MIAMI — Even on a bad day, Dan Marino can be pretty good.
Marino, kept under the thumb of a tough Pittsburgh defense most of the day, drove Miami downfield to set up Lorenzo Hampton's two-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds left Sunday to give the Dolphins a 24-20 victory over the Steelers.
Until then, the Steelers (2-3) limited Marino to mostly short-yardage completions to backs and tight ends in addition to intercepting three of his passes.
"We kept taking things away from ourselves, but the most important thing is that when we had to have it, we did," said Marino, who had 27 completions in 45 attempts for 277 yards against the NFL's top pass-defense team.
"They had a great defensive scheme against us, just to stay back and make us work, make us have long drives," Marino said.
That's what the Dolphins (4-1) did when it counted, put together a long drive.
It started with 4:10 left in the game and the Steelers holding a 20-17 lead they took on Gary Anderson's field goal with 8:25 left following Robin Cole's interception of a Marino pass.
Marino put the Dolphins in scoring position with a 27-yard completion to Mark Clayton--his longest pass completion of the day. On the next play, he threw the ball 22 yards past linebacker Mike Merriweather to Bruce Hardy, who made a diving catch at the nine.
Three plays later, Hampton swept left end for the touchdown.
"One or two big plays will win this kind of game and they made the plays," said Steelers Coach Chuck Noll, whose team is winless in five games against Miami at the Orange Bowl, dating to 1971.
Still, Noll was happy about his defense, which shut down Miami's deep passing game. It was in sharp contrast to last year's AFC championship game, in which the Steelers blitzed constantly and Marino shredded the secondary in a 45-28 Miami victory.
"We played the prevent defense a lot and we did it well," Noll said. "We were trying to take away their biggest receivers--the wideouts."
The Steelers took a 17-14 lead on a one-yard touchdown toss from Mark Malone to Weegie Thompson with 12 seconds left in the first half. That came just after Miami took a 14-10 lead on Marino's two-yard scoring pass to Dan Johnson.
Miami's Fuad Reveiz kicked a 35-yard field goal six minutes into the second half to tie it, 17-17.
The Dolphins jumped to a 7-0 lead on their first possession, going 53 yards in nine plays as Marino mixed short- and medium-range passes with the running of Woody Bennett. Tony Nathan dived over from the one for the score--the first touchdown allowed in the first quarter by the Steelers in their last 18 regular-season games.
Early in the second quarter, Pittsburgh got its first break when Cole stripped Nathan of the ball and Donnie Shell recovered for the Steelers at the Dolphin 18.
Five plays later, Walter Abercrombie--who had 91 yards in 14 carries--scored from the one to tie it, 7-7. Pittsburgh took a 10-7 lead on its next possession on Anderson's 48-yard field goal.