We'll see what Neal Coolong has in his Monday morning notebook about the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 Week 13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, I'd like to point out ten players' individual performances that played a large role in Pittsburgh's ninth win of the season. In no particular order.
Curtis Brown: The third round selection out of the University of Texas continues to leave his mark on special teams. Late in the second quarter with the Steelers leading 21-7. Kapinos boomed a punt to the Bengals 13 yard line. Brandon Tate appeared to have room to return the punt, potentially for significant yardage, but Brown, who had inadvertently slid as he approached Tate, got back on his feet with amazing athleticism and alacrity, and then proceeded to wrestle Tate down toe the ground for a mere three-yard gain. The Steelers proceeded to force a three-and-out and then extended the lead to 21 with Antonio Brown's 60-yard punt return. Awesome play by Brown. It is worth noting however that Brown maybe got away with a block in the back on A. Brown's punt return. We won't give A. Brown is own paragraph here, but outstanding vision by him on that return. He's just so much more naturally gifted than Emmanuel Sanders and our previous return man, Stefan Logan, at anticipating where lanes will materialize before they occur.
What else can you say about James Harrison that hasn't already been mentioned? The man is an extraordinary physical specimen. One of his three sacks was the result of blown protection assignments, but his other two were just Deebo doing what he does -- terrorizing would-be blockers and meeting quarterbacks in the backfield. Harrison now has 8 sacks in 8 games this season, just one shy of LaMarr Woodley's total for tops on the team, and two shy of what would be his fourth consecutive double-digit sack season.
Congratulations to Hines Ward for becoming the 19th player in NFL history to eclipse the 12,000 receiving yards mark Sunday afternoon. Ward hauled in five receptions (team high) for 30 yards, giving him 36 catches for 319 yards and 2 TDs on the season, and 990 receptions and 12,021 yards for his Hall of Fame career.
Jeremy Kapinos continues to punt the ball brilliantly. The journeyman punted five times for an average of 54.2 yards. His long was 59 and two were fielded inside the Bengals 20. You have to feel bad for Daniel Sepulveda for the never-ending series of knee injuries he's sustained, but with the way Kapinos is punting the football, it's hard not to consider him an afterthought right now. Keep it up Kapinos!
Mike Wallace bounced back from his sub-par showing in Week 12 with two more touchdown receptions against the Bengals. Wallace only had three catches on the day, but as mentioned, two found pay dirt, and both came from inside the red zone where the Steelers' offense has really struggled as of late. Congratulations to Wallace on reaching double-digit TDs on the season (10).
Also aiding the team's red zone efficiency was the hard running of Rashard Mendenhall. Mendy's final numbers don't jump off the page --16 carries for 60 yards and 2 TDs -- but I thought he did a better job of putting his head down when he should have and then bouncing it outside when appropriate. Four of Mendenhall's eight scores this season have come in the two games against Cincy.
The Steelers are next to impossible to beat when Ben Roethliberger does not turn the ball over. For just the fourth time this season and the first time in his past five games, Big Ben did not throw an interception. Roethlisberger's final line was very reminiscent of a typical outing during his rookie season -- 15-of-23 for 176 yards and 2 TDs. He was pulled early in the fourth quarter in favor of Charlie Batch with the game well out of reach. His final completion, a 9-yard toss to tight end David Johnson in the fourth quarter, was the 2,026th of his career, moving him past Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw for the club record. "It's obviously an awesome honor," Roethlisberger said. "Anytime you break a guy like that's record, it's a great thing." Indeed, a nice honor, but obviously due to the evolution of the game since Bradshaw retired, the record will ultimately go down as one of the least noteworthy records Big Ben winds up setting before his career is finished.
An interception in two straight games for Ike Taylor? You betcha. Taylor picked off Bruce Gradokowski in the fourth quarter for just his 13th career pick. Though it was inconsequential in the game's outcome, I was thrilled to see Taylor get the pick because, as we've learned in recent history, Taylor will continue to get snubbed from his first Pro Bowl bid unless he picks off a few passes. Taylor also had seven tackles on the afternoon, six of them solo.
Liking what I'm seeing out of Lawrence Timmons lately. Add eight more tackles to Timmons' season total (62). That's a long way from last year's mark (135), but over his past three, Timmons now has 21 takedowns and an interception.
More soon, but who else would you throw into the mix?