MIAMI -- The ball came loose an instant before the quarterback dove across the goal line, with Steelers and Dolphins en masse immediately piling in the end zone, frantically fighting for possession in a two-point game Sunday between two physical opponents.
One official signaled a touchdown.
Another signaled defense's ball.
Somewhere at the bottom of the scrum was Ben Roethlisberger.
"I saw the ball sitting right in front of me, and one of their guys jumped in and I was able to kind of squirt through into the pile and get a hand on it with whoever their player was," Roethlisberger said after a wild one in Sun Life Stadium that in time will get the attention of the NFL's competition committee. "I was holding onto it, squeezing as tight as I could until they told me to let it go."
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Watch: Steelers vs. Dolphins Highlights
Well, there you have it. Knowing what we know about Big Ben, would he lie?
OK, don't answer that (especially you folks in Milledgeville). And don't bother asking the Dolphins what they thought of the play's outcome.
"I ain't never seen no [expletive] like that before," Dolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby.
No one had.
After a Miami challenge, officials ruled Roethlisberger had fumbled the ball before scoring the go-ahead touchdown against the Dolphins with 2:28 to play. They could not, however, determine from replay who recovered the ball, meaning the down counted but officials had to re-spot the ball for a fourth down at the Miami 1.
In other words, tie goes to the runner (with the ball).
Jeff Reed's 18-yard field goal put the Steelers ahead 23-22 with 2:28 to go and Pittsburgh's defense iced the victory by stopping the Dolphins on the ensuing four downs. This one will take some time to process, especially for the losers, but it was vintage Big Ben at his big-play best.
"I don't know what the technical definition of a scrum is, but I'll take it," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of the zany and controversial ending. "A bunch of people fighting for the ball. Possession, us!"
The win improved Pittsburgh to 5-1, tying the Steelers with the New York Jets and New England Patriots for the league's best record and reminding everybody -- as if we needed to be reminded -- just how good this team is with No. 7 under center.
Roethisberger, in his second outing since returning from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct code, completed 19 of his 27 passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 132.0. Make that five TD passes and just one pick in his two games back for an offense that was dead-last in passing while the three-headed monster of Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich kept Roethlisberger's seat warm.
The Steelers needed Big Ben to be great Sunday because their top-10 rushing attack was held to just 58 yards and they started the game with a pair of fumbles.
"We weren't very good today," Tomlin said.
That's not entirely true. Defensively, despite losing Aaron Smith (torn triceps, likely done for season) and LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) to injury, the Steelers were tough-as-nails, limiting the Dolphins (3-3) to one touchdown and five Dan Carpenter field goals, then preventing any late-game drama with that quick-work defensive stand to finish the game. Just another day for the Steel Curtain.
But now that Tomlin has Roethlisberger back, there's no limit to who the Steelers can beat or how far they can go.
"I felt better," Roethlisberger said, comparing last week's three-TD season debut at home against Cleveland when he knocked the rust off to a big road victory against a very solid opponent. "Their defense did a lot of great things that kind of kept us in early. We got our first dose of the no-huddle today and I thought did really well. We went right down the field, but still left quite a few things out there. I'm kind of disappointed in myself, but that being said, a win is a win."
Especially when it very well may have -- and should have been -- a loss.
Roethlisberger, after driving his team nearly half of the field to be in position for the game-winning score, clearly lost the ball when he bolted up the middle from the pocket and was struck by safety Chris Clemons as he dove toward the end zone. The ball was out there for anyone to get and the last sight of Roethlisberger -- before being smothered by Dolphins -- was his hand reaching for the ball.
Whatever happened after that, only a select few know.
"They took the game from us," Dansby said. "We fought a 76-round battle today -- a straight-up fight, a fist-fight -- and we was winning and we won it and they took it from us, bottom line."
Not according to Roethisberger, who claimed equal rights to the football at the bottom of the pile. It was Miami linebacker Ike Alama-Francis with whom Roethlisberger battled in what must have been a "Braveheart-like" gouge-fest beneath the bodies.
"I got it. It was mine, no doubt," Alama-Francis said. "I just don't understand the ruling. I mean, it has to either be a fumble or a touchdown, but they decided to make the call that they made and that's what it is."
And this from linebacker Channing Crowder: "The refs called a wonderful game today -- for the Steelers."
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano could only shake his head at some of the questions after seeing his team fall to 0-3 at home this season.
"[The referee] just told me that even though our guy came up in the end zone and handed him the ball, he didn't know who came up with it," Sparano said. "He couldn't see any evidence of who recovered the ball."
No such evidence ever will exist, either. There's no disputing, however, what Roethlisberger's return means to the Steelers.
Highlights of the Steelers' 23-22 victory over the Miami Dolphins.