Quiet Steelers come up big

PITTSBURGH -- Perhaps they're flying under the radar at 8-3, but the Pittsburgh Steelers like it that way.

"It's kind of our thing," Troy Polamalu said after his interception ended a 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We're not a flashy team," he said. "We're not the Dallas Cowboys, where we have a lot of stars and draw a lot of attention. We grind 'em out and we play kind of ugly, rough and physical. And we win, thank God. But the personality of the city matches the personality of the team. It's so blue collar, none of that New York-Los Angeles-Hollywood mentality within us, and we like that."

The grind-it-out players stepped up to take a bow Thursday night against the Bengals.

Tight end Heath Miller is one quiet guy who made his presence felt early. He made up for a holding penalty early in the second quarter by catching a 14-yard pass on the next snap. He finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown catch near the right pylon to tie the game, 7-7.

"It was just a good play call and a good throw. I had the easy part," said Miller. "I was open in the flat and Matt Spaeth had a good pick route on the play."

Spaeth, sitting next to Miller in the locker room, laughed at the description. He'd caught 12 passes during Miller's two-game absence, but was blanked this week as Miller caught four passes for 44 yards and the touchdown. Miller also set up Gary Russell's 2-yard touchdown run with a 19-yard catch down the left seam after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had checked down from the right side.

Russell's touchdown late in the third quarter put the Steelers ahead by 20-7 and sealed the win. It was the first career touchdown for Russell, another of the quiet grinders.

"I consider myself a power back. I'm not Willie fast," Russell said of Willie Parker.

Russell appears to have secured the short-yardage role Thursday. He converted a fourth-and-1 on the Steelers' first scoring drive and was the first and only option for the Steelers at the goal line.

"I'm only in my second year," Russell said. "Usually they call on guys who've been here awhile. When he called my number, it surprised me. It's something you dream of."

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin also called Mewelde Moore's number Thursday night when Parker aggravated his knee, and Moore responded with a workmanlike 56 yards on 15 carries to lead all rushers. Moore also took a screen pass 18 yards to not only establish a team-high for the play this season, it set up Roethlisberger's 8-yard touchdown run to finish the scoring.

"You could read the defense and see it was going to work," Moore said of the screen pass. "Saw it, liked it, hit it."

Of course, the most blue collar of these blue-collar Steelers is defensive end Aaron Smith. He batted three passes, sniffed out a screen for no gain, and blew up several running plays Thursday night. The Bengals rushed for only 43 yards on 20 carries.

"To be 8-3 with these few days off is nice," said the quiet giant. "Coming off that short week is hard. It was hard to come back, so we'll get some rest and get our legs back underneath us."

Not that they need them to stay grounded.


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