The Cincinnati Bengals took home the American Football Conference North Division title with an uninspiring 27-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon. The two teams will meet again next weekend in Paycor Stadium for the opening round of the playoffs. Cincinnati owns the No. 3 seed while Baltimore is seeded sixth.
The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, played like a team that had nothing left to play for, and, to borrow from the poet, Dylan Thomas, went gently into that good night in dropping the season finale to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 28-14.
Despite the victory, Pittsburgh was eliminated from the playoffs when Miami edged the New York Jets, 11-6. The Steelers and Dolphins both finished with identical 9-8 records, but the tiebreaker went to Miami. Both teams went 3-3 in their respective divisions, but the Dolphins owned a better record against other AFC opponents.
It marked the 16th-straight non-losing season under coach Mike Tomlin for Pittsburgh, which started the season at 2-6 after an injury to T.J. Watt.
Cleveland missed out on the playoffs for the second straight year, and finished with a record of 7-10. The Browns have posted losing records over 15 of their last 16 seasons, and have had 17 seasons of 10 losses or more since the franchise was relaunched in 1999.
It was the Steelers’ defense that once again made the difference Sunday afternoon. Pittsburgh sacked Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson seven times as the Steelers finished ahead of the Browns in the division standings for the 34th consecutive time.
Najee Harris paced the Pittsburgh offense with 84 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown, and quarterback Kenney Pickett completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a score. Pickett failed to throw an interception for the sixth time in his last seven games.
Watson, who was under constant pressure throughout the afternoon, still managed to complete 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns, but the Steelers turned both of his interceptions into points.
Nick Chubb ran for 77 yards and a score and joined Jim Brown as the only two players in Browns history who exceeded 1,500 yards rushing in a season. Myles Garrett recorded a sack to run his season total to 16 and tie his own club record.