Monday Takeaways: An all-around win boosts momentum

Justin K. Aller

Pittsburgh puts in solid all-around effort in 30-20 win over Bengals in Week 15.

Team wins

They build teams. Seems obvious. Performances like the Steelers had in their 30-20 win over Cincinnati help bolster a level of confidence among younger players. That will be critical as the Steelers continue to rebuild their roster. Perhaps other moves are more obvious now, but it was a solid game - one in which we could not pinpoint a specific Loser.

Special teams won a game

Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith came to Pittsburgh with high expectations of fixing a unit that really didn't perform well top to bottom. The way it looked in the preseason would have been packed up and returned to sender by Week 4. His teams held together, amid injuries and a fluctuating roster, and they put forward the finest play they've had all year. Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return wasn't so much an example of Brown's impressive explosion and vision as it was an absolute massacre. Along with punter Kevin Huber, three other Bengals lay on the ground as Brown reached paydirt - an inspiring play that should live with Smith for a while.

Bell tolls again

Considering Le'Veon Bell has only played 11 games this season, gaining over 1,000 yards from scrimmage is impressive, indeed. More than anything, it's the higher level of confidence he's bringing in each game. He hasn't hit his ceiling yet. A full training camp after having presumably 13 full games under his belt, he could top 2,000 next year.

Playing over competition

The Steelers, player for player, are probably not a better team than the Cincinnati Bengals. But the better team won Sunday. Cincinnati was barely off the bus when the Steelers began giving them what had to be one of the more savage beatings of their season. A mark of a strong, mature team is the ability to be ready to play on the road. Not to discredit the Steelers, but the Bengals were flat pretty much the entire first half. Not that it's Pittsburgh's fault Marvin Lewis and his staff seem to be struggling to get them to play on the road.

Quasi-hollow

For as impressive as the first half was, the Steelers didn't play a complete game. They only gained 290 yards, the interception thrown by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was amateurish and they didn't exactly step on the throats of the Bengals when they had the chance to really put the game away. Then again, this is a 6-8 team that will finish, at worst, at .500 in the AFC North, with a chance to go 4-2. Sometimes you gotta take what you can get.

Seriously

It was almost like a joke..."...It wasn't the calf that kept him out of three games this year, it was the opposite calf." Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley injuring two calves in one year, along with hamstring problems that plagued him over the last two years, make it really hard to see his continued future in Pittsburgh. And Jarvis Jones looked inspired in his performance against the Bengals.

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