVP of the game running for 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. 

    His biggest run was the 55-yard dash in the fourth quarter that set the Dolphins up for their game-winning touchdown. 

    Can Thomas sustain this performance in the final three games of the season? If he's able to, prospects are looking up for the Dolphins' offense. 

    But remember this: the Steelers are not very good against the run this season, so don't be surprised if he regresses in the final three games. 

Making a Pro Bowl Case Part One: Charles Clay

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    Charles Clay's statistics coming into Miami's Week 14 game against the Steelers: 53 catches for 581 yards and four touchdowns. 

    Charles Clay's statistics vs. Pittsburgh: seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Charles Clay's statistics in 2013: 60 catches for 678 yards and six touchdowns. 

    Are these Pro Bowl-quality numbers? I'm going with yes. Clay has every reason to earn a trip to Hawaii this January. 

Dolphins Pass Defense Woes Almost Sink the Team

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    I can't wait to see Pro Football Focus' grades on the Dolphins' linebackers this week against Pittsburgh. 

    It will be horrendous, the type of report card that most kids would find a way to hide from their parents. 

    The Steelers didn't really connect on any big plays against Miami, rather they connected on small plays, which turned into big plays. 

    Antonio Brown's 43-yard touchdown was a prime example of that, as Brown had seven yards on the completion, but bad tackling not only by Dannel Ellerbe but by safety Reshad Jones led to Brown getting daylight. 

    The worst offending play was the final lateral-crazy play of the game. How did Brown get so much daylight with the ball (other than the illegal forward lateral by Roethlisberger that wasn't called)? The best defender on that play was Brown's large feet and the sideline. 

    It shouldn't have gotten to that point, just like it shouldn't have gotten to the point where Roethlisberger was able to find Heath Miller, Jerricho Cotchery and Antonio Brown whenever and however he wanted, especially on third down. 

    Those weren't deep throws, but intermediate throws. Bad play by the linebackers and safeties allowed them to happen. 

The Makeshift Offensive Line Is Still an Improvement over the Original One

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    You're going to look at the three sacks and think I'm insane. 

    I'm not, those three sacks were the result of good Pittsburgh Coverage and Tannehill's still evolving pocket presence letting him down. 

    The Dolphins offensive line may not be working over defensive lines left and right, but they're holding their own and seem to be getting better every game. 

    After a good game running the ball against the Jets, they followed that up with a day where they made big enough holes for Daniel Thomas to run for 105 yards (including a 55-yard run), and for Tannehill to get some yards on the ground as well. 

    How Miami's offensive line has kept it together and improved is the most underrated storyline of Miami's second-half of the season. 

Making a Pro Bowl Case Part Two: Olivier Vernon

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    Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

    This case might not be as strong based off of today as Charles Clay's Pro Bowl case, but based off of an entire season's body of work, it's a strong one. 

    Olivier Vernon only recorded one sack against the Steelers, but it was a big sack in the fourth quarter. 

    To add to that, he had the tackle of the game, stopping Ben Roethlisberger from getting the first down. 

    With 11.5 sacks on the season, Vernon could easily find himself with 15-plus sacks on the year. He must make the Pro Bowl if he records that number, and in fact should make it as of right now. 

Miami Is Still in Control of Their Destiny

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    No takeaway from this game is more important than this. The Dolphins are 7-6, tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the final AFC playoff spot with two games left at home and three left against division opponents. 

    Win and their in seems to be the case when you compare Miami's schedule with that of the Ravens (who currently hold the tiebreaker over the Dolphins). 

    Baltimore has road games against the Lions and Bengals and a home game against New England left on their schedule. 

    Based off of the schedule, I'd say advantage Miami, but they have to take advantage and continue to win in order to reap the playoff benefits. 

    Can they do it? That remains to be seen, but if they can win a game like this, anything is possible.