Steelers find it easy to go from first to worst in 'jumbled' AFC North

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The AFC North is Exhibit A for how quickly things can change in the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were percentage points out of first place at this time last week. They then moved into a tie for first place with the Cleveland Browns last Thursday night after the Browns pounded the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The Steelers enjoyed their shared time at the top of the division for three days. A 20-13 loss to the New York Jets Sunday dropped them into a tie with the Baltimore Ravens, behind both the Browns and Bengals.

“That’s the way the North is right now, it’s a jumbled mess,” Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel said after the Steelers fell to 6-4. “Everyone’s kind of right there together, and we need to assert ourselves and make sure with these last few games that we’ve got that we continue to work and continue to stay in the hunt.”

The teams in the AFC North are so tightly bunched together that a loss to the Jets, who entered Sunday with only one win, could prove costly at the end of the season. The Steelers should lament that as much as how they utterly threw away a game with a sloppy and uninspired start.

“This is a team we should beat,” Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “But this is the NFL. You can’t win when you have four turnovers and not enough defense.”

That about summed up the loss that snapped the Steelers’ three-game winning streak. Here is a recap of ESPN coverage of the Steelers’ latest loss to a team that entered the game with a losing record:

Here are takes on the Steelers' loss by Pittsburgh sports columnists:

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook writes that Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the two players most responsible for a three-game winning streak, were also most responsible for ending it.

  • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Rob Rossi takes an interesting look at where the Steelers lost this game. It happened, Rossi writes, before any of their four turnovers.

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier, who advocated a change at offensive coordinator after an Oct. 12 loss in Cleveland, refrains from doing so after the offense sputters in the loss to the Jets. That, Collier writes, would be piling on.