When the Steelers opened the season at 11-0, it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that they would win the AFC North. That’s no longer the case.
The Steelers are now 11-3 after Monday night’s loss to the Bengals, and the 10-4 Browns still have a chance to win the AFC North.
If the Steelers lose to the Colts next week, and the Browns beat the Jets, both teams will be 11-4, and the winner of the Week 17 Steelers-Browns game in Cleveland will be the AFC North champion.
The Steelers own the tiebreaker over the Browns, so if Pittsburgh beats Indianapolis next week (or if Cleveland loses to the Jets), the Steelers clinch the AFC North. In that scenario, the Steelers would likely rest Ben Roethlisberger and other key players in Week 17 to try to get everyone healthy for the playoffs. Roethlisberger said after the loss to the Bengals that he’s not 100 percent healthy and no one else is either.
But if the Steelers lose to the Colts, and the Browns beat the Jets, Week 17 becomes a very big game.