For the fourth consecutive game, the Steelers gave up a touchdown via the offense or the special teams to make the game closer than it should have been. The last three of those four, they've walked away with a win against teams that shouldn't be allowed to hang around against the defending champs.
Unlike with the Chargers and Lions, the Browns never got within a score late in the 4th quarter. The defense only gave away seven points overall and didn't look exposed in the running game without Aaron Smith. At the same time, it's the Browns. And if their receivers were capable of hauling in even most of the most basic of receptions, it could have been different. The Wildcat was largely effective against the Steelers defense with Cribbs running the show in terms of yardage, but the most it could accomplish on the red zone is an interception by Polamalu.
Troy was in on a vast majority of snaps on the first half, though his time was rightly limited after he limped off the field following the interception. It was a good sign to see him back on the field at the opening of the second half, though I doubt he will play a full game against the Vikings either. Still, with the pick he had on Cribbs and the one Ryan Clark secured later in the game, the two have all the picks the team has in the first six games for the team. Of course, Polamalu has them in what amounts to one full game of action on the field.
Rashard Mendenhall (or according to Solomon Wilcots: Rashard Mendinghall) has his worst game so far as a starter with 17 carries for 62 yards and a score. Still, it wasn't Mendenhall the coughed the ball up on the Browns side of the field with a chance to put Cleveland away. Parker's near-critical fumble will likely cost him ever more touches in the running game. [Update - it escaped me that Mendenhall did in fact get stripped on Cleveland's end of the field. At least he didn't drop the ball on first contact as Parker did]
The passing game is still a frightening weapon for the offense. Big Ben went over 400 yards with both Hines and Santonio eclipsing 100 yards on the day. Ben got a little sloppy with the lead in the second half, forcing a few balls that might have been picked by defensive backs with surer hands. Still, Ben has had a rating over a rating 100 each of the previous three weeks while Hines has 23 catches for 358 yards and two scores over the same span. Not many other tandems in the league could claim similar recent success. Not to be neglected either is Heath Miller over those three weeks with 18 catches for 204 yards and four touchdowns. Finally, he's been made a key component in the offense. Teams can't seem to deal with it for long.
With the victory, the Steelers jump to second place in the division. Even had the Ravens not lost to the Vikings, with a win over the Browns the Steelers would have passed them in the AFC North standings by virtue of a better conference record. But are the Ravens still the team to worry about in the division? Baltimore's secondary looks absolutely pathetic. Granted, Cincy fell at home to a team anyone in first place should be able to knock off, but they're possessing a knack at making big plays at critical moments that other teams in the division are not.
Next week with be a huge test for Pittsburgh. Polamalu's inclusion made a difference in the first half. Hopefully he can make a more sustained performance at home against Minny. Should the Steelers knock off the Vikes, they will go into the bye in very good position to walk away with the AFC North at the very least.