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Steelers notebook: Polamalu, Clark back where they belong

| Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 10:48 p.m.
An injured Marcus Gilbert lays on the grass during first quarter Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Heinz Field.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
An injured Marcus Gilbert lays on the grass during first quarter Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at Heinz Field.

Safety Ryan Clark said the Steelers' defense played well, partly because strong safety Troy Polamalu didn't have to play as much at inside linebacker. “We made them work for it and didn't give them the big plays over the top,” Clark said.

Clark said the play of cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen helped prevent the big plays that haunted the defense in losses to Baltimore and Miami. Allen and Taylor had a team-high seven tackles and a combined three passes defended.

“We understood where their guys were going to be,” Clark said. “We just wanted to be deep, and Troy played the middle of the field a little more. We played a little more nickel (with linebacker Terence Garvin) when Troy wasn't playing linebacker, and it helped out a lot. It helped having him back at safety playing the way he usually does.”

Sanders' chance at redemption

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders didn't come up with the deep ball, but his 8-yard catch on third-and-7 with 5:38 to play practically sealed the Steelers' victory. The Bengals used two timeouts before Sanders' catch gave the Steelers a new set of downs.

“I'm just happy when the ball comes my way, so I was glad to make something happen,” said Sanders, who had been haunted by a dropped 2-point conversion in a 22-20 loss at Baltimore last month. “I had an opportunity to make that play for my teammates. I knew the ball was coming to me, and I said in my mind that I didn't make the play versus Baltimore. I told myself, ‘I'm going to make this play.'”

Woodley, Gilbert injured early

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley left Sunday's game at Heinz Field after reinjuring his right calf early in the first quarter. Woodley, who missed three games after first injuring his calf against Buffalo on Nov. 10, limped off the field, and was replaced by rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones.

The Steelers' makeshift offensive line took another blow when right tackle Marcus Gilbert left late in the first quarter after aggravating his sore right ankle. Gilbert, who missed practice earlier during the week, was replaced by Guy Whimper but returned in the second quarter. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum, returned to the starting lineup after missing last Sunday's game with a knee injury.

Will Allen delivers again

Safety Will Allen, who returned to the Steelers in early October after being cut by Dallas, once again delivered a big play. Allen, along with Antwon Blake, has played well on special teams. Allen, who had five solo tackles, tackled Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber at the Bengals' 1-yard line after a fumbled snap. The Steelers scored two plays later on a run by Le'Veon Bell for a 7-0 lead. Huber later suffered a fractured jaw when he was KO'd by linebacker Terence Garvin during Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return that put the Steelers up 21-0 in the first quarter.

Tomlin prefers NFL over Texas

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin continues to push back against rumors that the University of Texas has expressed interest in him replacing Mack Brown, who resigned Saturday after 16 years with the Longhorns.

“I always had a desire to compete in this sport at the highest level, but you don't know if those opportunities are going to be presented to you,” Tomlin was quoted on the team's Web site. “I think that once you're exposed to football at this level (NFL), you realize there's only one bowl game – the Super Bowl. The rest of that stuff is nice trips and sweat suits and watches.”

Tomlin, who began his coaching career at his alma mater, Virginia Military Institute, added he prefers dealing with professional instead of college athletes.

Quick hits

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's 11-yard completion to Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter enabled him to set a single-season record for completions (338), breaking the mark he set in 2009. ... Antonio Brown's five catches gave him 95, which is second most in a single season behind Hines Ward (114 in 2002). ... Defensive end Ziggy Hood's first-quarter sack was his third this season. He added a fumble recovery in the third quarter. ... Defensive back Antwon Blake, who replaced Robert Golden on the Pro Bowl ballot, had two special-team tackles in the first half to tie Golden with a team-high 12. ... Nose tackle Hebron Fangupo recorded his first tackle of the season, an assist in the second quarter.

McLendon among inactives

Nose tackle Steve McLendon, bothered by an ankle injury, sat for the second time in three games. McLendon was replaced in the starting lineup by Al Woods. Defensive Brett Keisel missed his fourth game in five weeks due to an ailing right foot. Also, linebacker Stevenson Sylvester was on the inactive list along with quarterback Landry Jones, wide receiver Derek Moye, cornerback Isaiah Green and center/guard David Snow.

Wilson out, Arnfelt in

Linebacker Kion Wilson was tossed into the starting lineup in Week 2 after veteran Larry Foote went down with a season-ending injury in the season opener. On Saturday, Wilson was released when the Steelers added defensive end Brian Arnfelt to the active roster. Arnfelt was promoted from the practice squad because of Keisel's injury.

Dolphins' Rizzi fined

Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi has been fined $10,000, the NFL confirmed Sunday, for being on the field and colliding with an official on the final play of the first half last Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Rizzo's fine comes slightly less than two weeks after Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 by the NFL for stepping into the path of Ravens kick returner Jacoby Jones as he raced down the Pittsburgh sideline on a 73-yard return. The Steelers also are expected to lose a low-round draft pick.

The lesser penalty for Rizzi, an assistant coach, signals that NFL holds head coaches to a higher standard.

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