The Steelers put together probably their best fourth quarter of the season, scoring 25 points, and one of their best overall games in a 42-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) keeping them in the playoff hunt as they now prepare for the Atlanta Falcons (5-8).
In one of the closest races in years the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens moved to within a half game of the Bengals with victories, while keeping alive hopes of a wild card spot if they don’t win the AFC North. The Steelers currently have that spot. The Cleveland Browns (7-6) dropped out of the race, for now, with a heartbreaking, 25-24 last minute loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Once again it was Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell who led the way on offense as Ben was as brilliant in this game as he was terrible in the previous lost to the New Orleans Saints last week. The Saints was blown out this week 41-10 by the lowly Carolina Panthers.
Bell had his third consecutive 200 plus total yard game, which puts him in a class with Walter Payton as the only person to accomplish this. He had 185 yards rushing on 26 carries and 2 touchdowns, and 50 yards on 6 receptions and one touchdown through the air.
Brown had 9 catches for 117 yards to keep him on top of the NFL in receptions with 105 and yards with 1375.
Roethlisberger was 25 of 39 for 350 yards and three touchdowns, and no turnovers. He apparently got his game back as he threw pinpoint passes instead of over and under throwing receivers as he did in the previous game.
However, the big fear is that the Steelers play to the level of their competition which scares fans when they face the lowly Falcons (5-8) this weekend. They have yet to play well against a losing team. The Bengals are one of the best teams in the AFC, and are still on top of the AFC North.
The Falcons played the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football and almost mounted a great comeback as they came from a 31-7 halftime deficit. But it wasn’t enough as the Packers held on for a 43-37 win.
The Falcons are lead by one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Matt Ryan and a solid offense, which is ranked 9th in the NFL. Yes they can score points but the big problem is the defense can’t stop anyone as they are the worst overall in the league, ranking 32nd. Yet this team is still on top of the NFC South.
Ryan through his first 12 games has completed 330 of 540 passes for 3802 yards and 25 touchdowns which includes 24 of 39 for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns in his last game. His main target is Julio Jones who has 93 catches for 1428 yards, Roddy White with 59 catches for 704 yards being the second most productive receiver . The running game is headed by Steven Jackson with 652 yards on 175 carries, with not much behind him.
For the season the Steelers offense has been even more impressive as they are third overall in the NFL. Roethlisberger 339 of 510 for 4055 yards 29 touchdowns, 8 interceptions with a QB rating of 103. Bell stayed in second place in the NFL with 1231 yards rushing on 242 carries.
He’s also the second leading receiver for the Steelers with 71 for 693 yards.
So it should be an offensive game, with the difference being the Falcons haven’t proven they can stop anyone with a defense ranking at 32 compared to the Steelers at 12th.
The Falcons Julio Jones moved ahead of Brown in receiving yards after a Monday night game in which he had 11 receptions for 259 yards. He will give the Steelers defensive backs a solid test.
Another key game last week was the Baltimore Ravens 28-13 defeat of the Miami Dolphins to just about eliminate the Dolphins hopes of a playoff berth while keeping them in a tie with the Steelers a half game behind the Bengals. The Browns however chances of making the playoffs are now very slim.
The AFC North final three games are:
Steelers vs. Atlanta (5-8), the Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) and finish against the Bengals. If the Steelers win out, they will move ahead of the Bengals but will have to depend on a tie breaker to beat the Ravens, if the Ravens win out. They split the two games they played against each other, which will lead to who has the best winning record in the division.
The Ravens: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and Cleveland.
The Browns: The Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and the Ravens.
The Bengals: The Browns, the Denver Broncos, and the Steelers.
The other team battling for a wild card spot is the San Diego Chargers (8-5), there are several teams with 7-6 records.
The current AFC division leaders are: the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, and the Bengals.
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