A swarming Steelers defense sent two Miami quarterbacks to the sideline, including Pat White with a scary head injury, and the reigning Super Bowl champions averted a late collapse to beat the Dolphins 30-24 Sunday.
The Dolphins (7-9), who won the AFC East in 2008, were eliminated with 2 minutes left in the game when Houston beat New England.
Houston's win hurt the Steelers' chances. To make the postseason, Pittsburgh (9-7) needed losses or ties by the Ravens, Broncos and Jets in late games Sunday.
There were plenty of Steelers fans in the crowd, and the visiting team gave them plenty to cheer about, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing three touchdown passes. But the stadium grew silent when White was carted off the field with a head injury following a helmet-to-helmet collision with cornerback Ike Taylor.
White moved his arms and legs before leaving the field after an eight-minute delay.
Miami starter Chad Henne sat out the second half with an eye injury, and when the rookie White departed with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, Tyler Thigpen made his first appearance for the Dolphins. They trailed 27-10, but Thigpen led touchdown drives on his first two series.
Joey Porter then recovered Roethlisberger's fumble on a sack at the Steelers 13 to give Miami a chance to take the lead with 6 minutes left. But Thigpen was intercepted by Ryan Clark at the 2.
Roethlisberger appeared to favor his throwing arm during the next possession, but he led Pittsburgh on a 14-play, 83-yard drive. It ended with Jeff Reed's third field goal for a 30-24 lead with 40 seconds left.
Taylor intercepted Thigpen on Miami's next play to seal Pittsburgh's third consecutive win.
The Dolphins spent much of the season trying to recover from an 0-3 start, climbed above .500 for the first time at 7-6, then lost their final three games. That extends their drought without a playoff win to nine seasons.
The Steelers started the game fast, scoring on their first three possessions. But Thigpen's heroics nearly doomed them.
On his first series, Thigpen directed a 61-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard touchdown run by Brian Hartline on a reverse. That cut Pittsburgh's lead to 27-17 with 11:24 left.
The Dolphins forced a punt, and Miami needed only three plays to score again. Thigpen hit Davone Bess in stride in the end zone for a 34-yard score.
Thigpen, acquired in late September from Kansas City, finished 4-for-8 for 83 yards, with two interceptions.
Pittsburgh took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards, with Roethlisberger throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.
Miami answered with a 66-yard drive and scored on Henne's 11-yard pass to Lex Hilliard. Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace then beat Nathan Jones deep for a 54-yard touchdown catch.