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Steelers' playoff hopes dashed despite win vs. Browns

Pittsburgh did its part.

With a convincing win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the Steelers were in good shape for an AFC playoff spot, but it was not to be. Pittsburgh's postseason hopes were squashed by the San Diego Chargers knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs.

Still, this Steelers team -- from coach Mike Tomlin on down -- deserves credit for fighting to the bitter end.

Here's what else we learned from Pittsburgh's 20-7 win over the Browns:

1. Forget the 8-8 record. The Steelers were a major headache for opponents down the stretch. It started with Ben Roethlisberger, who moved to 17-1 against the Browns to cap one of his more memorable campaigns. Pittsburgh would be nuts to trade him. He's the beating heart of this franchise.

2. After handing the ball to Le'Veon Bell 24 times in Week 15 and 26 more last Sunday, the Steelers again put the game in the hands of their rookie running back. Bell ran as hard as he has all season and blistered Cleveland for 90 yards and a second-quarter score that all but buried the Browns.

3. With one-third of Pittsburgh's roster set to become unrestricted free agents, even a playoff berth shouldn't prevent change for one the NFL's oldest defenses. Troy Polamalu -- set to count $10 million against next year's cap -- is no sure bet to be back, while Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood and Jason Worilds all might be playing elsewhere next season.

4. Props to Antonio Brown, who came into the season facing questions about his ability to be a No. 1 receiver, only to finish with 110 catches and a highlight reel of grabs in big spots for the Steelers. Without the benefit of Mike Wallace drawing double teams, Brown -- the NFL's second-leading receiver with 1,499 yards -- still produced weekly.

The playoff picture
See where each team stands in the playoff picture heading into the final week of the 2013 NFL regular season. More ...

5. For all the early-season love heaped on this Browns defense, they crumbled down the stretch, failing to rush the passer and allowing a whopping 406 points on the season. We don't doubt defensive coordinator Ray Horton's talents, but he didn't milk the best out of his players.

6. Cleveland (4-12) might be starting over ... again. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that coach Rob Chudzinski likely will be fired after just one season with the team, according to a Browns source. The firing could happen Sunday night rather than Monday morning. If Chud goes, NFL Media's Albert Breer believes that Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would sit atop Cleveland's wish list.

We break down all the Week 17 games on the latest "Around The League Podcast."

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