Stacking Wins

The Steelers came up short in their "statement game" in Kansas City, but not Sunday against Cincinnati. Mike Prisuta learned they're in the process of a "statement season."

What the Steelers did to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field might not have resonated across the NFL, but it was a start.

Their 35-7 thumping of Cincinnati certainly had many of the elements Mike Tomlin must have been expecting to see in anticipating that a statement would be made by his team the previous week in Kansas City.

The 28-point margin against the Bengals was the Steelers' largest of the season. They averaged 4.1 yards per rush and their quarterback posted a passer rating of 117.3. The special teams produced one score and set up another. The defense matched a season-low total by permitting just two third-down conversions. And Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and James Harrison all continued climbing statistical ladders of historical significance.

Still, that wasn't quite the statement game Ryan Clark had said Tomlin had expected in KC. According to Troy Polamalu, that can't and won't happen just yet, even though the playing of December football has commenced.

"I do feel that we're getting better," Polamalu said. "I don't think this was by any means a statement game. There's still a lot for us to learn from, from against Kansas City and obviously from this game. We'll see how we move forward."

Polamalu was quick to recall the Steelers' less-than-dominating start, one that included a 43-yard gain allowed on Andy Dalton's first passing attempt, a touchdown that was called back because of a false start on A.J. Green and a field goal that was called back because of a delay-of-game penalty against the Bengals.

After all of that happened Cameron Heyward blocked the field goal attempt that would have given Cincinnati a 3-0 advantage.

Polamalu imagined, potentially, a much different scenario had the Bengals struck first with a field goal or especially with a touchdown.

"In hindsight, it could have made a huge difference," he said. "Who knows the way the game would have turned out?"

What we know now is the Steelers are still in the thick of the chase for the AFC North Division championship, and that they have designs on accomplishing much more this season than merely winning that pennant.

In that regard all they did on Sunday was clear their throat. Anything beyond that, particularly any sort of statement proclaiming their legitimacy toward that end, is just elevator music at present.

"A trip to the Super Bowl would be nice," Polamalu said. "That's the ultimate statement that anybody wants to make.

"I'm not sure what this ‘statement game' really means, to be honest. What would be nice (is) if we would just stack wins on top of each other and not take a step back in any facet of our game; not depend on the offense to bail us out, not depend on the defense. If we continue to play ball and we stack wins then I think you make the case for a ‘statement season.'"

In the meantime they'll do what they can, which will have to be enough until January football rolls around.

"I feel like we're doing OK," linebacker James Harrison said. "We're doing what's necessary to win and when it comes down to it winning games is all that matters."

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