PITTSBURGH (AP)—A terrible field and dreadful weather caused the Dolphins and Steelers to rewind to a different NFL era, a time when points came at a premium and one field goal could decide a game.
They trudged through the quagmire of Heinz Field, nearly going all night without scoring. Nearly.
Jeff Reed’s 24-yard field goal with 17 seconds left Monday night gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 victory over winless Miami, the first time in 64 years an NFL game went that long without any points.
“Those conditions, whew, they were horrendous,” Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said after daylong rain and new sod created awful playing conditions. “The footing was bad, all of a sudden you’d hit a water puddle and sink down. Some of defensive backs were scared about falling down and giving up a big play.”
Hanging with the first-place Steelers (8-3) for 59 1/2 minutes, Miami (0-11) almost pushed this mess to overtime, where Pittsburgh is 0-2 this season, but the Dolphins managed only 159 yards while going nowhere nearly all night.
“That’s what I was afraid of, overtime,” Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. “You just knew it was going to be a 3-0 game, a 6-0 game.”
The only scoring drive started on the Dolphins 42 after Miami punted out of its end zone. Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers into field goal range with completions of 21, 11 and 6 yards to Ward.
Reed, who had missed badly from 45 yards earlier on the rain-drenched field, came through after Roethlisberger was sacked on third down.
“You put new sod in and weather like this, it’s not a good combination,” Reed said. “I planted (on his first field goal try) and the whole sod moved over.”
Miami’s start is the worst for any team since the Lions began 0-12 in 2001. They finished 2-14.
And while the Dolphins keep heading toward the infamy of a winless record, the New England Patriots (11-0) are striving to duplicate Miami’s perfect season in 1972.
NFL games have been played in downpours and blizzards, and the aftermath of a hurricane—the Steelers-Dolphins game in Miami in September 2004, won by Pittsburgh 13-3—but this was a first: a lightning and heavy rain delay in a late November game in Pittsburgh.
Lightning chased the players off the field during the pregame warmups, and the teams were given only nine minutes for additional warmups before the game started at 8:55 p.m., 25 minutes later than scheduled.
After five high school and college games were played at Heinz Field last weekend, crews hurriedly put down a new layer of sod atop the chewed-up turf for Monday night’s game.
“It was like being on the beach in the sand on every play,” said Miami linebacker Joey Porter, the former Steelers star playing against his old team for the first time.
The delayed start meant no national anthem or player introductions. The rain washed away nearly all the yard lines on a new grass field that had been in place less than 24 hours, and Heinz Field crews hurriedly put down new lines at halftime.
“It was nasty,” Miami linebacker Channing Crowder said.
The offenses didn’t need to be introduced, considering how little yardage was gained. With huge divots being kicked up play after play, the Steelers had 112 yards and the Dolphins only 71 by halftime, even with Miami running back Ricky Williams back on the field, at least for a few minutes.
The 2002 NFL rushing champion, reinstated last week following a drug-related suspension, carried six times for 15 yards in his first game since Jan. 1, 2006, before injuring his shoulder.
“My No. 1 concern coming into the game was that you hurry a guy back, obviously you can get hurt,” Miami coach Cam Cameron said.
The field was covered during the daylong rain, but quite a bit of water found its way under the protective tarps and there were numerous puddles and mushy spots once the covering was removed. Wide receivers slipped on several pass plays, and running backs repeatedly lost their footing before tacklers arrived.
“In the NFL, I’ve never played on a field that bad,” Dolphins kicker Jay Feely said. “But we knew that it would be like that once it was re-sodded. We knew what the conditions would be like.”
Late in the third quarter, Brandon Fields’ punt from near the Miami goal line came straight down and plugged in the drenched turf like an arrow, burying itself several inches deep.
A few minutes later, Reed’s 45-yard field goal attempt into a swirling wind and rain fell far short. Reed had missed only once previously in 19 tries this season, a 60-yarder in Denver.
Pittsburgh’s opening drive ended with Roethlisberger being intercepted by, of all players, Porter, who was cut by the Steelers in March.
Porter’s pick came along the Steelers’ sideline, and he yelled at their bench for several seconds after making the play.
“He kept trash talking the whole game, but we love him,” Ward said. “I told him, `I know you’re a Dolphin now, but you’re a Steeler for life.’ I know he wanted to win this game more than anything.”
The Steelers ended with 216 yards, with Willie Parker running for 81 to go over 1,000 for the third straight season. … It was the lowest-scoring Monday night game since the prime time games began in 1970. The previous low was Jacksonville’s 9-0 win over Pittsburgh last season. … The Dolphins’ Sept. 30 game at Oakland was also delayed by lightning, for 30 minutes. … The rain fell on and off all game. … The Steelers played a 0-0 tie against Cincinnati in 1933, their first season. … Steelers LT Marvel Smith was a late injury scratch.