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Prisuta's Further Review vs. Bengals

The hats said "AFC North Division Champions" and the message on the T-shirts sported in the locker room in the wake of Steelers 27, Bengals 17 was, "Steelers Run The North."

You'll have that when division titles are won. But Coach Mike Tomlin still wasn't interested in labeling his team as anything but a team.

"I don't know that any of us are playing championship football," Tomlin maintained. "We're not champions. We won an AFC North title (Sunday night), so we're playing division championship football, yes. We're going to continue to write that story.

"We're not looking for accolades or anything of that nature. We're just trying to do what's required to win, and that's on offense, defense and special teams. We're not living as units within the unit."

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, likewise, wasn't interested in assessing how far the Steelers had come after a 3-3 start that included a 27-24 loss at home to Tampa Bay and a 31-10 loss at Cleveland.

"Hopefully, the journey's not over," he said. "Hopefully, we're still going, so it's kind of an early question for me to answer right now. I think we're getting better, and that was always the goal. You either improve or you deteriorate.

"We said we got to get hot at the right time. I don't think we're hot, but we're playing pretty good football. We just have to keep getting better."


The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2014 regular season finale at Heinz Field.

NO HARD FEELINGS**: Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell didn't have an issue with Bengals free safety Reggie Nelson's hit on Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell's right knee.

Bell was knocked out of the game with a hyper-extended knee.

"That's the way the game is being played these days because guys are so afraid to get fined, they're lowering their targets,' Mitchell said. "I hit a lot lower now. I don't think that was a dirty play. Obviously, it was extremely unfortunate. No one wants to see Le'Veon get hit in the knee when he's not looking, but that's the NFL we play in today.

"It's a tough situation for everyone involved, referees included, but that's the league we're in."

NEXT MAN UP: Running back Josh Harris joined the active roster on Nov. 18 and carried the ball four times for 9 yards – all in the Steelers' 42-21 victory on Dec. 7 at Cincinnati – prior to Sunday night. Harris carried five times for 7 yards after Bell departed in the third quarter of the Cincinnati rematch.

"From the things I've heard, he should be OK," Harris said of Bell.

And if not?

"If they call my name and say, 'Josh, we need you to have a few more carries,' I'll be totally ready for that," Harris insisted.

STEPPING UP: The Steelers already had been relying heavily upon cornerbacks Brice McCain and Antwon Blake. McCain had been released in March after five seasons in Houston and signed with the Steelers as a free agent in April.

He wound up intercepting his second and third passes of the season on Sunday night, and ended up tying cornerback William Gay for the team lead in that department.

McCain also had a 22-yard pick-six on Oct. 5 at Jacksonville, and acknowledged after the Bengals game that such big plays weren't necessarily in his initial job description upon joining the Steelers.

"Come in and learn the defense and play my role," McCain said. "My role was to fit in where I could fit in, special teams, whatever. I was willing to do anything."

Blake spent last season with the Steelers after playing 16 games for Jacksonville in 2012. His forced fumble and fumble recovery at the Pittsburgh 30-yard line after a completion to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green allowed the Steelers to preserve a 20-17 lead and regain possession with 3:51 left in regulation.

"Sometimes No. 18, he tends to carry the ball kind of loosely," Blake said. "Sometimes, he doesn't pay for it. Anytime you see somebody carry the ball loosely you want to try to make a play on it. Any time you can see something small like that it's important, obviously, in games like this."

"THE GOODS": Defensive end Cam Heyward said the Steelers had them after the playoff-clinching win over Kansas City, and Mitchell seconded the motion after the division title had been won.

Late Sunday night, Heyward elaborated:

"We have the players, the coaches, everything capable of winning a Super Bowl. It's just about doing it and putting it out there every week. Our coaches have known it, but it's about believing in it and executing and doing what you're supposed to do out there. I know we had a lot of young guys, but when guys start to buy in we're capable of anything.

"Through the growing pains guys have just gotten better and we have depth because of it. When we have so many guys contributing so many different ways, it makes us hard to stop."


Linebacker James Harrison was a member of the AFC North-champion Bengals last season and he's a member of the AFC North-champion Steelers this season.

"It just feels good to be able to come back and bring the AFC North back to Pittsburgh. The title travels with me."

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