Early Christmas present

Cincinnati gave the Pittsburgh Steelers an early Christmas present Sunday, beating Cleveland at Paul Brown Stadium, 19-14.

The loss by the Browns, coupled with Pittsburgh's 41-24 win Thursday night over St. Louis, gives the Steelers the AFC North championship.

With just one week now remaining in the season, the Steelers (10-5) captured the division title for the first time since 2004 and the home game in the first round of the playoffs that goes along with it.

Who the Steelers will host in the first round remains to be seen.

Jacksonville (11-4) also clinched an AFC playoff spot and the No. 5 seed Sunday with its 49-3 thumping of Oakland, while Cleveland (9-6) and Tennessee (9-6) are alive for the final wildcard spot.

Cleveland hosts San Francisco next week, while Tennessee plays at Indianapolis. The Colts, who have already locked up the AFC South championship and No. 2 seed, could choose to sit some key starters in that game.

If the two teams finish tied with the same record, Tennessee owns the tiebreaker over Cleveland based on strength of schedule.

Pittsburgh currently holds down the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, pending the results of San Diego's game tonight against Denver. The Chargers (9-5) can reclaim the No. 3 spot with a win over the Broncos (6-8).

The Chargers also hold the tiebreaker over the Steelers based on a better strength of schedule. If the two teams finish with the same record, the Chargers would get the No. 3 seed and the Steelers the No. 4.

That could be significant. The No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs will host either Cleveland or Tennessee. The No. 4 seed hosts Jacksonville.

San Diego travels to Oakland for its final game of the regular season, while the Steelers are at Baltimore for a start time that was changed to 4:15 p.m. Sunday.


Steel City Insider Top Stories