A baker's dozen stream-of-consciousness thoughts from Sunday Night's game ...
*** Jonathan Dwyer's 122 yards rushing was like a defibrillator to the Steelers moribund run game. It was the first 100+ yard rushing performance by a Steeler this season, and the most by a Steeler in over a year, since Rashard Mendenhall ran for 146 yards against Jacksonville last Oct. 16.
When it became clear on Friday that he would be the starter, I asked him if he was excited and his eyes lit up. He said: "Who doesn't want to have the opportunity to -- not only have the opportunity to start -- but actually play NFL football? Play at the highest level each week and get paid to do it. It's like playing a kid's game and getting paid for it. Who wouldn't be excited about this?" Clearly he brought that enthusiasm to the game. Good to see a young guy make the most of the opportunity.
*** Nickname suggestion for Jonathan Dwyer -- the Minivan?
*** One common complaint I've seen among fans and even some media types is an inability to distinguish exactly what the Steelers are doing differently on offense this season under Todd Haley versus Bruce Arians last year. Here's a big one --Arians would've kept passing up to the end, rather than letting the run game chew up huge chunks of clock. Haley called a good game, but wisely didn't try and get cute or over-think things at the end -- a steady diet of Dwyer did the job.
*** This was the Steelers best and most complete road win since Nov. 13th of last year -- when they also won in Cincinnati, also by a score of 24-17.
*** Baron Batch will have his dreams haunted by that dropped flea-flicker pass for the rest of his life -- because he'll probably never get that open that far downfield again, for the rest of his life.
*** After being downright abused in the action he'd seen against Tennessee and Denver, OT Mike Adams acquitted himself quite well in his first professional start. Other than one sack that was really more the fault of Ben Roethlisberger than he, Adams was effective in handling both Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers, and again showed signs of real power as a run blocker.
*** Ike Taylor's theme music for the week should be "Redemption Song" by Bob Marley. He desperately needed a to have a good game, and delivered, holding Bengals' stud receiver A.J. Green to one catch. Granted that catch was a touchdown, but Taylor was in perfect position for that play and just missed getting a hand on the ball.
*** Emmanuel Sanders needs to get the ball more often. His 31-yard reception late in the game was as important as any catch in the entire game. His route running is excellent, he rarely drops the ball. He often seems to come up with clutch first downs. But his "leg cramps" that mysteriously popped up when the Steelers were in need of a timeout was an excellently crafty veteran move.*** This is obvious, but Mike Wallace was simply terrible tonight. His drops were inexcusable. He needs to take a page from his colleague Antonio Brown's playbook and catch passes from the Jugs machine for up to a half an hour after practice each day. Sometimes, he does it with a machine that whips tennis balls at him. Brown is a tireless worker and rarely makes the kind of drops that Wallace made tonight. And, as my friend Charlie Duran put it, if those balls were bags of money, he wouldn't have dropped them.
*** Being able to clearly here Steelers fans yell "HEEEEEEEEEEEATH" on the television broadcasts of away games never ceases to amuse me. And we'll probably hear it more often this season. Heath Miller already has five touchdown catches -- his previous season high was seven, in 2007.
*** Ben Roethlisberger's two interceptions the last two-games are completely on him, not on the receivers, not on his protection. Both were badly forced balls, one across his body and the field intended for Brown in the Titans game, that Jason McCourty was able to easily outmaneuver Brown for; the other into double-coverage on a pass intended for Miller in the end zone.
*** I loved that pooch punt by Roethlisberger. They should do that more often and probably should've last week in Tennessee instead of going for a what would've been a career long FG attempt for Sean Suisham.
*** Imagine if the Steelers had simply split those losses at Oakland or Tennessee. They'd be at 4-2, tied for first in the division and the whole tone of this season to date would be different. Then again, they could have easily lost that Philly game too.