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The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the playoffs with what might be the league's best offense. Will that be enough?

SteelCityInsider publisher Jim Wexell delivers his Cleveland game notes and initial thoughts on Cincinnati.

From the notebook of a sportswriter who learned that 17-hour drives from Florida to Pittsburgh sap brain power for, oh, what is today, Tuesday?
* OK, so that's two days and counting.
* In other words, I apologize for bringing this notes column to you so late. Then again, I figured you would be in a good mood with how Sunday went down.
* The Pittsburgh Steelers are everybody's "It" team right now, a week after members of the national media were joining local fans in the Mike Tomlin witch hunt. So, which is it?
* Both sides are a bit extreme but I do respect the Sunday Night Football duo of Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy. They had a brief exchange that went like this:
RH: "Yeah, Big Ben, he's the best quarterback right now in the AFC."
TD: "That's what makes them dangerous."
* What makes Ben Roethlisberger dangerous is an effective Martavis Bryant.
* Antonio Brown? He's always effective. Roethlisberger needs the big, freaky threat opposite A.B. to threaten defenses from all angles. * In the last two games -- the two in which close observers believe Roethlisberger to have cooled considerably -- Bryant has caught only two passes for six yards. That after the offense's seasonal peak, the Indy-Cincy-Denver run in which Bryant caught 21 passes for 250 yards.
* Roethlisberger's first awful pick Sunday against the Browns appeared to be Bryant's mistake on a route. And when Bryant dropped the next pass to him, he was gone for good, last seen receiving treatment on his neck on a sideline training table.
* Bill Cowher's halftime comment spoke to the Steelers' other issue: "No DeAngelo Williams, a big concern in Pittsburgh."
* Williams suffered a sprained ankle and word is he could play Saturday if he manages the pain. But a running back with a bad ankle doesn't sound like a good situation, regardless of how well he manages pain.
* That's two years in a row the Steelers have had their running back injured in the regular-season finale. The Steelers really need to find a quality No. 3 runner. They should've learned that lesson by now.
* I thought Jordan Todman was a decent No. 3. Apparently he can't pass block like Fitzgerald Toussaint.
* When I start hearing that "the Steelers really like Toussaint's pass-blocking," I figure he's not much of a running threat. Toussaint's 2.3 yards-per-carry average would appear to support that.
* I understand that in the 2005 playoffs the Steelers won in Cincinnati to begin their championship run but I don't really like that draw this time around.
* It has nothing to do with Peter King's report that Andy Dalton is "optimistic about playing." Someone at the Steelers' practice facility on Monday made the case that he would rather see Dalton and his broken right thumb try to "grip it and rip it" on Saturday. I have to agree, because A.J. McCarron can get it to A.J. Green, especially with A.V. Blake on the field.
* I was hoping so much for Blake's middle name to begin with a J, just for poetic purposes. But Valentino works for me in that regard.
* Actually, Blake had a decent game Sunday. Or I should say a decent first half.
* Yes, he's the first-half cornerback. I thought initially, once Brandon Boykin began to play, that Blake was the run-downs corner. But Tomlin's rotation in this case just isn't that simple. I'm still trying to understand why Blake is the first-half corner.
* The linebackers also played well Sunday. It started with Ryan Shazier fighting off the right tackle's block to maniacally chase Austin Davis around to the other edge and into the oncoming freight train named Lawrence Timmons.
* It continued with superb group coverage of tight end Gary Barnidge, who never seemed to get open Sunday.
* And it finished in the second half with a terrific three-series stretch by James Harrison and then a strip sack by Timmons.
Arthur Moats deserves a mention for his outstanding play on Sunday as well.
* I read where Blake broke "Pro Football Focus records" for yards allowed in coverage and missed tackles. PFF, of course, is the organization with the raw grading system off TV broadcasts. But it really hasn't been around long enough to use the term "record" with much impact.
* I did notice in its CB rankings that PFF has Blake next to last, just ahead of Brandon Browner and tied with Joe Haden, within range of Chris Culliver, Brandon Flowers, Dre Kirkpatick and rookie Jalen Collins. I think all of those corners have been mentioned by fans who wanted them as Steelers in the last draft or free-agent crops.
* Can the Steelers get there with that kind of flaw on defense?
* Against this crop of AFC quarterbacks? Absolutely. Even the big gun in the conference is reeling. I take you back to our Sunday Night football pair for the update on Prince Tom Brady.
TD: "We know know why Bill Belichick kicked off in overtime (the previous week). Their offensive line was horrendous (today)."
RH: "Yeah, issues all over the offensive line. Brady hasn't looked great, and hurt his ankle."
* And I thought Belichick kicked off in overtime because he wanted the Jets to make the playoffs over the Steelers.
* If that's true, the football gods aren't going to take it lightly.
* It's almost as bad as wiping your cleats with a Terrible Towel.


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