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State of AFC North: No surprises in Week 11

The Steelers beat up the Browns, and they took out a Cleveland quarterback while they were at it. The Ravens have a slim division lead, and one of their players reached a huge milestone.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 didn’t have any surprises for the rest of the Steelers, Browns and Ravens. The Steelers beat the Browns, and beat up on the Browns’ quarterbacks in the process. The Ravens slowed down the Cowboys’ run game, but got killed through the air by Dallas.

Now with the Ravens and Steelers sitting at 5-5 each team is racing to earn that division crown. The Browns also remain on pace to reach 0-16 as well as grab the first overall pick in the draft.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) beat the Cleveland Browns (0-11): 24-9

Bell carves up Cleveland defense

On a day where the Steelers offense could only score one touchdown, Le’Veon Bell was the engine that pushed the Steelers’ offense down the field. Bell finished with more than 200 yards from scrimmage. Bell also tied with Antonio Brown for the most receptions by a Steeler on Sunday with eight.

Bell has clearly been a focal point for Pittsburgh since returning from suspension. They have used as much of him as they can, and done it however they can. Bell has carried the ball 128 times and recorded 53 catches so far this season. He is only a few yards away from going over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the season, which is particularly impressive since he has only played in seven games.

It will be interesting to see if the Steelers keep up this pace though. Given Bell’s injury history it may be wise to start spelling him a bit. It would be easier to do if the Steelers had a division lead in hand, but they could be wearing down their workhorse on the way to the playoffs.

McCown to start; Browns vocal about protection issues

It hasn’t been a secret that the Browns’ offensive line is garbage. After they let Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz walk in free agency they were left with pretty much nothing but Joe Thomas to keep the line together. That showed on Sunday as the Steelers recorded eight sacks. One led to a strip that ultimately put the game out of reach for Cleveland.

That strip sack play actually encapsulates the problem with the Browns offensive line pretty well.

The game led to players like Terrelle Pryor Sr. and even Joe Thomas calling out the protection issues. "You've got to lie in the bed that you've made," Thomas said via The Chronicle-Telegram. “The guys that are making the personnel decisions, they’re the experts on that, so they’re the ones that have to make those decisions and look at those decisions when they’re made.”

Pryor had more to add.

"This is bullcrap. We can't keep doing this and we can't keep getting our guys hit. It's as simple as that," Pryor said in the locker room after the game, via cleveland.com.

Cody Kessler was knocked out of the game with another concussion and Josh McCown will start next week against the Giants. How long he will last is another question.

Pryor looks to make Cleveland home

Despite the fact Cleveland is in full rebuild mode, Pryor says he is intent on sticking it out with Cleveland. “I don’t believe in taking easy roads and going to teams just because a team’s great,” Pryor said via the Chronicle-Telegram. “Just because I want to win. I’d rather start how we are and build an empire, a top gun franchise. I believe in that. I believe in battling. I don’t believe in taking the easy way out in anything.”

Pryor has made his appreciation for Hue Jackson well known and he wants to stick with Jackson.

“Whatever happens in free agency when that comes up, I’d love to be here. I love playing for Hue, I love playing for the Haslams. They’re great owners. It’s one of the best facilities and they want to win,” Pryor added.

Pryor is 27 and in the middle of a career season. He’s recorded 56 catches for 724 yards and 4 touchdowns. Free agency is the one time a player can turn the tables on teams that have the unbelievable upper hand on them. Still, Pryor’s willingness to show loyalty to a team is rare. It helps that the Browns will have the ability to give him a huge payday as well.

The Baltimore Ravens (5-5) lost to the Dallas Cowboys (9-1): 27-17

Baltimore picked their poison against Dallas

The Ravens did something on Sunday that few teams have done. They loaded up to stop Ezekiel Elliott and left Dez Bryant in one-on-one coverage for most of the game. They dared Dak Prescott to show he had the ability to beat them through the air. Three touchdowns later, he did just that.

Prescott has been good so far this season, but on Sunday he was great. He consistently put the ball right where it needed to be, including a beautifully throw fade route to Bryant who made it look effortless.

The Ravens plan was to slow down Elliott, who broke Tony Dorsett’s Dallas rookie rushing record on Sunday. They managed to hold him to 97 rushing yards, but he still moved the ball when Dallas was attempting to run out the clock.

Baltimore’s offensive struggles continued. After they ran the ball down the Cowboys’ throats for a touchdown, they got away from the run game. Terrance West and Kenneth Dixon combined for 14 carries 82 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Joe Flacco threw the ball 35 times. He was fairly successful, throwing for 269 yards and touchdown, but the Ravens need to feed their running backs more. These teams were tied going into halftime, and to abandon the run in a close game is just a shame.

Will Steve Smith be back next year? The Ravens wouldn’t mind that

Steve Smith Sr. has made it known that this is his final season. The 37-year-old joined the 1,000 catch club on Sunday, but the Ravens are hoping he will return next season to improve on that total.

John Harbaugh and Mike Wallace have apparently approached Smith about delaying his retirement. Smith was already set to retire last year before an injury cut short his season. There was no way Smith was going to go out like that. Especially with so many people saying if he did return he wouldn’t be the same guy because of the achilles injury. He wanted to prove them wrong, and he’s done an admiral job this year, for a 37-year-old, at least.

It may seem tempting, but Smith should fight the urge to return for another season, again.

Smith proved those people wrong. Just like he proved the doubters wrong for his entire career. At 5’9” it was almost unheard of to have a No. 1 receiver as short as he is in the NFL. Smith set out to disprove that theory by being one of the most dominant players of his generation. He let you know about it too. Smith was very involved in the era of the celebration. My personal favorite was the baby.

Smith is now one of only 14 players in NFL history with 1,000 catches. It is only fitting that he is the shortest player to achieve the accomplishment. Smith has nothing left to prove.