The Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Week 11 bye on a high note having just defeated the Cincinnati Bengals on the road, 24-17, for their first divisional win of the 2011 season. The victory improved Pittsburgh's record to 7-3, tied with the Houston Texans for the best record in the AFC. In the event that both teams finish with identical records, the Texans would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers by virtue of their 17-10 Week 4 win over Pittsburgh. We'll see how Houston fares down the stretch now that it's been revealed that starting quarterback Matt Schaub is likely out for the remainder of the season with a Lisfranc (foot) injury.
Lots of football left, and certainly plenty of time to speculate this next two weeks while we await the return of Steeler football in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, who also must adjust to the loss of their starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, to injury. For now though, let's hand out some fictitious hardware to an individual who played a big part in the Steelers emerging victorious on the road in Cincinnati Sunday afternoon.
- Ben Roethlisberger: 21-of-33 (63.6 %), 245 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Antonio Brown: 5 receptions, 86 yards
- Rashard Mendenhall: 16 carries, 44 yards, 2 TDs, 1 reception, 26 yards
- Jeremy Kapinos: 5 punts, 50.4 average, Long 57, 1 Inside 20.
- Lawrence Timmons: 5 total tackles, 1 INT
- William Gay: 3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 Pass Defended leading to INT
William Gay certainly is deserving of the nod here. God knows we might not have another opportunity to recognize him in such a way. But I'm actually going to go with someone else here, if only because we ran two articles about Gay in the aftermath of Sunday's game praising him for his solid performance.
Instead I'm going with Antonio Brown this week. Here's why: all five of Brown's catches were crucial -- all came on scoring drives, all five picked up a fresh set of downs, and two were on third down plays including Brown's spectacular 21-yard snag on a 3rd and 19 deep inside Pittsburgh territory midway through the second quarter.
Reception 1: 3rd and 19 from own 15, ~ 5:00 left in 2nd quarter -- Brown hauls in an incredible 21-yard reception from Ben Roethlisberger to keep the chains moving and the drive alive. Cincinnati had cut the lead to 14-10 that quarter, so it was imperative for the Steelers to not let the Bengals establish full control of the momentum prior to half. That first reception was a big moment in the game.
Reception 2: Same drive, 3rd and 7 from own 39 yard line, ~3:30 left in 2nd quarter -- Brown keeps drive alive with another third down catch, this time for 15 yards to put Pittsburgh inside Baltimore territory.
Reception 3: Same drive, 2nd and 5 from CIN 41, final play before 2:00 minute warning -- Brown hauls in third catch of the drive and the first not on a third down conversion attempt. This one goes for another 17 yards and has the Steelers knocking on the door of the Bengals red zone as the two minute warning hits.
Reception 4: 1st and 20 from CIN 34, two plays after two-minute warning -- following a bogus pass interference call on Heath Miller that nullified what would have been Jerico Cotchery's second touchdown reception of the game, the Steelers were on the fringes of FG territory facing a 1st and 20 from the 34. No problem. Brown picks all of it up with an extra yard to boot the very next play. The Steelers eventually sputtered out at the 10 yard line and had to settle for a successful Shaun Suisham field goal, but on the key series before half, Brown amassed 74 yards on four receptions, all of which picked up first down yardage.
Reception 5: 2nd and 9 from own 48, ~6:00 left in 3rd quarter -- Brown's 12-yard catch put the Steelers inside Bengals territory on a drive the Steelers desperately needed following a Bengals touchdown that had leveled the score at 17-17. Rashard Mendenhall would finish off the drive six plays later with an impressive 9-yard run to pay dirt.
What a special player we have on our hands here folks. Just 23 years of age, Brown has plenty of room to still develop. With as pure a set of hands as we've ever seen on a Steelers wide receiver, it's quite fun to think about what the future still may hold for him and the rest of the Young Money Crew. Brown leads all NFL receivers with 26 catches this past four weeks -- mind you, those four weeks saw many high-profile WRs play only three games thanks to their respective teams' bye weeks. Still, there's no denying the impressive streak Brown is on, and what it means for the Steelers' offensive versatility moving forward.