Around the AFC North: Steelers Are in Position to Make the Playoffs

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The Ravens still sit atop the AFC North by three games, but the Steelers aren’t out of it.

Here’s what’s happening around the division:

Pittsburgh Steelers: In Line to Make the Playoffs

If the season ended today, the Steelers would be in the playoffs as the No. 6 seed.

It has been a tough year in Pittsburgh, but, as usual, the Steelers aren't fading.

Pittsburgh beat the Cleveland Browns at home, 20-13, on Sunday afternoon in what was a huge grudge-match game. The Browns won a Thursday Night Football melee just two weeks prior that resulted in multiple suspensions.

The Steelers are jockeying with the Tennessee Titans (7-5), Oakland Raiders (6-6) and Indianapolis Colts (6-6) for that last wild-card spot.

Technically, Pittsburgh still has a shot at the division crown with four games left and a Week 17 meeting with the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Before that, the Steelers will travel to Arizona for Week 14, then host the Buffalo Bills.

The Steelers turned to Devlin “Duck” Hodges at quarterback after benching Mason Rudolph. Hodges went 14-of-21 for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Steelers defense continued to carry the load, picking off Baker Mayfield to seal the game, recovering one fumble and piling up five sacks. Running back Benny Snell Jr., stepping in for injured James Conner, may have stolen the show, however.

Cleveland Browns: Playoff Hopes Dashed, Freddie Kitchens in Controversy

The Browns had won three straight games, but that came to a halt Sunday with the crushing loss in Pittsburgh.

Cleveland’s playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread as they fell to 5-7. The Browns have two games against the Bengals, one in Arizona and a home Week 16 matchup against the Ravens left on the schedule.

Mayfield injured his hand at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary pass, but returned for the second half. His two turnovers in the second half, however, sunk the Browns’ hopes of a comeback win.

As if losing weren’t tough enough, Head Coach Freddie Kitchens is embroiled in another controversy in Cleveland, this time after wearing a “Pittsburgh Started It” T-shirt on the Friday before the game, in reference to the brawl that saw Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett smash Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet.

“I know that our coach never would have done anything like that,” left guard Ramon Foster said. “Why throw gas? When you do something like that, you throw your players in harm's way. He’s not on the field. You throw your players in harm’s way when you do stuff like that with a vengeance. And I hate that for them.”

Cincinnati Bengals: Return of Andy Dalton Ends Winless Streak

The Bengals turned back to veteran Andy Dalton and the “Red Rifle” ended their winless streak. Cincinnati will not go 0-16 this season after a 22-6 victory over the New York Jets.

Replacing rookie Ryan Finley, Dalton was 22-of-37 for 243 yards and a touchdown.

Signed through the 2020 season, Dalton’s long-term future in Cincinnati is still in doubt. But as ESPN’s Ben Baby wrote, him playing well is a win-win for the Bengals, who could either stick with the veteran or trade him this offseason.

The Bengals could knock the Browns completely out of the playoff chase down the stretch, and have a chance to pull off a stunner when they host the Patriots in Week 15. It was Head Coach Zac Taylor’s first victory as a head coach, and he’ll be gunning for more.

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