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Steelers notebook: Offense fails to make splash; defense lags

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Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Mike Tomlin calls them splash plays, big-yardage gains that can shift a game. They certainly have this season, and not the Steelers' way.

They have allowed 11 plays of 50 yards or more this season, including Daniel Thomas' 55-yard run Sunday for Miami. They have only one such play themselves, a Ben Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders 55-yard TD pass play against the Jets.

The other three AFC North defenses have given up only 13 such plays among them — the Ravens six, Bengals five and Browns two.

During their 2008 Super Bowl season, the Steelers permitted only three.

“We gave up big plays at the wrong time,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said of the Dolphins' three plays of 40 yards or more. “If we're going to be a good defense, we have to eliminate that. And it's still a good defense.”

lateral pass review

It probably wouldn't have counted anyway.

Antonio Brown stepped out of bounds during a nearly length-of-the-field play to apparently cost the Steelers a miracle-finish win against the Dolphins. But game video shows that Ben Roethlisberger's lateral to Brown was an illegal forward pass, which is subject to video review.

Roethlisberger was approaching his own 32 as he slipped the ball forward to Brown, who was just past the 33 when he caught it. On such a play, ball exchanges can be laterals only. Forward passes are not permitted.

“The referee (John Parry) came up to me and said, ‘Just so you know, everything is going to have to be reviewed, every single part of it,' ” said Roethlisberger, who insisted his lateral was clean. “I said that's fine. I knew mine was good. I thought the rest of them were.”

Cody Wallace had a rough starting debut at center, giving up two sacks and committing two penalties, including a personal foul penalty for diving into the back of Dolphins linebacker Koa Misi on a failed fourth-and-10 scramble by Ben Roethlisberger late in the game. The Dolphins subsequently kicked a field goal. “I saw 55 (Misi) dive to hit him (Roethlisberger) and I was trying to save a hit on him,” Wallace said. “It's just a tough play.”

• Roethlisberger can't seem to get a good weather game against Miami. He has played the Dolphins hours after a hurricane (2004), on a swampy field that was almost unplayable (‘07) and in a snowstorm (‘13), but he is 4-1 against them.

• The Steelers will have cheerleaders Sunday night against the Bengals. The Steelerettes, the team's cheerleading corps from 1961-69, will be reunited and take part in ceremonies. Franco Harris and Mel Blount will be the honorary captains.

• This is the first time in Roethlisberger's 10-season career the Steelers won't have a winning record in successive seasons. “We are just going to give it everything we have every day,” Roethlisberger said. “There isn't going to be any quit from anybody.”

Charles Clay isn't one of the NFL's better-known tight ends, but he had seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. It was his second seven-catch game in as many weeks, and he has 60 catches this season. For all the attention paid receivers Mike Wallace andBrian Hartline, safety Troy Polamalu warned all week that Clay was dangerous and needed to be slowed.

JerrichoCotchery on why the Steelers squandered a timeout with the clock stopped before that fourth-and-10 play from their 10: “We ended up wasting a time-out because I was coming off the field; the other receivers were coming off the field as well.”

• Of the 13 questions Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was asked Monday at his news conference, not one was about the Steelers.

• Three of the last four times the Steelers were 5-8 or worse, they made the playoffs the following season — 1989, '92 and 2004. They missed in 2000 despite a 9-7 record.

— Alan Robinson

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