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Old 11-07-2011, 11:07 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Steelers have lots of work to do in AFC North

Steelers have lots of work to do in AFC North

By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In a corner of a hushed locker room, Antonio Brown took no consolation in the stat line five catches for 109 yards that continues to affirm his emergence as a big-play wide receiver.

"Forget stats. It's about wins," the second-year man said following the Steelers' 23-20 come-from-ahead loss to the Ravens on Sunday night. "We're 0-2 in this division, and that's not where we want to be."

The Steelers ceded control of the AFC North to the Ravens they now have one less loss and own the head-to-head tiebreaker after stumbling in the waning minutes at Heinz Field.

They will need help if they are to win a fourth division title in five years under coach Mike Tomlin, and they probably won't get much of it from Baltimore.

For all that is made about the Steelers' favorable schedule, their seven remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .536. The Ravens' eight remaining opponents have won at a .477 clip.

What might make the Ravens tougher to catch is an intangible: The galvanizing effect of overcoming a 21-point deficit against the Arizona Cardinals, and a week later, rallying in the final minutes to beat the Steelers.

"I think we'll get the respect from our defense now," Ravens running back Ray Rice said Sunday. "They've been carrying us. We're happy to do things like this. It builds team camaraderie. There's no other way to do it."

There are still plenty of reasons for the Steelers to be optimistic, even with the Ravens holding a significant advantage in the division.

Ben Roethlisberger is playing well. The defense is back to snuffing out the run. And you have to think the Steelers have weathered their streak of injuries.

So the Steelers will stay focused, with all eyes on the surprising Bengals Cincinnati is 6-2 and has yet to play the Steelers or Ravens this week, even though there was a strong sense in the Steelers' locker room late Sunday that they will see Baltimore again this season.

THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andy Dalton Bengals QB

The unflappable rookie has led the Bengals to their first five-game winning streak in 23 years. Dalton, a second-round pick out of TCU, has a better passer rating (85.0) than Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco. He threw three touchdown passes this past Sunday, rallying the Bengals past the Tennessee Titans.

A.J. Green Bengals WR

The Bengals look like they found another keeper in Green, the fourth pick overall in the 2011 draft. The former Georgia star has 40 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns. Fifteen of Green's catches have covered at least 20 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger Steelers QB

Roethlisberger is 10-4 lifetime against the Bengals, but in the four losses he has thrown four touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Roethlisberger, who has thrown for more than 300 yards in three consecutive games, has lost just twice in his native Ohio; both defeats were in 2009.

THREE QUESTIONS

With quarterback and Homestead native Charlie Batch:

You can have dinner with three people, past or present. Who is sitting at your table?

"Bill Gates, Oprah (Winfrey) and Mark Zuckerberg. You have those two guys that changed the game from a technology standpoint. Oprah, just her mind. I would love to pick her brain a little bit about how she's transformed the television world."

How do you balance your community service with your day job?

"I've been doing it for years, and I've spoken to the organization about it and let them know, 'Hey, here's what I've been doing.' So, they're not caught off guard and they trust me enough to know if it's affecting me or taking me away from something. I know when my body tells me it's time to shut it down."

What do you do when you actually get free time?

"Relax, and I'm on my computer seeing what else is going on in the world. I don't really go on Facebook and Twitter as much, but there's times when I'll sit back and say 'OK, let me sit down and have my own chat.' "

BY THE NUMBERS

2 Touchdown catches by Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson in the past two games

3 Touchdown catches Simpson, a second-round pick in 2008, made in his first 19 NFL games

4 Cincinnati's NFL rank in scoring defense (17.5 points allowed per game)

13 Total points the Steelers have allowed in the first quarter of their last past games

37.5 Percentage of third-down conversions that Steelers had allowed prior to the Ravens converting 14 of 21 on Sunday at Heinz Field

84.5 Rushing yards the Bengals are yielding per game, the second fewest in the NFL

QUOTES

"That's just the way football is now. You know referees are going to err on the side of caution. He really didn't give an explanation that I was comfortable with or that I can accept, but it was his call. If you hit a guy hard, more than likely, you're going to get flagged now." Free safety Ryan Clark, on the unnecessary roughness penalty he received for a hit on Ravens tight end Ed Dickson late in the first half of Sunday's 23-20 loss.

"This is the toughest place in the world to win. That says something about our team, and that definitely said something about our quarterback. They are still the defending AFC champs. They're still the team to beat. If we play Raven football throughout (the rest of the season), when we see them again, it'll be in our house." Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, on his team's rally Sunday at Heinz Field.

"Me and Foote don't get along. It's always my fault when I can't hear him, but that's how we play. He can say something, but he's real sensitive. You can't say nothing to him. We stay fussy, but we're great friends." Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton, on inside linebacker Larry Foote setting the defense when he subs for James Farrior

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.



Read more: Steelers have lots of work to do in AFC North - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbur...#ixzz1d5TlcG5a
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