Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Afc North Title on near Horizon

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Afc North Title on near Horizon

Article excerpt

A few years ago, the NFL decided to schedule division games in the final month of the season in hopes of creating head-to-head matchups that might decide division titles and playoff seeding.

But half the division races this season are all but over, including the AFC North. The Steelers are 9-2 and held a 3-game lead over Baltimore after the host Ravens beat the Houston Texans, 23-16, Monday night.

The Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings also are running away with their divisions.

The Eagles have a five-game lead in the NFC East. The Patriots and Vikings have three-game leads in the AFC East and NFC North.

The Steelers are vying for their 23rd division title since 1970. Seven of the eight times the Steelers have advanced to the Super Bowl, they won their division. The only time they did not win their division and reached the Super Bowl was in 2005, when they entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

In all other Super Bowl seasons in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1995, 2008 and 2010 they were the division champion.

The Steelers have a chance to sweep the division for the first time since 2008.

The remaining games against the Ravens and the Cleveland Browns are at home;, while the game Monday night against Cincinnati is the only remaining division road game.

Winning the division hasn't been a sure ticket to the Super Bowl for the Steelers, but it has gone a long way toward playoff success most years.

Of the 22 times the Steelers have won their division, they advanced to the AFC title game 16 times.

Only six times did they fail to win a playoff game. The previous time that happened was 2014, when the Steelers won the AFC North and lost to the sixth-seeded Ravens at home in an AFC wild-card game.

It also happened in 2007, Mike Tomlin's first season as head coach, when the Steelers lost a wild-card game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. …

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