It looks like the Steelers are making the transition away from Hines Ward. On Sunday, it was Jerricho Cotchery -- and not Ward -- who joined Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh's three-receiver sets.
This is the right move because the Steelers' younger, faster and more explosive receivers are stepping up. Ward could drop further on the depth chart when Emmanuel Sanders returns from knee surgery.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said Ward's health wasn't a factor in the decrease in snaps. Ward suffered concussion-like symptoms after taking a hit to the head from Ray Lewis the week before.
"I think he was ready to go, but we were just looking at some personnel groups and looking at ways we wanted to attack these people," Tomlin said. "We’ll do that from week to week."
Ward was a non-factor in Cincinnati with one catch for 10 yards. Cotchery had two receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown. He also had another touchdown called back because of Heath Miller's penalty.
Tomlin, though, wouldn't say whether this is permanent.
"It may not be any indication of his participation moving forward," Tomlin said, "it’s just an indication of his participation today.”
STAT THAT STICKS: 4 -- Number of franchises that the Steelers joined who have at least four head coaches with 50 regular-season wins. The win over the Bengals marked the 50th for Mike Tomlin. Other Steeler head coaches who have reached that accomplishment are: Chuck Noll (193), Bill Cowher (149) and Raymond "Buddy" Parker (51).
OVERHEARD: "We're doing enough things offensively and defensively to win, but I still don't think we're playing to our full potential. As long as we're still winning games, that's all that matters because hopefully when we do hit it full stride and are playing really well, who knows where it will go?" Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after Pittsburgh became the second AFC team to reach seven wins this season (along with Houston).
WHAT'S NEXT: The Steelers (7-3) are on their bye week. The winner of Sunday's Bengals-Ravens game will match Pittsburgh's record. If the Ravens win, they take back first place in the AFC North because they've swept the Steelers. If the Bengals win, Pittsburgh remains in first place because it won at Cincinnati on Sunday.