Nov 9, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) watches the action during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Steelers 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
With a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night, the Cincinnati Bengals instead bumbled their way out of the division lead and, I thought, playoff contention. I may have written their obituary a bit prematurely, though, as the Pittsburgh Steelers today fumbled away what should have been an easy win, losing to the dreadful New York Jets by a score of 20-13. That “performance” puts the Bengals back in control of their own fate in the division, and leaves them just behind Cleveland in the standings.
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After throwing six touchdown passes in each of his previous two games, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sort of a mess today. Big Ben completed 30 of 43 passes but tossed two interceptions against just one touchdown and even fumbled the ball once. Of course, you might argue that the real goat here was wide receiver Antonio Brown, who coughed the ball up to the Jets twice. Or maybe it was everyone’s favorite breakout back, Le’Veon Bell, who managed just 36 yards on the ground, which just happened to be ALL of Pittsburgh’s rushing yards. Or maybe it was the offensive line, who gave Bell so little to work with, and who helped Roethlisberger get sacked twice.
Wherever you place the blame for Pittsburgh’s loss today, it’s the latest development in an AFC North that no one seems ready to run away with. We always expect this division to be a slug fest, and the standings indicate that we might indeed head into the final week of the season not knowing the playoff fate of any of the four teams.
What’s disappointing is that the competition feels a bit contrived thanks to lackluster losses that leave us scratching our heads.
The Steelers looked like one of the best teams in the league for two weeks, and then they can’t beat the Jets?
The Bengals streak through three weeks and have the NFL talking about an Orange and Black Super Bowl, and then they have to settle for a tie with the Carolina Panthers, at home? And they’re outscored by a combined 51-3 against the Browns and Indianapolis Colts?
And these are the same Bengals who have already swept the season series with the Baltimore Ravens?
Weird happenings in the North, to be sure, but I suppose we should just be glad that the Steelers handed the joystick back to Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, at least for the moment. Who knows which teams we’ll see when Pittsburgh and Cincinnati play each other twice in December?
At least we know that the Browns will be there for everyone to chase, ensconced in first place. Wait … what?