The Pittsburgh Steelers toppled longtime rivals the Cincinnati Bengals from the top of the AFC North with their win against them Sunday, 27-17, claiming their first division title since 2010. The Steelers overcame a quarterback with the stomach flu and a third quarter injury to their MVP for the comeback win.
This means the Steelers (11-5) will host the Baltimore Ravens next week in the wild card game, while the Bengals (10-5-1) face off against the Colts in Indianapolis next week. The AFC North division has been a wrecking ball across the NFL this year, with all four teams closing the season with records well over a.500 win average.
In Sunday's showdown, the Pittsburgh Steelers were first to score, with a 71-yard punt return in the first quarter by Antonio Brown. The return allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a little extra rest as he played Sunday with a touch of stomach flu, but he was a bit shaky throughout the day after vomiting several times in the locker room before the game.
Fortunately, his teammates were on point, including cornerback Brice McCain, who chalked up two interceptions against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, one of which ended in a Steeler touchdown. Steeler cornerback Antwon Blake forced a fourth quarter fumble by A.J. Green on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-yard line with less than four minutes in the game and the Bengals within a field goal of a tie.
But for the Steelers to win the division and have the home field advantage to open playoff season, a tie wasn't good enough. They had to beat the Bengals Sunday.
After the Bengals turnover, Brown caught a pass for a 67-yard touchdown to give the Steelers a solid 27-17 lead. While the victory was important for Pittsburgh, it may have come at a high price; their MVP Le'Veon Bell was injured in the third quarter with a hyperextended knee.
The Steelers will kick off against the Baltimore Ravens Saturday at 8:15 p.m., with no word yet on whether Bell will be active or benched for his knee injury. However, ESPN reports his status as doubtful for Sunday's game, so Pittsburgh may be in some trouble going forward.
The Cincinnati Bengals face off against their neighbors, the Colts, in Indianapolis next Sunday. While the Bengals may not have home field advantage, you can bet plenty of fans will make the short trek from Cincinnati to Indianapolis to support their team.
The matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers was one of the most important games Sunday with so much at stake, particularly for the Steelers. Will Bell be back next weekend, and if not, can the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens without him?
[Images via The Pittsburgh Steelers official website]