The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone from dreams of matching the perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins to searching for another win.

07 Ben Roethlisberger - Struggling Steelers in midst of historic collapse
Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (7) tosses the ball as he leaves the field following an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

After winning their first 11 games for the first time in franchise history, the Steelers were upset at home two weeks ago against Washington. That was followed by a loss at fellow AFC contender Buffalo before a humbling 27-17 defeat to last-place Cincinnati.

The last team to start 11-0 and then lose three straight was the 1969 Rams in a 14-game season. The losing skid carried over to the playoffs with a 23-20 loss to Minnesota, a fate the Steelers would obviously like to avoid.

Pittsburgh would prefer to follow the path of the 2009 Saints, who won their first 13 games before losing the final three in the regular season. They recovered to win three in a row in the playoffs for the only Super Bowl title in franchise history.

With the loss in Week 13 to a Washington team that was 4-7 at the time and then this past week to a Cincinnati team that was 2-10-1, the Steelers became the first team in NFL history to lose multiple games when entering with at least 11 wins and playing a team with four or fewer.

The late-season collapse has opened the door for Cleveland to have a chance at winning the division. If the Browns beat the Jets on Sunday and the Steelers lose to Indianapolis, the Week 17 showdown in Cleveland will be for the division title. The Browns last won a division title in 1989, the longest current drought in the league.

No matter who wins the AFC North, the champion will be a team that missed the playoffs last season. Every year since 1977, with the exception of the strike-shortened 1982 season that had no divisions, has featured a division winner that missed the playoffs the previous season.

On the other end of the spectrum is the New York Jets, who lost their first 13 games before stunning the Los Angeles Rams, who came into the game with a 9-4 record, with a 23-20 victory.

It marked just the third time a team 0-13 or worse broke through for its first win against a team with a winning record. The Colts (0-13) beat Tennessee (7-6) in 2011 and the Raiders (0-13) beat the Patriots (9-3-1) in 1962.

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