Quick-hit thoughts after first quarter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 15 minutes of play, the Patriots lead the Steelers 7-0. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the first quarter:

1. Ninkovich with early strip sack. The Steelers got a good opening kickoff return and had something going in Patriots territory, but defensive end Rob Ninkovich came up with a strip sack on third down that was recovered by defensive tackle Joe Vellano. It was the 36th straight game with a turnover forced by the Patriots defense and Ninkovich's third sack of the year.

2. Gregory donning dot again. For the second straight week, Patriots safety Steve Gregory is wearing the green dot on the back of his helmet, signifying that he is communicating with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia through a headset. Jerod Mayo had worn the headset until his injury, and Dont'a Hightower wore it the first game that Mayo missed. Gregory has emerged as one of the Patriots' most reliable defenders.

3. Bolden plunge overturned, Pats come up short. Brandon Bolden took a carry 1 yard for what looked like the game's opening points. The ruling was overturned, however, and Stevan Ridley was stopped short on fourth down on the very next play. Not to be overlooked were three catches from tight end Rob Gronkowski, who looks very much to be back near the level he was playing at last season before injuring his forearm.

4. McCourty comes up with big pick, Pats capitalize play later. Devin McCourty came up with his first interception of the season, picking off Ben Roethlisberger in Steelers territory. He continues to play as well as any safety in the AFC this season. Just one play later, Tom Brady found a wide-open Danny Amendola for a 34-yard strike, putting the Patriots up 7-0.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the first quarter: guard Logan Mankins (clipping).