CINCINNATI -- There was one winner in the AFC North on Sunday, and the Steelers hardly looked like the same team that won 12 games in each of the past two seasons.
It was just a brutal day of football in the division. The Ravens suffered their worst loss in the 80-game John Harbaugh era. The Bengals lost for the ninth straight time on prime time. The Browns lost for the 11th straight time on the road to tie a franchise record. The Steelers? They won on the road for the first time this season, but we'll get to them in a bit.
These games were worse when you watched how they lost. Joe Flacco gave nine points to the Texans (a safety and an interception returned for a touchdown), and Andy Dalton threw a pass off the back of his lineman's helmet before giving it to the Steelers. While those quarterbacks dropped the ball, the biggest drop of the day was by Josh Gordon, who failed to catch a 41-yard pass near the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers (3-3), meanwhile, pulled to within one game of the Ravens (5-2) in the loss column by overcoming a first half in which they had two turnovers, committed three penalties to negate three returns on special teams and dropped two potential touchdown passes.
Here's what the local columnists are saying about the division teams (in order of current standings):
RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston feels the bye is coming at the right time for the Ravens. "On a day when they were trying to make a statement that they were the best team in the AFC, they looked like the Ravens of 1997," Preston wrote. "Worse than that, they smelled like the Cleveland Browns."
STEELERS: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook points out that the defense came through for the Steelers -- at last. "Much maligned for blowing fourth-quarter leads in four of the first five games, it stopped the Bengals not once, not twice, but three times in the final 14 minutes," Cook wrote. "It played a superb game after allowing the Bengals to go 80 yards on 15 plays for a touchdown on their opening possession."
BENGALS: The pathetic and sad effort by the Bengals is not unfamiliar, The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daughtery writes. The loss to the Steelers had to leave Bengals fans as disillusioned as Reds fans were 11 days ago, according to Daugherty. "It wasn’t a must win except, possibly, for the collective psyche of a Bengals team still not sure how good it is," he wrote. "Now, maybe, it knows the answer to that question."
BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto believes the Browns don't know how to win games like the one Sunday and this won't stop until they start winning games like the one Sunday. Confused? "[Y]es, I understand the contradiction in that statement," Pluto wrote. "That's why losing can be harder to scrape away than a wad of bubble gum on the bottom of your shoe. It's why they are 0-4 in games decided by seven or fewer points."