By John Mehno
For the Mirror
PITTSBURGH - The only discouraging words on the Pittsburgh Steelers sideline Sunday were from the training staff.
The Steelers rolled to a 35-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field, a game that several players left because of injuries.
The biggest concern seemed to be for right guard Ramon Foster, who injured his left ankle in the first half and did not return.
With the next game Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns, there isn't a lot of time to recover.
Hines Ward became the 19th receiver in NFL history to reach 12,000 all-time receiving yards:
1. Jerry Rice22,895
2. Terrell Owens15,934
3. Isaac Bruce15,208
4. Tim Brown14,934
5. Randy Moss14,858
6. Ma. Harrison14,580
7. James Lofton14,004
8. Cris Carter13,899
9. Henry Ellard13,777
10. Torry Holt13,382
11. Andre Reed13,198
12. Tony Gonzalez13,193
13. Steve Largent13,089
14. Irving Fryar12,785
15. Art Monk12,721
16. Jimmy Smith12,287
17. Charlie Joiner12,146
18. Derrick Mason12,061
19. Hines Ward12,021
"We will see where he is for Thursday night," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury, and he "felt a little tweak," according to Tomlin.
Woodley was held out as a precaution.
"I feel good," Woodley said. "It just got a little tired. I wasn't expecting to play the entire game anyway. Once the score started going up a little bit, I took advantage of it."
"There's no major damage," Tomlin said. "He might be in play for Thursday night, but we didn't want to do any further damage to him today. We'll see where we are."
With the mediocre Browns ahead, the Steelers could sit Woodley on Thursday, which would give him two weeks to recover.
Woodley, however, said he expects to play.
"I should be good on Thursday," he said.
The Steelers also reported that running back Mewelde Moore had sustained a hamstring injury during the game.
Tomlin did not address Moore's injury in his post-game remarks.
Several players achieved statistical milestones during the game.
Receiver Hines Ward has 12,021 receiving yards, making him the 19th player and first Steeler to top 12,000 yards.
He joins Jerry Rice and Art Monk as the only 12,000-yard receivers who also have been on more than one Super Bowl-winning team.
"To surpass 12,000 yards, to do it at home and to beat the Cincinnati Bengals, today was a trifecta," Ward said. "That's a lot of passes, considering I don't go deep all the time.
"It was an amazing feat. Ben gave me an opportunity to make plays, and the line gave him enough time to throw the ball. It was just great to do it at home. Twelve-thousand yards is 19th all-time. That's crazy."
Ward got an ovation from the crowd of 63,697 when his milestone was noted.
Ward had five catches for 30 yards against the Bengals. He needs 10 receptions in the last four games to get 1,000 for his career.
"He has a couple more than we have to get him," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "It's fun to get it to him."
Roethlisberger was 15-for-23, and his career completion total is now 2,026, supplanting Terry Bradshaw as the franchise leader.
"It's obviously an awesome honor," Roethlisberger said. "I didn't even know anything about it until everyone came up to me. Anytime you break the record of a guy like that, it's a great thing."
With touchdown runs of 5 and 3 yards, Rashard Mendenhall now has 28 rushing touchdowns.
That puts him fifth in franchise history, passing John Henry Johnson and Barry Foster. Next on the list is Bradshaw, No. 4 with 32 rushing touchdowns.
Mendenhall now has 15 touchdowns in his last 17 games.
Linebacker James Harrison had three sacks, the second time in the last four games he's had three.
He's the third Steelers player to register at least three sacks in more than one game during a season.
Chad Brown had a pair of three-sack games in 1996, and Mike Merriweather had three games in 1984.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has had a good season, but he finished Sunday's game on the bench.
Dalton completed 11 of 24 passes for 135 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
He was relieved by Pittsburgh native Bruce Gradkowski in the fourth quarter.
"We got a chance to give Bruce a little bit of work, and we moved forward," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
Said Dalton, "I wanted to stay in there, but that's just part of it."
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is 13-1 against rookie quarterbacks in his years with the Steelers.
LeBeau will often try to confuse inexperienced quarterbacks with different formations, but Dalton said that wasn't the case on Sunday.
"There were a couple of things that they did, but we knew for the most part," he said. "Obviously there's always going to be a new wrinkle. There were a couple of times when they did something we weren't expecting."
The Bengals never recovered from their opening drive, when they had a touchdown and field goal nullified by penalties.
When they tried to re-kick the field goal from 33 yards, Steelers rookie lineman Cameron Heyward blocked it.
The Bengals came away from that drive with no points.
"That definitely hurt us," Dalton said.
By the time the Bengals scored their only points, the Steelers had a 21-0 lead.
"We missed some opportunities early in the game," Dalton said. "They played well, and we didn't play well enough to win today."
Peaceful easy feeling
After playing four games decided by eights point or less, the Steelers finally had a blowout victory.
They enjoyed their biggest margin since beating Seattle 24-0 in the home opener on Sept. 18.
"Finally," receiver Mike Wallace said. "We always make it harder than it has to be. Today we came out with a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. It's getting closer to the playoffs, and it's time for us to get better."
The calendar turned a page since the last game, and the Steelers noticed.
"It's even more important in December," linebacker James Farrior said. "These are the games that count. These are the games that are going to put you in place to make a run."
Farrior wants the Steelers to run the table in the last month to build momentum for the postseason.
"Right now is our time," he said. "We can't afford to lose any game, so we're going to have to play every game like it's a playoff game. We already started our playoffs."
Roethlisberger delivered a similar message to the offense.
"There's no time for 'would've, could've, should've,'" he said. "We have to get it done."
Receiver Antonio Brown absorbed a big hit in the fourth quarter, but came away feeling fine.
"You have to be able to get up," he said. "That's what it's really about. Guys are going to take shots."
The weather was fairly balmy for December (59 degrees at kickoff), but the Bengals' Andre Smith used a winter term to describe the Steelers' quick 21-0 run in the second quarter.
"The snowball effect," he said. "Murphy's Law. Everything bad that could happen, it happened. They put us to the test, and we flunked the test today."
The Steelers will have only two practices to get ready for Thursday's game.
"It's a big factor," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously it depends on how healthy everyone is."
Stats and streaks
n Mike Wallace's longest reception was 19 yards, but he gained 45 yards when Bengals safety Chris Crocket was called for pass interference.
n Ike Taylor intercepted a pass, marking the first time in his career that he's had picked off passes in consecutive games.