Is It Time To Fade The Pittsburgh Steelers?

December 16, 2020

A few weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked like the best bet in football. They looked like a sure thing to go undefeated this season—which also meant you could take them to win every Sunday. That would also mean they would win the AFC North and make the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Of course, once the playoffs start, it is going to get tougher. But from what we had seen from the Steelers, they looked like a good bet to at least make the AFC title game if not win.

If they made it to the Super Bowl, they would probably be the favorite against any team from the NFC.

But then they lost to the Washington Football Team a couple of weeks ago and followed that up with another loss—this one to the Buffalo Bills.

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They do not look like such a great bet now. But they have three games to get things back on track before the playoffs start, starting with the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend, followed by the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns.

A few weeks ago, it would have been easy to predict the outcome of all three games. But with what we have seen from the Steelers the last few weeks, not so much. Yes, they will still beat the Bengals. However, the Colts and Browns games could go either way.

That is, depending on what version of the Pittsburgh Steelers shows up to play.

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Are the Pittsburgh Steelers Still A Good Bet?

Against the Bengals? Sure, but the question is worth examining from more of a big picture standpoint. Is there value in taking them to win the AFC North, the AFC, and the Super Bowl?

It all depends on whether you think they can recover from their current woes. So—how bad have things gotten?

Well, it seems like the Steelers do not want to catch a ball these days. Over the last couple of weeks, Pittsburgh has led the league in dropped balls. This fact led to Mike Tomlin releasing some frustration of his own when he said he would find someone that will catch if guys do not start doing so.     

But the issues do not stop there. A team that has traditionally been a strong running team is struggling to run the ball. They currently rank 31st in the league in average rushing yards/game with just 89.1.

In their last seven games, they have only cracked 50 yards on the ground twice.

Consequently, they have been forced to compensate for the lack of a running game by relying on the short passing game, making the Steelers offense dull and predictable.

Factor in the injuries on the offensive line and at running back, and the problem gets worse.

When all you do is throw short passes, defenses start to play a lot closer to the line of scrimmage, which makes it harder to run the ball. If the Steelers could keep defenses honest by hitting a few deep throws here and there, things could still work—but they do not make those plays.

As for the defense, with all the season-ending injuries in recent weeks, they do not look like the same dominant unit anymore. It is still a good defense but certainly not a great one.

The problems go back further than just the last two games. Pittsburgh should have lost to the Dallas Cowboys back in Week Nine. Their win over Jacksonville was a sloppy one.

Even though they beat the Ravens, the Steelers did not play well. They were just lucky Baltimore was missing so many guys due to COVID-19. 

So – How Should You Bet?

Betting Play: Pittsburgh Steelers to win the AFC North, but that is all.

Despite all their troubles, the Steelers are still a virtual lock to win the AFC North (-10000; odds via BetMGM). All they must do is beat the Bengals this week, and the division title belongs to them. If they somehow lose to the Bengals, things could get interesting, but that will not happen.

However, it is not easy to say they are a good bet to win the AFC (+600) or Super Bowl (+1100). When their defense was healthy, it may have been able to slow down the Kansas City Chiefs enough to win the AFC Championship game. But now, there is a good chance they do not make it anymore.

As for the Super Bowl (+1200; odds via WilliamHill), if the offense can get its act together, there may be some hope for them (if they win the AFC). But with the injuries and poor play on the offensive line, the run game is probably not going to get any better.

No run game means a continued reliance on the short passing game, which means the offense will remain basic and easy to defend.

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