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Le'Veon Bell carries Steelers to victory over Bengals

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Le'Veon Bell joined Hall of Famer Walter Payton as the only running backs to generate more than 200 yards from scrimmage in three consecutive games, leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 42-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Our takeaways:

1. On a day in which A.J. Green piled up a career-high 224 yards on 11 catches, Bell was the best player on the field, tallying 235 yards and three touchdowns on 32 touches. He nearly added a fourth score, but was ruled down a few inches shy of the goal line. Bell already has the most receptions by a running back in franchise history (71) and is on pace to finish with 2,367 yards from scrimmage, which would rank as a top-five single-season total. "Right now, he is the best back in the league," NFL Media's Marshall Faulk said Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning. We can't argue.

2. Andy Dalton left the game in the fourth quarter after being driven into the ground on a hit. He came back in for a play before giving way to Jason Campbell for the final five minutes of a three-score game. Dalton assured reporters after the game that he's fine.

3. A healthy Green has averaged 132 yards per game over the past month, but Sunday's dominance was as much about the sorry state of the Steelers' secondary. Veteran Ike Taylor has been a liability since the middle of last season and was torched relentlessly by Green. Safety Mike Mitchell has been a free-agent bust, and starting cornerback Cortez Allen is out for the season. There's no quick fix for Dick LeBeau's pass defense.

4. Much like that of the 2013 Broncos, the Steelers' offense has shown the ability to blitz opposing defenses with a torrential downpour of points, blowing close games wide open. The unit scored 25 points in a 10-minute span during the fourth quarter on Sunday, turning a 21-17 deficit into a 42-21 victory. It's a shame an offense with so many talented playmakers has been one of the most inconsistent units in the league. If they play to their potential, the Steelers can hang with any of the Super Bowl contenders.

5. After a midseason lull, the Bengals' defense had stiffened over the past few weeks. Allowing the most single-game yards (536) since 2007, though, suggests the questionable run defense and missing pass rush will come back to haunt Cincinnati down the stretch.

6. The AFC North race just got a lot more interesting. The Bengals' lead is down to a half-game over the Steelers and Ravens, with Cincinnati's final three matchups at Cleveland, versus the Broncos and at Pittsburgh. The division title could be on the line in that season finale.

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