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AFC North Standings: Steelers make statement, but Bengals stay in hunt

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Pittsburgh gains a foothold on the AFC North race, but the Bengals avoid losing ground.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Flacco intercepted
Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally got a little separation in the race for the AFC North crown, as they held on for a 26-9 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in a game that saw a return to form of Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

Elsewhere, the Cincinnati Bengals crushed the Cleveland Browns, 31-7, in the day’s other AFC North matchup. That keeps Pittsburgh from gaining any ground on Cincinnati, though it’s still clear who the team to beat in this division is.

Against Baltimore, Bell got off to a slow start, rushing for only 57 yards on 16 carries in the first half, although one of those carries was a one-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. But Bell came alive in the second half and finished with 35 carries for 144 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by another one-yard run that sealed the deal late in the fourth quarter.

Ben Roethlisberger had a quietly efficient afternoon, completing 18 of 30 passes for 216 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Bell had four receptions for 42 yards and Antonio Brown was limited to four receptions for only 34 yards. Roethlisberger’s lone score came on an 11-yard completion to Juju Smith-Schuster.

There did appear to be some trouble in paradise, as Brown took out his anger on a Gatorade bucket after a poor pass by Roethlisberger.

The Bengals stayed within striking distance of the Steelers when they dismantled the Browns by a count of 31-7 as Cincinnati notched its first victory of the season.

Andy Dalton paced the Cincinnati effort when he completed 25 of 30 passes for 286 yards, four touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 146. Tyler Kroft pulled in six receptions for 68 yards and two scores and A.J. Green contributed five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown.

Giovani Bernard continued his incredible return from ACL surgery when he added three receptions for 67 yards, including a 61-yarder late in the second quarter that gave the Bengals a 21-0 lead and seemingly put the game out of reach.

Defensively, Cincinnati held the Browns to at least seven three-and-outs and dominated in just about every aspect.Adam Jones, the Bengals’ starting cornerback who also contributed a 40-yard punt return early on, did not even come off of the bench in the second half as the young guys got their opportunities. KeiVarae Russell made the most of his chances with six solo tackles.

The game also marked the return of Vontaze Burfict, who finished tied with Russell as the team’s second-leading tackler with six, including four solos. Nick Vigil paved the defensive charge, however, with 12 solo tackles, including eight solos, one sack, three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit.

The current AFC North standings now look like this:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1, 1-0 in division, 2-1 in AFC)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (2-2, 2-1 in division, 2-2 in AFC)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3, 1-1 in division, 1-2 in AFC)
  4. Cleveland Browns (0-4, 0-3 in division, 0-4 in AFC)

Poll

Which is the team to beat in the AFC North?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Pittsburgh
    (633 votes)
  • 0%
    Baltimore
    (3 votes)
  • 28%
    Cincinnati
    (253 votes)
  • 1%
    Cleveland
    (10 votes)
899 votes total Vote Now