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Offensive snaps: Hernandez quiet

PITTSBURGH -- A look at snaps played by offensive skill-position players in Sunday's 39-26 win over the Steelers, while looking at possible trends in the weeks ahead (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

TE Rob Gronkowski -- 66 of 73

WR Deion Branch -- 64 of 73

WR Wes Welker -- 58 of 73

TE Alge Crumpler -- 43 of 73

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- 38 of 73

WR Brandon Tate -- 38 of 73

RB Danny Woodhead -- 30 of 73

TE Aaron Hernandez -- 11 of 73

RB/FB Sammy Morris -- 9 of 73

WR Julian Edelman -- 8 of 73

(Includes chop block, false start, offensive pass interference, offensive holding and false start penalties, as well as two-point conversion)

ANALYSIS: One of the things that stands out is the lack of snaps for TE Aaron Hernandez, who entered the game as the Patriots' leader in receiving yardage. His 11 snaps were a season-low and some readers have asked if that means he is in the "doghouse." That doesn't appear to be the case. Instead, this is more of a reflection of the way the Patriots play offense and alter their plan on a week-to-week basis; just as TE Alge Crumpler was limited to nine snaps last week and had 43 this week, Hernandez took a secondary role so the Patriots could feature TE Rob Gronkowski in some of his sets (e.g. three-receiver package with one tight end) based on the way the Steelers were matching up (2 of Gronkowski's touchdown catches were against a cornerback). The decision paid off, with Gronkowski catching three touchdown passes. ... The 38 snaps for RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis are high considering his physical running style, so this is where the return of RB Fred Taylor could help. Coaches would probably like to see Green-Ellis in the mid-20s, while Taylor in the low teens as he returns. That type of split would possibly keep both players fresh as the season progresses. ... In his five games since joining the Patriots, WR Deion Branch has emerged as the No. 1 receiver in terms of playing time. ... As the No. 4 receiving option, Julian Edelman continues to see limited opportunities. He was part of a four-receiver set and was used a few times in a two-receiver set.