Call them the Stealers, and call them the AFC North champions for the first time since 2017.
The Colts seemingly had Pittsburgh headed for its fourth straight loss following an 11-0 start, but Ben Roethlisberger engineered three second-half touchdown drives to erase a 17-point deficit — and clinch the division title — with a 28-24 win over Indianapolis at Heinz Field.
The 38-year-old Roethlisberger connected with Diontae Johnson, Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster for touchdowns in the final 18 minutes — the last a 25-yarder to take the lead with 7:38 remaining.
“Sometimes you need a little shock to yourself to believe again,” said Roethlisberger, who finished with a season-high 342 passing yards after managing just 98 through two quarters.
The Steelers (12-3) donned AFC North champion hats and T-shirts and posted dancing videos from their postgame locker-room celebration.
“We’ve been waiting for a few weeks to put them on, man,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who declined to say whether he’ll rest Roethlisberger or other starters in Week 17 against Cleveland. “We’ll ponder those possibilities in the morning. Tonight, we’ll wear our hats and T-shirts.”
Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (270 yards) was intercepted at the Steelers’ 12-yard line on the ensuing drive. With the Indy loss, Tennessee had a chance to clinch the AFC South with a win Sunday night against Green Bay.
The Colts (10-5) are in a four-way tie with Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland for the three wild-card spots in the AFC, but they fell to the eighth seed and could be eliminated even if they post their 11th win next week against Jacksonville.
“Very disappointed. When we had everything to play for, we just didn’t have all the answers in the second half of a game we had to have,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “I’m not doubting the coaches or the players. We had a bad game, a bad half and we weren’t able to finish it off. We’ve got to learn from it, get better next week and get some help.”
KC Is The Sunshine Band
The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC once again will go through Kansas City.
The Chiefs had a tougher than expected time moving the ball Sunday against the Falcons — posting their lowest offensive output of the season — but they clinched the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC with a 17-14 victory in Atlanta.
“I think it was just a bad day for the offense, starting with me,” Patrick Mahomes said after registering his lowest single-game passer rating (79.6) of the season. “I think the offense will figure it out.”
The Chiefs (14-1) hadn’t scored fewer than 23 points in any of their first 14 games, but the 28th-ranked Falcons defense held the league’s No. 1 offense to a 7-7 tie at halftime.
Mahomes flipped a 25-yard touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson with 1:55 remaining, and Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo pushed a potential game-tying 39-yard field goal wide right in the closing seconds for the Falcons (4-11). Koo had entered the game with just one miss on 36 attempts this season.
“At that moment, I just have to come through,” Koo said. “Next time, I’ll make that.”
No Longers Playing Dead
The Bears remain one of the NFL’s streakiest teams, winning their third in a row following a six-game losing streak to position themselves for an NFC playoff berth with a 41-17 win over NFL-worst Jacksonville (1-14), which clinched the first-overall pick in the 2021 draft.
The Bears (8-7) will earn an NFC wild-card spot with a win next week over Green Bay or a loss by Arizona (also 8-7) to the Rams.
“We’re guaranteed one more game, nothing else,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “If we do well in that one game, then we’ll have the opportunity for more. But we can’t worry about that. We just worry about us.”
Mitchell Trubisky had 265 passing yards and two scoring throws to Jimmy Graham — and he ran for another TD — as the Bears scored at least 30 points in a fourth straight game for the first time since 1965.
“It does give us confidence,” Trubisky said. “It all starts with an expectation, just having a high expectation for us in this offense that this is what we’re capable of and nothing less is going to be acceptable.”
Silence of the Rams
The Seahawks (11-4) held Sean McVay without a touchdown to clinch the NFC West for the first time since 2017 — while also keeping alive their chance for the No. 1-overall seed in the NFC — with a defensive-minded 20-9 win over the Rams (9-6).
Los Angeles would have clinched a wild-card spot with a win, and still can do so if it defeats Arizona (8-7) in Week 17.
Russell Wilson (225 passing yards) had a 4-yard scoring run in the third quarter and found Jacob Hollister in the end zone from 13 yards out for an 11-point lead with 2:51 remaining for the Seahawks, who will face San Francisco in their season finale.
The Hurt Locker
Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered a broken thumb, according to NFL Network, on Seahawks defensive end Benson Mayowa’s helmet on a second-half pass attempt. Goff finished the game, but his availability for next week against Arizona appears in question.
Other injuries around the league: Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (calf), Eagles DT Fletcher Cox (stinger), Texans OT Laremy Tunsil (foot) and G Brent Qvale (concussion), Jaguars FB Bruce Miller (concussion), Bengals CB William Jackson (concussion), Ravens C Patrick Mekari (back), Browns LBs Tae Davis (ankle) and Sione Takitaki (ankle), Panthers OT Trent Scott (shoulder).
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce set the single-season record for receiving yardage by a tight end with 1,426, breaking George Kittle’s mark (1,377) set in 2018. Kelce (105 receptions) also became the first tight end in history with multiple 100-catch seasons. … Rivers’ TD pass to Zach Pascal tied him with Dan Marino for fifth on the all-time list with 420. … Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen registered 371 passing yards and two scores as Cincinnati (4-10-1) posted its second straight win, 37-31, over Houston (4-11). … Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert surpassed 4,000 passing yards and tossed his 28th TD pass to break Baker Mayfield’s rookie record (27 in 2018) as Los Angeles (6-9) posted a 19-16 win over Denver (5-10). Michael Badgley kicked a 37-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining for the Chargers.
AFC Playoff Scenarios
The Chiefs have clinched the first-round bye, while Pittsburgh and Buffalo (11-3) have clinched division titles. Tennessee needed to win one of its final two games to clinch the AFC South. Miami, Baltimore and Cleveland (all 10-5) would clinch a playoff berth with a win in Week 17, and Indianapolis (also 10-5) would need a win against Jacksonville and one of the others to lose for a chance at a wild card or two Tennessee losses for a chance at the division title.
The Dolphins own tiebreaker advantages over the other 10-5 teams, the Ravens control them over the Browns and Colts, while the Browns would advance if tied with Indianapolis. All other AFC teams have been eliminated.
NFC Playoff Scenarios
The NFC playoff order still remains unclear, but the Packers had a chance to move closer to clinching the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage Sunday night against Tennessee. The Saints (11-4) already have clinched the NFC South and the Seahawks (11-4) sewed up the NFC West. Washington (6-9), Dallas (6-9) or the Giants (5-10) all still have a shot to win the NFC East.
The Buccaneers (10-5) have clinched one NFC wild card, while the Rams (9-6), Bears (8-7) and Cardinals (8-7) are vying for the final two spots. The winner of the Rams-Cardinals game in Week 17 would clinch one of them. Chicago owns the tiebreaker over Arizona if both lose next week. All other NFC teams have been eliminated.
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