Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes to rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski as the New England Patriots rolled to a 39-26 rout of the host Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.
Brady threw for 350 yards on 30-of-43 passing and ran for a score as the Patriots (7-2) bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Cleveland to tie the New York Jets for first place in the AFC East and the best record in the conference.
Gronkowski had five receptions for 72 yards, including scoring passes of 19, 9 and 25 yards, and James Sanders returned an interception for a touchdown as New England improved to 23-2 after a loss since 2003.
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 387 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for the Steelers (6-3), who scored 23 points in the final quarter after trailing 23-3 after three quarters. He was sacked five times.
Mike Wallace had eight receptions for 136 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for Pittsburgh, which fell back into a tie with Baltimore atop the AFC North.
Brady improved to 6-1 lifetime against the Steelers and became the first quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards in three consecutive games against them in 30 years.
Steelers wideout Hines Ward suffered a neck injury in the first quarter and did not return, ending his streak of catching a pass in 186 consecutive games.
The Patriots scored on their first two possessions of the game en route to taking a 10-3 lead into halftime.
Brady capped off New England's opening drive with a 19-yard scoring pass to Gronkowski - the first touchdown allowed by the Steelers in first quarter this season.
Newly signed kicker Shayne Graham made it 10-0 with a 31-yard field goal with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
Pittsburgh finally got on the board on a 22-yard field goal by Jeff Reed with 5:08 left in the second quarter.
Brady was 17 of 25 for 180 yards in the first half. Roethlisberger, conversely, completed just 7 of 20 passes for 90 yards and was sacked three times.