Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Performers From Week 14 Victory Over Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins: Top 5 Performers In Week 14
The conditions were less than ideal for a team that resides in South Florida, but the Dolphins put their toughness on full display by besting the Steelers in the snow and freezing temperatures.
Beating Pittsburgh has given Miami its second winning streak of the season. The Dolphins began the year 3-0, but haven't been able to win at least two consecutive games until Sunday. The Dolphins are also above .500 in December for the first time since 2010, which has made claiming the AFC's sixth playoff seed a realistic possibility.
While the Dolphins will still need help in order to qualify for their first playoff appearance in five years, they won't need much of it if they can keep winning. Running the table would leave them only needing one loss by the Baltimore Ravens, one loss by the Cincinnati Bengals over the next two weeks, or three straight losses by the Kansas City Chiefs to claim a wild card spot.
It's shaping up to be a wild finish to the 2013 season. Before we jump ahead to three pivotal matchups against AFC East foes, let's take one last look back at Miami's thrilling six-point victory over Pittsburgh by highlighting its top five performers.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
5. Nolan Carroll
Brent Grimes has been one of the most reliable cornerbacks in football all season. While Grimes only conceded 49 of the 137 yards star receiver Antonio Brown managed against the Dolphins, it was Nolan Carroll who was the team's stingiest in coverage.
With Dimitri Patterson active but unable to finish the game, Carroll surprisingly provided lock-down coverage throughout. He only allowed two receptions for 21 yards on six targets and had two key pass breakups.
The 26-year-old veteran still might not be trustworthy, but he has certainly improved in 2013 and deserves credit for filling in for Patterson with solid coverage at times. Sunday was one of his most impressive showings of the year.
4. Cameron Wake
Olivier Vernon has been rightfully receiving praise as of late for a breakout season in 2013, but everyone was reminded who the Dolphins' top pass rusher is on Sunday at Heinz Field. Defensive end Cameron Wake made his presence felt during the first half by laying a hit on Ben Roethlisberger from behind, forcing a fumble and giving Miami the necessary momentum to take command of the game.
The NFL credits Wake with one sack on the afternoon, but Pro Football Focus claims he brought down Roethlsiberger twice and had an additional quarterback hit to go along with four hurries. The site also gave Wake a +3.8 overall grade, which is tied for the highest on the team.
3. Daniel Thomas
It appeared as though Daniel Thomas' season was over two weeks ago when reports read that he would be sidelined for the remainder of 2013 with an ankle injury. Those reports have proven to be erroneous, however, as Thomas only missed one week and returned to the lineup with one the best performances of his career on Sunday versus the Steelers.
Thomas produced the second 100-yard rushing game of his career and a personal best 55-yard run that set up the Dolphins' game-winning score in Week 14. With Lamar Miller concussed, Thomas shouldered the load on the ground for Miami and was able help employ a balanced offensive attack.
Once one of the most scrutinized players on the team, Thomas has become a nice asset for the Dolphins this year.
2. Ryan Tannehill
Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill had never played in snow before heading into Sunday's game, and it showed early on. He was inaccurate with the football and nearly threw a pick-six to Troy Polamalu in the first quarter.
Tannehill went on to throw an interception that was returned for a score by none other than Palamalu in the second half, but he was pretty stellar the rest of the way. After the Dolphins squandered away a 10-point lead in less than a minute of action in the third quarter, Tannehill engineered two go-ahead touchdown drives by getting into sync with Brian Hartline and Charles Clay.
Tannehill tossed three touchdown passes for the second time as a pro and ran for a career-high 56 rushing yards.
1. Charles Clay
Nobody foresaw the Dolphins getting top-five production from the tight end position in 2013 after Dustin Keller suffered a gruesome knee injury during the preseason. But through 13 games, that's exactly what they've had.
The 678 receiving yards Clay has managed thus far are tied for fifth among tight ends in the entire NFL. Clay has been a security blanket for Tannehill all season, and his ability to run after the catch has been outstanding.
Against the Steelers, Clay registered 97 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It was the second-highest receiving total of his career and his first ever two-touchdown performance. Clay's second touchdown will go down as one of the most impressive plays of the season for Miami, as he somehow broke two tackles with a phenomenal display of strength and balance to score.
Clay has emerged as a legitimate Pro Bowl candidate, but will face an uphill battle to represent the AFC being that he's still a relatively unknown player around the country. Dolphins fans know the name, though. Clay has arguably been the offense's MVP.