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Steelers notebook: Polamalu teaches Tannehill lesson

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu dives into the end zone to score on an interception return during the third quarter against the Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers safety Troy Polamalu intercepts a pass during the third quarter against the Dolphins Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers' Troy Polamalu dives into the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown againt the Dolphins on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu's 19-yard interception return for a touchdown was the second pick-six thrown by Dolphins second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill this season.

“I figured he'd stay on the right side of the field, but I should've known, because he's Troy Polamalu, so he never stays anywhere,” Tannehill said. “I've just got to be aware of where he is at all times.”

Tannehill, who has 14 interceptions this season, also threw one that went back for a score against the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 20.

Early load for Bell

Running back Le'Veon Bell spearheaded a ground game that helped the Steelers possess the football for nearly 10 minutes in the first quarter. He had eight carries for 26 yards and a nine-yard reception during a 12-play, 74-yard scoring drive that put the Steelers ahead 7-0.

Bell, though, was hardly a factor the rest of the way. He finished with 61 yards on 15 carries and dropped two passes.

“I'm not sure why we went away from running the ball,” guard Ramon Foster said. “Whatever is called, we have to be more efficient. I wasn't surprised we went away from it (run) because the coaches saw something we could pick at.”

“It was in the flow of the game,” said coach Mike Tomlin. “I'm not going to make an excuse for a lack of productivity in that area.”

Shades of Auburn

Safety Troy Polamalu fielded a missed Miami field goal attempt eight yards deep in the end zone, then tried to duplicate the return that Auburn used to beat Alabama.

But the Dolphins forced Polamalu to lateral the ball to nose tackle Steve McLendon, who pitched it to cornerback Ike Taylor, who was cut down at the Miami 30 to end the first half.

Spaeth makes debut

Tight end Matt Spaeth, who missed the first 12 games with a knee injury, saw his first action. He threw a block on safety Reshad Jones that sprung Bell for a nine-yard gain and a first down at the Miami 11 to set up Roethlisberger's 5-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.

McLendon returned after missing two games with an injury. Ziggy Hood left late in the first quarter with an injured right ankle, but returned. Also, Taylor suffered a slight rib injury when he collided with Clark after giving up 13-yard completion to Brian Hartline.

Tannehill finds comfort zone

For a guy who has played most of his football career in Texas, Tannehill looked mighty comfortable in the cold and snow at Heinz Field.

Tannehill, who grew up in Western Texas and starred at Texas A&M, put together a performance that included 200 passing yards, three touchdown throws, one interception and a career-high 56 rushing yards, 48 of which came on one run.

The Dolphins finished with a season-high 34 points.

“It was fun; it wasn't too bad,” Tannehill said of playing in the winter weather. “Early in the game, the snow was coming down pretty good, but the ball felt good all day. You're warm on the sideline, and once you get on the field, you feel good.”

Philbin returns to football roots

Though he grew up in Springfield, Mass., second-year Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has Western Pennsylvania football roots. He coached at Allegheny from 1990-93 and led the team to NCAA Division III title in 1990. He also attended Washington & Jefferson, where he played tight end and graduated in 1984.

“It's a great part of the country,” Philbin said. “The people in this area are good, salt-of-the-Earth people. … Some of the guys that I think played for us (at Allegheny) were here today.”

Dolphins, Philbin up to challenge

Philbin improved to six-for-six on play challenges this season when he contested the on-field ruling of Miami's eventual touchdown in the third quarter. Officials initially ruled that Hartline failed to stay inbounds for the 4-yard reception near the end zone's front-right pylon but reversed their call.

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