Fade Overworked Steelers & Back Panthers +2.5 With Your NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 9:34 PM UTC

Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2015 9:34 PM UTC

The Pittsburgh Steelers have already played four exhibition games this year. Does that make them a bad football pick for Thursday's game versus the Carolina Panthers?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had quite enough of this preseason nonsense. Last week, head coach Mike Tomlin admitted that his players are complaining about how many exhibition games they've had to play, starting with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, and how many injuries they've suffered as a result. Tomlin's message to his players: Can it. “Our job is to show up ready to play,” he told reporters.

Pittsburgh's next job is Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET) at Heinz Field against the Carolina Panthers. But there's a difference between showing up ready and actually performing well, and history hasn't been kind to the teams who are playing Game No. 5 of the preseason. Does that put the Panthers in our NFL Picks this week? They're slim 1-point underdogs for this matchup, although you can find Carolina at +2.5 on our NFL odds board at press time.


Too Much Football
Here's the skinny: Since the Hall of Fame Game was given its own week in 2008, teams playing in that contest have posted a 5-7 SU and 3-8-1 ATS record in Week 4 of the same preseason. It's the shadow aspect of the betting trend where the same HOF teams, including this year's tandem, have gone 10-4 SU and 11-3 ATS (or 9-5 ATS, depending on whose odds you use) in Week 1. Instead of that one extra week being an advantage against unprepared teams, it's now a disadvantage against better-rested teams.

Naturally, Pittsburgh smelted all over our football picks and failed to cover this year's Week 1 contest, dropping a 23-21 decision to the Jacksonville Jaguars (PK at home). The Steelers are 1-3 SU and ATS after four preseason games, leaving Tomlin at 16-20-1 ATS lifetime. He's already told reporters that his “established guys” will get little or no playing time this Thursday. Will that include QB Michael Vick, who ended up playing in last week's 43-19 loss to the Buffalo Bills (–3 at home)? We're waiting to find out, too. Otherwise, it'll be Landry Jones Night at Heinz Field.


I Do Do Wrong, Ron
Conveniently enough, these same two teams have played in the preseason finale every year since 2003, so we've got some more data to work with. Here it is: Pittsburgh is 7-5 SU and 6-6 ATS in these games. That record “improves” to 6-2 SU and 4-4 ATS after Tomlin took over as head coach, but since Ron Rivera's arrival in Charlotte, the Steelers have fallen to 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS.

We're not likely to see much of Carolina's starters on Thursday, either. Rivera's being a bit coy about it, but QB Cam Newton hasn't played in Week 4 of the preseason since he was a rookie in 2011, which was also Rivera's first season as an NFL head coach. Meanwhile, Rivera is 10-9 ATS in exhibition play after dropping two of three this year – not much help for our cause, but also nothing to deter us from fading the overworked Steelers.

Free NFL Pick: Take the Panthers +2.5 at BetOnline

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