Why Martellus Bennett's playing time dipped in Patriots' win

Gronk happy with how the offense executed (0:46)

Rob Gronkowski offers his take on going into a tough road atmosphere and coming out with a win, and he breaks down how the Patriots' offense took advantage of the opportunities they were given. (0:46)

PITTSBURGH -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's 36-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter was one of the key plays of Sunday’s 27-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

It helped the Patriots re-establish momentum after the Steelers had sliced the lead to 14-13, and it also reflected why there was a large discrepancy in snap counts between Gronkowski (52) and fellow tight end Martellus Bennett (30).

The play up the left seam came out of the 3-WR/1-TE/1-RB package, with Gronkowski as the lone tight end. The Patriots called on that package 26 times in the game, using Gronkowski as the lone tight end in 25 of them.

On the play, Gronkowski said, “It was just a play where there was a split safety and I just had a little bender to go right up the middle. A little seam route that bended between the split safety, and I just had a good look. Tom [Brady] threw the ball perfectly, right on the money.”

The only package Gronkowski wasn’t part of was the 2-WR/1-TE/1-FB/1-RB grouping.

With that as the springboard, here ESPN.com’s weekly snap-count analysis:

Total offensive snaps: 57

Total defensive snaps: 73


Rob Gronkowski -- 52

Martellus Bennett -- 30

Bennett, who has been playing through a right ankle injury, had a quiet day as a pass-catcher (one catch, five yards) but once again contributed as a blocker. Bill Belichick noted the run-blocking of both Gronkowski and Bennett after the game.


Julian Edelman -- 51

Chris Hogan -- 32

Malcolm Mitchell -- 31

Danny Amendola -- 19

Matthew Slater -- 1

Hogan lost a fumble on the first offensive snap and then wasn’t used as regularly in the two-receiver sets after that. “It’s football. That stuff is going to happen, but that’s on me,” Hogan said. Meanwhile, Mitchell returned to a larger role after being limited last week with a hamstring injury. Edelman’s nine catches came on 10 targets, as his one miscue was a third-down drop.


LeGarrette Blount -- 31

James White -- 25

Brandon Bolden -- 3

Blount’s 11- and 25-yard runs to open a drive midway through the third quarter were key plays in the game, coming against the Steelers’ nickel defense. Meanwhile White’s 19-yard screen pass for a touchdown was a thing of football beauty.


James Develin -- 11

Seven of his snaps came in the first half as coordinator Josh McDaniels found an early mix between the pass and run.


LT Nate Solder -- 57

LG Joe Thuney -- 56

C David Andrews -- 57

RG Shaq Mason -- 57

RT Marcus Cannon -- 57

There were some rocky moments, such as when Solder was called for back-to-back holding penalties, but the ability to create space in the running game when it counted stood out most. “When you can run the ball, it shows you have a tough team,” Edelman said in a nod to the big guys up front.


Tom Brady -- 57

Keeping plays alive with his feet on third downs in the first half was impressive; it’s why Edelman calls him “Clydesdale.”


Malcolm Butler -- 73

Eric Rowe -- 73

Logan Ryan -- 31

Justin Coleman -- 17

Rowe got the start over Ryan in a significant switch-up. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Rowe has a bigger physical makeup than the rest of the team’s corners. Coleman didn’t enter until later in the second half as the No. 4 option. Butler's one-on-one matchup with Antonio Brown also stood out, with Butler holding his own.


Devin McCourty -- 72

Patrick Chung -- 71

Duron Harmon -- 52

Chung seemed like he was all over the place, with his reliable, physical tackling important in a game against a top talent in Le'Veon Bell. He finished with a team-high 10 tackles and also had a big second-half pass breakup.


Dont'a Hightower -- 68

Jamie Collins -- 65

Elandon Roberts -- 13

In the first half, there was more of a three-man rotation, but the coaches seemed to go away from that in the second half and stuck with the top two. Part of that might have been that Collins’ injured hip responded well.


Rob Ninkovich -- 56

Chris Long -- 50

Jabaal Sheard -- 35

Trey Flowers -- 20

Shea McClellin -- 10

Geneo Grissom -- 1

This group was tapped more than the norm to provide resistance against the run because of a shortage of big-bodied depth at defensive tackle with Vincent Valentine (back) and Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) not active. Thus, Sheard played less on the edge and often was covered up by another end.


Alan Branch -- 40

Malcom Brown -- 35

Anthony Johnson -- 21

The Steelers finished with 94 yards on 22 carries (4.3 avg.), as the run fits seemed to be improved from Week 6 against the Bengals.