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Old 11-14-2011, 07:03 AM   #1
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Default Bires: Steelers rolling into the bye

Bires: Steelers rolling into the bye
Posted: Sunday, November 13, 2011 11:45 pm | Updated: 8:45 pm, Sun Nov 13, 2011.

By Mike Bires mbires@timesonline.com | 0 comments

CINCINNATI -- How satisfying it was for the Steelers to go into their bye after lining up in victory formation.

They ended their 10th game with three Ben Roethlisberger kneel-downs and then hopped on a plane for a short but sweet flight home.

"Oh, this bye is going to feel good," Roethlisberger beamed after the Steelers finished the most difficult stretch of their season with a 24-17 win over the Bengals.

Coach Mike Tomlin didn't sound as ecstatic as his star quarterback.

"I haven't run across a bye I didn't like," he said. "You get it when you get it."

That's true. But the Steelers -- the AFC North-leading Steelers -- are feeling pretty good about what they're accomplished so far. And who's to blame them for feeling good about their chances the rest of the way?

In the past three weeks, the Steelers proved they're every bit the Super Bowl contender as anyone else in the AFC. They beat the Patriots. They experienced a gut-wrenching loss last week by failing to hold a fourth-quarter lead against the Ravens. But on Sunday, they rebounded and protected a lead down the homestretch against a tough Bengals team.

Instead of going home and sulking for two weeks over a loss that would have severely damaged their playoff hopes, the Steelers hung on by intercepting two Andy Dalton passes in the fourth quarter.

The Steelers are 7-3, and they believe they have yet to play their best football.

That could come starting Nov. 27 when they go to Kansas City. On that day, the Steelers will have their best defense on the field for the first time since Oct. 2. Now that James Harrison is back after missing four games with an eye injury, LaMarr Woodley will be back after missing two games with a hamstring pull.

"Both those guys are freaks. They're freaks of nature," defensive end Brett Keisel said of the Steelers' dynamic duo at outside linebacker. "When they're both out there playing ball, we're a very good defense."

Offensively, the Steelers keep showing signs of how explosive they can be. They aren't quite there yet, but they're getting close.

Obviously, it all starts with Roethlisberger. His veteran presence will be a major plus once the Steelers resume the regular season.

Even though Hines Ward is no longer a major player in the receiving corps, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown have been outstanding. Jericho Cotchery played well Sunday with his first touchdown as a Steeler. And Emmanuel Sanders, who's out indefinitely after arthroscopic surgery, may return when the Steelers host the Bengals on Dec. 4.

If the Steelers get their running attack going -- they did rush for 105 yards against the Bengals -- they're be tough to stop.

"We're getting by. We're doing enough things offensive and defensively to win," Roethlisberger said. "But I still don't think we're playing up to our full potential."

If the Steelers do hit a stride, how far they can go?

For now, though, all is well at bye time.

2011 Timesonline.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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