Charles Clay comes up big for Dolphins

PITTSBURGH -- In a game filled with stars and storylines, a relative unknown shined the brightest to help lead the Miami Dolphins to a 34-28 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Miami tight end Charles Clay, a former sixth-round pick, had a game-high seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. With the Steelers focusing their attention on Miami receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, Clay was able to make Pittsburgh's defense pay over the middle.

On the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, Clay had to fight through a tackle to get to the end zone for a 12-yard score.

“It was just an attitude,” Clay said. “When you catch the ball that close to the goal line, the only thing I was thinking was to do all I could to get in the end zone.”

Clay entered training camp as a backup behind starting Miami tight end and big free-agent signing Dustin Keller. But Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

Clay has stepped into Keller’s role nicely and has 60 receptions for 678 yards and six touchdowns this season. Clay proved he can be a starter in the NFL and is arguably Miami’s biggest surprise of the season.

“The guy comes to work hard every day,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “He likes competing. He goes out and enjoys playing. He’s a good teammate, and he’s a talented guy as he’s shown.”

It takes good role players like Clay to make a playoff run. The Dolphins (7-6) join the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) as two teams with the inside track on the final playoff spot in the AFC.

A signature road win like Sunday’s against the Steelers (5-8) could be the type of game that helps propel the Dolphins into the postseason. Miami showed a lot of character to over six lead changes, in part due to Clay’s toughness and production.

“We earned every bit of it,” Clay said of the win.

The Dolphins will host New England Patriots (10-3) next week in another big game for both teams.