Tight ends and punters were the surprise moneymakers in Sunday's win

Jon Ledyard's notes from the field, locker room and press box following the Steelers' 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals

- So much for the Steelers' perceived lack of talent at the tight end position. The primary preseason fears are seemingly unfounded two weeks into the season. Jesse James and Xavier Grimble accounted for two of the three offensive touchdowns, as the latter’s catch opened the scoring with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. Grimble’s only other catch of the game was nearly as important - a diving grab of an underthrown pass by Ben Roethlisberger on 3rd-and-1. On the next play, Roethlisberger found Sammie Coates deep for 53 yards, setting up the quarterback’s nine-yard touchdown pass to a leaping James amidst a crowd in the middle of the end zone.

“It was a little bit of a broken play,” said James. “Just had to make it work for us. Ended up being a little broken the way I ran my route, but Ben was able to make the play. They were trying to take away A.B. as much as they could, so we (the tight ends) had one-on-ones against safeties and linebackers and that’s how we were able to work it.”

If this Pittsburgh offense can consistently offer the weapons at tight end that we’ve seen throughout the first two weeks of the season, it could easily be the toughest unit to stop in the NFL.

- It was a quiet game for Antonio Brown, a goal Cincinnati has consistently been able to accomplish. In the teams’ past three matchups in the regular season, the Bengals have held Brown under 100 yards receiving, and today the rainy conditions certainly helped. This wasn’t Roethlisberger’s sharpest performance, either, as Brown was open more often than his four catches for 39 yards would indicate.

- Both defenses were stingy in the rainy conditions, but the Steelers work against A.J. Green really stood out. Ross Cockrell often matched up against the receiver, as the Steelers mixed up their coverages to hold Green to just two catches for 38 yards on eight targets.

“He (Cockrell) was (following Green),” said Mike Tomlin. “Look at the stat line. He did a nice job, but I don’t want to make it out to be something that it’s not. We liked the matchup because of the physical stature, but we still did a lot of things schematically to hopefully minimize his (Green’s) impact on the game.”

- It was tough sledding for DeAngelo Williams against a stout Bengals front, but the running back did manage to hit a couple of career milestones thanks to his 94 yards rushing on a career-high 32 carries. The running back reached the 10,000 yards from scrimmage mark during the contest, but don’t expect him to get excited about the accomplishment.

“It’s yards man,” said Williams. “I am hunting one thing and one thing only, and that is a Super Bowl. The 10,000 yards up until this point haven’t translated into a Super Bowl, so it means nothing to me.”

Eli Rogers and Brown split punt return duties, and both players finished the game averaging nine yards a return. Rogers had a near fumble, but was ruled down by contact. Replays appeared to show the receiver’s knee had not touched the ground when he lost control of the ball, but the Bengals chose not to challenge, because it appeared the Steelers had recovered.

- In a game that didn’t have many statistical stars, Jordan Berry may have been one of the Steelers' biggest playmakers. The second-year punter dropped a ridiculous six punts between the Bengals’ 13 and 5-yard lines, including four inside the 10. Berry’s display of accuracy put the Bengals under the shadow of their own goalposts several times throughout the game and helping the Steelers earn short fields on offense. Berry’s improvement has shown up early and often since training camp began, fortifying a position that had formerly represented an area of weakness for the Steelers over the past several seasons.

- The Steelers defense continued to show a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, forcing the Bengals offense into an 0-3 showing inside the red zone. Again Pittsburgh relied mostly on three and four-man rushes, especially in the early stages of the game, but Andy Dalton’s inaccuracy and a diverse mix of coverages helped limit the damage despite Cincinnati’s 412 yards of offense. Still, the Steelers' lack of pressure as a unit is concerning, as the unit garnered just one sack (its first of the season) on Dalton scramble that resulted in no gain thanks to Arthur Moats’ hustle.

“At the end of the day, you definitely want to get those numbers,” said Moats. “But if we’re able to still create pressure and create a disruptive environment and get the win, that’s all that matters. I feel like we’re still collapsing the pocket when we need to, but at the same time the secondary is playing really well. As long as you’re winning, we’re not about to make a fuss out of nothing.”


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