Rookie receivers making contributions

The Steelers rookie receivers are starting to emerge in the offense, with both Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown seeing more game action and continuing their development.

"Those guys are doing well," said receiver Hines Ward. "I am really proud that there is growth. They are making plays for us. It's just doing it on a consistent level. That's what we have to do."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likes having the young targets and is feeling more comfortable with them each game.

"They do a good job," said Roethlisberger. "They still make a couple of mistakes. Just little things that we still need to continue to improve on. We all need to do that. We all still make mistakes. We need to keep on those guys and keep them plugging along. They can be really good and helpful in certain areas."

Sanders emerged as the third receiver over the last few games and his numbers are looking better. He has 16 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown, with 12 of those catches coming in the last four games.

"I think we are both getting comfortable with the playbook and being around the guys on the team and getting acclimated to what life is like in the NFL," said Sanders of the recent progress. "We are making that transition and the light is starting to come on for us.

"It feels good as a rookie to come in and make plays. It's a blessing. That is what we wanted to do and said we were going to do."

Brown has five receptions for 53 yards, with three of them coming in last Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"I think we are doing a good job so far," said Brown. "We are taking advantage of the opportunities and learning the progression and making minimal mistakes. It's coming along. As time goes on we want to continue to get better and contribute.

"It's something special to be a part of. It's always great to contribute. We want to be here to help out."

The Steelers defense is ranked first in the NFL in stopping the run, something that they take a lot of pride in.

"We don't want anyone running on us," said linebacker James Harrison. "I sleep better at night if someone scores a passing touchdown against us or they pass for so many yards, versus a guy who comes in and runs the ball all over you and gains 100 yards or whatever it might be, because then they're just manhandling you and pushing you around. They're pushing around your d-line, they're pushing around your linebackers and they're manhandling you. They're running the ball.

"You can have a so-so line and throw the ball every down and things will look good, but that's nothing but a basketball game to me. The passing game is going to come and go depending on what defenses you call and if the quarterback is good enough and if he can read the defense well enough. There is always a weak spot in any defense no matter what the defense is, so if he can throw it there then you can put that on the defense, but when it comes to the run game it's man to man. It's about me beating him and him beating me for them to be able to run the ball."

Don't think for a minute that the Steelers will let their guard down this week, facing the 2-10 Cincinnati Bengals. The players know this game is just as important as last Sunday's against the Baltimore Ravens was.  

"It's an AFC North game which we always take serious," said Roethlisberger. "We have to be on our P's and Q's especially on offense because the defense is playing with reckless abandon. They are coming after the quarterback and making a lot of plays."

With just four games remaining in the regular season, and currently holding on to first place in the AFC North, every game is important for the Steelers right now and it's a time they hope to get hot.

"You have to get hot at the right time," said Roethlisberger. "I am not saying we are a hot team right now, but we have to win games coming down the stretch which we failed to do last year. It's important for us to continue to put good days together so we can take it on to the field on Sunday and try to get a good performance against a very good divisional opponent."

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