Wake-up call: Steelers back in first place

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
7:03
AM ET
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Just like before you board any roller coaster, the AFC North race should come with an advisory: Please be aware of sudden drops, quick climbs and unexpected jarring turns.

How else can you describe the Pittsburgh Steelers going from 0-2 in the AFC North to the division leader in a span of a week. Or how the Ravens can go from being the top team in the AFC to one that would barely make the playoffs if the season ended today.

The Steelers (7-3), who are on a bye, now will watch Sunday's Bengals (6-3) at Ravens (6-3) game to see which one matches their record. Pittsburgh would have the tie-breaker advantage over Cincinnati but not Baltimore.

This is what we learned from Week 10: The Steelers kept their hope alive of winning a fourth division title in five seasons. The Ravens proved once again that they can't handle success in a 22-17 loss at Seattle. The Bengals validated themselves as a playoff-caliber team in a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh. The Cleveland Browns (3-6) made the case for being one of the three worst teams in the NFL in a 13-12 loss to St. Louis.

Here are what the local columnists are saying about the teams:
  • BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty believes the Bengals are still trying to learn how to close out games like the Steelers. "The Steelers know how to finish. Their winning memory is institutional," Daugherty wrote. "That doesn't change the notion that, after four quarters Sunday, it was hard to tell who had the better team."
  • BROWNS: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw took the stance that the Browns' failure to finish off a win isn't head coach Pat Shurmur's fault. "Shurmur did nothing wrong in playing for a field goal at the end of a numbing 13-12 loss to the Rams," Shaw wrote. "The clock and the circumstances made it more accurate to say he played for the win. After losing four of five, you still wanted him to throw caution to the swirling lakefront wind?"
  • RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston points to the Ravens blowing the opportunity of getting home-field advantage in the playoffs by losing to the teams they're supposed to beat. "Somewhere in the psyche of this team, there is a switch that needs to be turned on, one that gets this team to play hard all the time, full-time," Preston wrote. "The Ravens had this same problem a year ago and it's still plaguing them."
  • STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook praised cornerback William Gay, whose interception sealed the win at Cincinnati one week after he got beat for the game-winner against Baltimore "It's going to be a long two weeks for the talk shows," Cook wrote. "Whom are the fans going to criticize after the Steelers' 24-17 win Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals? How can they rip cornerback William Gay after he played the biggest part in it?"

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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