Ryan Tannehill must finish strong

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill knows a lot rests on his shoulders down the stretch. The Dolphins (6-6) are in the thick of the playoff race in December with little margin for error. They are grouped in with several teams for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.

This also means there is little margin for error for Tannehill. Miami's second-year quarterback must play some of the best football of his career in the final four games if the Dolphins want to get into the playoffs. It starts Sunday on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7).

A couple bad games from Tannehill could end Miami's season.

"I gotta play well," Tannehill admitted after Wednesday's practice. "I think that's no different from any other week. It's crunch time in the season so I gotta play well."

Tannehill had arguably his best game of the season this past Sunday against the New York Jets. He threw for 331 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had a 94.2 passer rating in a crucial 23-3 victory that kept Miami's playoff hopes alive.

Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin likes the way Tannehill is developing.

"He's clearly playing better," Philbin said of Tannehill. "You can look [at it] on a piece of paper and say he's playing better. I think overall, he has more command of the offense, his decision-making has improved and this is an important game for everybody."

Tannehill appears to be warming up the past two weeks. He posted back-to-back 300-yard games for the first time in his career against the Jets and Carolina Panthers in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively. Tannehill may have a chance to make it three consecutive weeks of 300 yards against the Steelers' aging secondary that has allowed its share of big passing plays this year.

Tannehill, who played college at Texas A&M before joining Miami, may have to play in poor weather conditions. Tannehill said he's never played in a snow game before, and Pittsburgh's forecast may call for inclement weather.

"If it's snowing, I've heard it's not too bad," Tannehill said. "It's actually nice to play in it. From the guys just in the locker room talking, Matt [Moore] played in the snow a few times. He said it's nice. It doesn't affect the ball."

Here are some other notes from Wednesday's practice:

  • The Dolphins had three players who didn't practice Wednesday. Starting guard John Jerry (concussion), rookie cornerback Jamar Taylor (hamstring) and running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) did not participate.

  • Tannehill also showed up on the injury report with a right thumb injury. But he had full participation in practice.

  • Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) was limited in practice and is trying to make it back on the field. Patterson missed the past two games with a groin injury.