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AFC North Standings: Steelers take control; Ravens on the brink

Baltimore’s offensive struggles continue, while Pittsburgh has retaken control.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs
Antonio Brown
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

It is axiomatic in sports that sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Of course, if you are able to be both, it’s even better.

Sunday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Steelers got lucky when a Ben Roethlisberger pass bounced off first the hands than the head of Kansas City cornerback Phillip Gaines and into the waiting arms of Antonio Brown. And Brown provided the good when he sidestepped one defender and scooted down the sideline for a 51-yard touchdown reception with just under three-and-one-half minutes remaining.

The Steelers got a late-game sack from James Harrison and Cam Heyward as they held onto a 19-13 win over the previously-unbeaten Chiefs. That win, coupled with Baltimore’s 27-24 overtime loss to Chicago, left Pittsburgh in control of the AFC North Division race with a record of 4-2.

Baltimore, at 3-3, slipped a game off the pace. Cincinnati, which had a bye this week and travels to Pittsburgh next week, is a game-and-a-half back at 2-3. Cleveland, after its 33-17 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans, is 0-6.

Pittsburgh, which saw Roethlisberger throw five interceptions in a losing effort last week, put the game in the hands of its all-world running back, Le’Veon Bell, and he responded with a 179-yard effort. Even more impressive? Five of Bell’s first 19 carries went for 10 yards or more.

And the Steelers’ defense, which looked totally uninspired in last week’s loss to Jacksonville, put it all together on Sunday as it held Kansas City to one first down in the first half. The Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt, who came into the game as the league’s leading rusher, was held to just 21 yards.

But the play of the day for the defense came early in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh up by a score of 12-3. Kansas City faced and fourth-and-2 from the Steelers’ 4-yard line and decided to go for it. An Alex Smith-to-Demetrius Harris pass was broken up by Pittsburgh safety Sean Davis and the threat was averted. It ended up being the difference maker.

Baltimore’s defense, which looked so impressive early in the season, was unable to stop the Bears’ ground game, especially when it mattered most. Jordan Howard ran for 167 yards, including a 53-yarder that set up the eventual game-winning field goal in overtime. Connor Barth’s 40-yarder provided the final margin

The victory came in the first career start for Chicago’s rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who completed 8 of 16 yards for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Baltimore, behind a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Bobby Rainey and a 77-yard punt return for a score by Michael Campanaro, came back from a 17-3 deficit to force the extra period.

It was the same old story for Cleveland – a stagnant offense and a defense that still has not shown that it is capable to stopping anyone. Houston’s Deshaun Watson threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns en route to becoming the first rookie in NFL history to throw for at least three scores in three straight games. Houston jumped out to a 24-3 halftime lead and never looked back.

The change to quarterback Kevin Hogan really had little to no effect on the Browns’ offense. Hogan completed 20 of 37 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, and finished with a quarterback rating of 38.1.

Isaiah Crowell actually looked pretty good running the ball with 58 yards on 12 carries, but the Browns fell behind so far and so fast that they had to go away from the ground game in a hurry.

Here’s a look at the updated standings:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2, 2-0 in division, 3-1 in AFC)
  2. Baltimore Ravens (3-3, 2-1 in division, 3-2 in AFC)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3, 1-1 in division, 2-2 in AFC)
  4. Cleveland Browns (0-6, 0-3 in division, 0-6 in AFC)


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