Not short on winners in the Steelers cathartic 24-17 win over Cincinnati in Week 7, the game marked the breakout performances by several Steelers players. The win also pulls them within 1.5 games of the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens.
CB Ike Taylor - Odds are excellent the ratings of his weekly radio show will increase a bit this week. Taylor called out local media last week, and played easily his best game this season. He allowed Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green just one catch - an eight-yard touchdown pass off a perfect short slant throw by quarterback Andy Dalton. Taylor had position, but just missed the ball as he attempted to swipe at it. His coverage helped the Steelers limit Dalton to a 14-for-28 passing performance, and held the Bengals to 28 yards on their final four drives.
LG Willie Colon - His move from right tackle to left guard was the right move, and Colon just needed some time to get fully acclimated with his new role. He found his niche Sunday, engaging in an epic battle with rookie linebacker Vontaze Burfict throughout the game. Colon was the catalyst behind the Steelers' best running game of the season, and sprung Jonathan Dwyer to a 122-yard performance - a career-high for Dwyer and the first 100-yard rusher for the Steelers in 2012.
QB Ben Roethlisberger - He's becoming a staple on this list, and he's earning every ounce of praise he's getting this season. Subtracting three drops from WR Mike Wallace, Roethlisberger threw very well, except an interception in the end zone to tight end Heath Miller. Overall, Roethlisberger was 27-for-37 (72.9 percent) for 279 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
RB Jonathan Dwyer - He kept pounding out tough yards behind an offensive line unit that put up its best performance of the year. Dwyer, starting in the absence of injured RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, shook off a poor start to this season, and ran with decent power, if not good vision, and led the Steelers' ground game at a time they desperately needed a big rushing performance.
CB Keenan Lewis - Helping Taylor out on the other side of the field, Lewis turned in a fine performance, making a nice play on a deep pass to A.J. Green from a Cover 2 look. In a game where the Bengals were averaging around 250 yards passing per game, Taylor and Lewis both had help, but both excelled in coverage outside the numbers, which had been a struggle through the team's first five games.
WR Antonio Brown - perhaps most impressive from his seven-catch, 96 yard performance was the multiple quality punt returns he had negated by penalties. He showed an explosive first step on special teams, and the run-after-catch ability the Steelers have been looking for from him all season. His seven catches came on eight targets, not having dropped a pass after having some concentration lapses the last two games.
WR Mike Wallace - Despite a game-high 15 targets, Wallace only pulled in eight catches for 52 yards, and dropped at least three passes. To his credit, he did manage to pull in a low Roethlisberger throw on third down that set up Dwyer's game-clinching 32-yard run.
Special Teams - Six penalties on the kick and punt return and coverage units marred what was otherwise a disciplined game. The Steelers are among the league's leaders in penalties per game, and without those infractions, the return game would have set up the Steelers with short field position multiple times.