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Steelers win North, clinch No. 3 seed

Posted Dec 25, 2016

The victory over the Ravens put the Steelers into the playoffs as the AFC's No. 3 seed.

STEELERS 31, RAVENS 27

Steelers’ record: 10-5
One year ago: 9-6
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 25-20




STORYLINE
Mike Tomlin’s rookie season as the Steelers coach was 2007, and from that point until yesterday morning, there had been 22 games between the Steelers and the Ravens: 11 of those had been decided by exactly three points, a 12th decided by two points.

“Turnovers are an element of it,” said Tomlin in talking about the important elements in these matchups with the Ravens. “In this game, in the 22 games against the Ravens over the last decade, it comes down to rushing, yards per carry, and the turnover game. The team that takes care of the ball has a leg up. The team that runs the ball better has a leg up. And all of those things usually culminate in the number of punts. The team with the lesser number of punts is usually in a good position to win. We’re very familiar with this matchup. We’re very familiar with the variables. Those are the variables.”

HOW THE STORYLINE PLAYED OUT
The Steelers were minus-1 in turnover ratio, and the Ravens turned the Steelers’ two turnovers into 10 points. In the category of running the football, the Steelers finished with more rushing yards (127-122) and a better per carry average (5.8-4.7), and their advantage there can be traced directly to Le’Veon Bell. Both Jordan Berry and Sam Koch punted three times. Then, there was the Roetlisberger effect.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
In the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger completed 14-of-17 for 164 yards, with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a rating of 146.1. And two of the three incompletions resulted from spiking the ball to stop the clock. The Steelers scored touchdowns on each of their possessions in the fourth quarter.

AFC CENTRAL/NORTH CHAMPIONS ROUNDUP
The AFC Central Division was formed in 1970, divisional play was suspended during the strike-shortened season of 1982, and it became the AFC North starting with the 2002 season. That means there have been 46 division championships won since 1970 under two different names. The Steelers have 22; Cincinnati has nine; Cleveland has six; Baltimore has four; Houston/Tennessee has three; and Jacksonville has two. Just taking into consideration the AFC North, the Steelers have won it seven times, with Baltimore and Cincinnati winning it four times apiece. Mike Tomlin’s teams have won four division championships in his 10 seasons.

STAT THAT STANDS OUT II
The victory over the Ravens clinched the 22nd division title in franchise history, and it also was win No. 600 all-time for the Steelers in the regular season. The victory over the Ravens also clinched the No. 3 seed in the AFC Playoffs for the Steelers, which means next Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field will have no bearing on their playoff seeding. The Steelers will host the No. 6 seed during Wild Card weekend, which is Jan. 7-8.

QUOTABLE
Ravens Coach John Harbaugh on the Steelers scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter: “There is nothing specific to point to. They made great throws. They made catches. Ben got out of the pocket and made a couple of plays. I think it was just playmaking. You have to come up with plays against him. We came up with interceptions early. That’s what you need to do. We were unable to do that in the fourth quarter. That was the difference in the game. They made more plays than we did. They made one more play than we did.”