DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' offense finally had the performance fans have been waiting for all season. The biggest irony is it came Sunday on the road, in snowy conditions, against a proud Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
The Dolphins' 34-28 victory at Heinz Field -- the most points they have scored this season -- essentially eliminated Pittsburgh (5-8) from playoff contention while simultaneously putting them in firm standing for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
The Dolphins (7-6) reached the 30-point plateau for the first time this season, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Miami’s red zone offense, which has been an issue, had a season-high four touchdowns in six trips (67 percent) Sunday.
Miami’s offense got its biggest boosts against Pittsburgh from a pair of unlikely sources -- running back Daniel Thomas and tight end Charles Clay, who combined for three touchdowns. Both were backups entering training camp.
Thomas filled in admirably for the injured Lamar Miller, who suffered a concussion in the third quarter. Thomas rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. His 55-yard run in the fourth quarter set up Clay’s game-winning touchdown. Clay led the game with seven receptions for 97 yards and two scores.
“They made plays,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “They were basic plays that we’ve run a bunch. The outside zone play that Daniel hit [for 55 yards], we’ve had that play in for two years.”
Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was particularly complimentary of Clay, who is second on the team with 60 receptions.
“As long as he continues to have an attitude to get better and listen to his coach -- [tight ends coach] Dan Campbell does a phenomenal job with him -- he’ll keep getting better,” Sherman said. “He’ll have a chance to be real special, I believe.”
Miami’s offense started to get going in Week 13 against the New York Jets. The Dolphins took the momentum of that 23-3 victory and carried it into Pittsburgh for their best offensive performance of the season.
The Dolphins will host the AFC East-leading New England Patriots (10-3) on Sunday.
“We have a do-or-die mentality,” Thomas said. “We need to keep doing that next week.”