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Antonio Brown keys Steelers to AFC North title

Antonio Brown returned a punt for a touchdown and sealed the AFC North for Pittsburgh with a 63-yard touchdown reception in the Steelers' 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. Our takeaways:

  1. It may have been a pyrrhic victory for the Steelers, as Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell never returned after suffering a third-quarter knee injury. We believe Bell has been Pittsburgh's most valuable player as well as the NFL's most dynamic running back this season. Backup Josh Harris, an undrafted rookie out of Wake Forest, showed better than expected speed on a 59-yard run that was nullified by a holding penalty. Harris and pint-sized speed merchant Dri Archer would likely split duties if Bell can't go against the Ravens in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
  1. Antonio Brown should be a lock as a first-team All-Pro after leading the NFL with 129 receptions and 1,698 yards to go with 13 receiving touchdowns, one passing touchdown and another special teams score. Brown is the only player in history to record at least five catches and 50 yards in all 16 games; he's now accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons. Ben Roethlisberger finished tied with Drew Brees for the most passing yards (4,952) in the league.
  1. The Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green connection is responsible for the most interceptions in the league since 2011. Dalton tossed two more in Green's direction Sunday night, one of which was a high pass and the other a miscommunication. Green was forced from the game for concussion tests after fumbling on a pivotal play late in the fourth quarter. If healthy, he and Dalton will try to get the postseason monkey off their backs against Colts cornerback Vontae Davis, who has been among the NFL's best cover men this year.
  1. After the Bengalsinstalled him as the featured back following the first loss to the Steelers, rookie Jeremy Hill led the NFL in rushing over the final three weeks. He has been the team's best weapon since then, showing an impressive power-quickness combination.
  1. The Bengals finished last in the league in sacks this season and failed to take Roethlisberger down even once in their two December meetings. Andrew Luck will pick Paul Guenther's defense apart if he's afforded time to throw.
  1. The Colts will have an edge on the Bengals in the kicking game next week. Adam Vinatieri had his first missed kick of the season on Sunday whereas Cincinnati's Mike Nugent has yet to connect over 50 yards on three attempts. The Bengals have lacked faith in Nugent in recent weeks.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 17 game and debates the MVP race between Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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