Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With just one quarter to play, the Patriots lead the Steelers 27-24. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter:

1. Ridley fumbles early. Patriots running back Stevan Ridley had been playing well of late, though a costly early fumble in the third quarter quickly ended the Patriots' opening drive. After catching a pass near the sideline, Ridley had the football stripped by safety Troy Polamalu. Pittsburgh would go on to score a touchdown five plays later.

2. Ninkovich banged up. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich was banged up early in the third quarter with what the team announced was a foot injury. Ninkovich went to the locker room not long after he left the game along with members of the team's medical staff. In his absence, the Patriots turned to veteran Andre Carter. Ninkovich eventually returned to the sidelines briefly, but then retreated back to the locker room.

3. Gregory too. Safety Steve Gregory, who was wearing the green dot as the on-field communicator for the defense, also left the game with a thumb injury and headed straight to the locker room. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower took over the green dot duties, as he has done previously. Gregory had been playing well as a run stuffer for the Patriots. The team announced that he is questionable to return.

4. Steelers tie game, Pats go up on FG. The Steelers did well to quickly erase a 14-point halftime deficit, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Jerricho Cotchery in the first eight minutes of the half. The Patriots added a 32-yard field goal to retake the lead.

5. Penalty box. The following Patriots were flagged for penalties during the third quarter: safety Tavon Wilson (holding) and guard Logan Mankins (false start).