Quick turnaround for the Steelers
Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers bounced back to beat the Bengals, 24-17, Sunday in Cincinnati. The Steelers took back possession of first place in the AFC North, but that is likely to change this weekend.
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Last week, William Gay could cover no one, the Steelers defense reverted to old and slow and the Baltimore Ravens seemingly wrapped up the AFC North Division title with their last-second victory at Heinz Field.
But like the weather in Chicago, if you don't like the standings in the NFL, wait 15 minutes.
The Steelers have returned to first place in the AFC North at 7-3 thanks to a turnaround Sunday in which they knocked off one of the two teams tied for first, the Cincinnati Bengals. The Seahawks took care of the other one in Seattle where they upset the Ravens.
The weekend results left the Ravens and Bengals tied for second in the division at 6-3.
"It was a sad day in Pittsburgh last week," linebacker James Farrior said after his defense slammed the door on Cincinnati via Gay's interception that preserved a 24-17 victory. "But I think we're a little happier this week."
The AFC North will get another face-lift this weekend when Cincinnati visits Baltimore. Assuming no tie, one will leave that game deadlocked with the Steelers in first with six games left in the season. That's an eternity of football left the way things have played out in the NFL this season of the lockout, where up can be down, down can be up and things just aren't what they seem sometimes.
Nevertheless, the Steelers enter their weekend off -- the latest in their history -- feeling pretty good about where they stand.
"It felt like it would never come," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "But now that it's here, I can't think of a better week for it."
The Steelers have several players whose status remains uncertain for their next game Nov. 27 at Kansas City. LaMarr Woodley said he won't know until he goes through treatment and tests his pulled hamstring. He has missed the past two games. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders had surgery on a knee to repair a meniscus only last week so he's not likely to go in that game.
But others who were injured and have returned will welcome the respite, such as Farrior, James Harrison, Doug Legursky and even Ben Roethlisberger, who has been beat up and had a slightly sore right arm.
They have a long way to go when they return because they still must finish ahead of Baltimore in order to win the division and not have to play every postseason game on the road.
"Win and keep winning," Wallace said of the goal when they return. "We can't worry about Baltimore. That's out of our hands, so we have to take care of what we can, and that's winning. Every week, just make sure we come out on top. If we do that, it doesn't matter what anybody else does."
Antonio Brown, whose most famous catch came in the AFC championship game last season as a rookie, has been adding more depth of numbers as well as some highlight catches as he continues his climb up the depth chart.
Brown started his first NFL game Sunday and came through with a team-high 86 yards on five receptions. His 26 catches and 364 yards the past three games are more than anyone on the team.
He also has more third-down catches (18) and yards (282) than any receiver in the AFC. He ranks second on third downs in the NFL only to New Orleans running back Darren Sproles.
"No question, I pride myself on being the guy," Brown said. "Third down, whatever down, when they come my way I have to make the necessary catches to move the chains."
Brown has found more single coverage than Mike Wallace, who ranks third in the AFC with 53 receptions, and needs 78 yards for his second 1,000-yard season.
"Mike Wallace was getting double-teamed. That opens up the back side," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Brown. "He's coming along. He's done some great things. I'm really proud of some of the throws that I had to put on his back shoulder -- adjustments that he had to make, he made. That's just awesome on his part."
Brown's best catch Sunday came on third-and-19 from the 15. A punt from there would have given the Bengals good field position in a 14-10 game. Behind Cincinnati's Leon Hall over the middle, he leaped high to tip the ball in the air and come down with it for a 21-yard reception that kept their field-goal drive going -- and the ball away from the Bengals offense.
"He's a big-time player," Wallace said. "That's what he does, he catches the ball and makes plays."
The kickoff of the Steelers next game, at Kansas City, will remain at 8:20 p.m. There was speculation that NBC-TV might opt to show another game at that time under the NFL flex schedule and move Steelers-Chiefs to an earlier kickoff.
First Published November 15, 2011 12:00 am