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Old 12-05-2011, 05:53 AM   #1
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Default Steelers roll to near-perfection, top Bengals

Steelers roll to near-perfection, top Bengals

By Scott Brown
Monday, December 5, 2011

Wearing a No. 43 jersey and surrounded by reporters, a Polamalu held court in the Steelers' locker room late Sunday afternoon.

Standing on a stool, he prattled on the way 3-year-old toddlers are apt to do. He paused, though only briefly, after his famous father asked him for a second time how he had played in a 35-7 unmasking of the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Um, good," the son said before he again started talking about anything but football.

Paisios Polamalu is not the only one to whom Troy Polamalu happily ceded the spotlight yesterday. The Steelers' special teams units produced three big plays, including a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown, and the defending AFC champions rolled past the Bengals in front of 63,697 at Heinz Field.

The Steelers improved to 9-3, stretched their winning streak to three games and kept pace with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North.

The Steelers have a quick turnaround as they host the 4-8 Cleveland Browns on Thursday night.

But after putting together what several players called their best performance of the season, the Steelers are building momentum as they enter the final quarter of the regular season.

"This is the most complete game that we've played," outside linebacker James Harrison said after the Steelers swept the Bengals in the season series for the fourth time under coach Mike Tomlin. "We aim for perfection, and there were a lot of things that we left out there."

Tomlin-speak aside, some superlative individual performances added up to a near-perfect showing.

Harrison sacked Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton three times, helping to send the rookie to the bench for the final quarter. Wide receiver Antonio Brown set up the Steelers' first touchdown with a 45-yard catch-and-run, igniting an offense that had gotten off to a sluggish start.

He also scored on a second-quarter punt return for a 28-7 lead after the kind of block that often draws a penalty. But no flag was thrown on Curtis Brown following his apparent block-in-the-back hit on Cincinnati's Andrew Hawkins.

Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis did not second guess the non-call, saying "We've got to do better."

Steelers special teams coach Al Everest said, "I ain't feeling bad about it because we get plenty of (penalties) that we don't deserve."

A bigger special teams play came in the first quarter after the Bengals drove to the Steelers' 4, but had to settle for 33-yard field goal attempt.

Cameron Heyward had crossed in front of long snapper Clark Harris on the attempt that was waved off because of a delay-of-game call. After the penalty, Heyward shot through a gap and blocked Mike Nugent's kick.

"Ziggy (Hood) got great penetration, which forced the guard to push out on him, and it just opened up like the Red Sea," Heyward said.

That may have been the play of the game.

"It brings a new energy to a team," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I think it is what got us rolling."

Indeed, Roethlisberger tossed a pair of touchdown passes, and Rashard Mendenhall scored two touchdowns and led a ground game that churned out 136 yards. The offense rebounded from the previous week's clunker in Kansas City, scoring touchdowns all four times it ventured past Cincinnati's 20-yard line.

"That's a good sign," said wide receiver Mike Wallace, who caught both of Roethlisberger's touchdown passes. "We're happy to get this win, especially in the fashion that we did."

"Big props to the offense for punching it into the end zone," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "When we do that, we're tough."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

Read more: Steelers roll to near-perfection, top Bengals - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbur...#ixzz1ff0DxxC8
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