PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Bengals are officially the new rulers of the AFC North.
In a feat that was thought to be far-fetched before the season, the Bengals swept the defending Super Bowl champions Sunday in an 18-12 upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. With an additional two-game sweep over the Baltimore Ravens and a win over the Cleveland Browns, there is no doubt the Bengals are the new bullies of the division for 2009.
So what's next for the Steelers and Bengals?
Both Pittsburgh (6-3) and Cincinnati (7-2) look to be playoff-bound, but will spend the final seven games battling for postseason position. The Bengals have the inside track to secure a home playoff game and possibly more. Pittsburgh now falls essentially two games behind Cincinnati and drops into the crowded AFC wild-card field with a host of other teams.
Another thing to watch is the key injuries suffered in this physical game.
The Bengals lost starting tailback and leading rusher Cedric Benson to a hip injury in the first half, and he didn’t return. Pittsburgh lost safety Troy Polamalu, who re-injured his left knee in the first quarter. Polamalu missed four games with the injury early in the season.
But in the end, it was another huge statement for Cincinnati, which continues to silence its doubters.