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State of the AFC North: Week 9

Pittsburgh keeps rolling, Baltimore is pushed to the brink and a coaching change can’t save the Browns.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As the Bengals rested up on their bye week, not much changed within the rest of the AFC North. The Browns dropped a fourth consecutive game and now sit 2-6-1 after losing to Kansas City. Cleveland is still at the basement of the division.

Baltimore remains in the third place, but they now have a losing record (4-5) for the first time all season. The Ravens head into their bye week on a three-game losing streak after falling at home to the Steelers.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, they won their fourth consecutive game and have taken sole possession of first place in the division with the home stretch of the season nearing. The Steelers (5-2-1) have a one-game advantage on Cincinnati in the loss column.

Steelers defeat Ravens: 23-16

Big Ben proves his toughness

Ben Roethlisberger has developed a reputation as one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL. He has taken some gruesome hits and suffered plenty of injuries over the years.

However, he always seems to find a way to get the job done regardless. Sunday was a perfect example of this. Already nursing a fractured index finger on his left hand, Roethlisberger appeared to suffer a serious shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.

Ravens linebacker Za’Darius Smith took Roethlisberger down from behind and fell onto him with all of his weight. After struggling to get up and eventually heading to the sidelines, Roethlisberger returned after just one play and finished the game.

It wasn’t a perfect day at the office for Ben, but he made the throws he needed to despite being banged up. Roethlisberger finished with 270 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

Revenge is served

You can assure there was added motivation for Pittsburgh entering Week 9’s matchup given the result of their meeting with Baltimore earlier in the year. After getting thoroughly beaten by the Ravens, many declared the Steelers season over.

The Steelers surely wanted to settle the score and avenge the Week 4 loss on Sunday, and settle the score they did. The 23-16 score indicates a competitive game, but it’s somewhat misleading. Pittsburgh was the better team from start to finish.

These two teams have been going in opposite directions since their earlier meeting. It’s Baltimore who now sits third in the division and Pittsburgh who holds sole possession of first.

Ravens fall to Steelers: 16-23

Oof ...

Yeah, enough said. Everyone, the Ravens players and coaches included, knew the high stakes surrounding this game. Baltimore desperately needed to play their best football in order to keep their season alive and stop their losing skid.

The Ravens did not do that. Instead, they looked more like the team that was routed against the Carolina Panthers, albeit not as bad. There simply isn’t many positives to takeaway from this game.

Pittsburgh held a significant advantage in almost every statistical category and the Ravens did not execute well. They settled for three field goals in the red zone, Flacco was off on several key throws, and the defense could not get off the field on third downs.

Coaching changes coming?

Prior to the Week 9 matchup against Pittsburgh, NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport reported that John Harbaugh was on the hot seat and that the possibility of a midseason firing should “not be ruled out”.

As Baltimore heads into the bye week with a matchup against Cincinnati awaiting, the noise surrounding Harbaugh only figures to get louder. Harbaugh has been the Ravens coach for a decade and it’d be hard to imagine anyone else coaching the team.

Despite his accomplishments, it may be time to move in a direction. The Ravens, now 4-5, are staring down a fourth consecutive season in which they’d miss out on the playoffs. Unless you’re Marvin Lewis, that lack of success is usually not good for a coach’s chances to stick around.

There’s always a chance the Ravens could turn it around after the bye week and make a playoff run, but it’s a huge longshot at this point.

Chiefs defeat Browns: 37-21

New coach, same problems

For Cleveland, it was a week of internal drama and turmoil within the organization. Stop me if you’ve heard that before. Not only did head coach Hue Jackson get fired, but so too did Todd Haley, the Browns offensive coordinator.

General Manager John Dorsey was clearly not pleased with the direction of the team and decided to make the decision to move on from both Jackson and Haley. To compensate, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was promoted to interim head coach.

The results from the first game in the Williams era? Not much different than prior games. Cleveland actually hung around for awhile with the Chiefs, which is a feat nor many teams seem to be able to accomplish these days.

However, in the end, Kansas City’s dynamic offense opened up in the second half the Browns were outscored 16-3. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, changes the Browns undergo with Williams at the helm for the remainder of the season.

A familiar face resurfaces

Since being released months ago, former Raven and first-round pick Breshad Perriman has bounced around the league. He worked out for several teams following his departure from Baltimore - Buffalo, New England, New York, and others.

He was signed by the Washington Redskins, but released days later before even getting the chance the suit up for them. Then, the Browns tried him out and apparently saw enough to warrant giving him a shot.

In his third game with the team, Perriman caught two catches for 36 yards on six targets. He also rushed twice for nine yards. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, type of role Perriman plays in Cleveland’s offense down the stretch.