The Steelers will host the upstart 49ers in a must-win situation for QB Ben Roethlisberger that will definitely have his hands full. Betting odds are favoring the host team.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (FOX, Directv 713, 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT): The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, 436 PF-368 PA in 2014) welcome the San Francisco 49ers (8-8, 306 PF-340 PA) to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Week 2 interconference affair from the Steel City. Right now (Tuesday), the Steelers range from between 5- (Wynn Las Vegas) to 6-point (Station Casinos, William Hill) favorites while the Total in this inter-conference game is at 44 or 44½ in most places. On the Moneyline, the favored Steelers are priced at -240 with the visiting 49ers lined at +200 on the takeback (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). The Pittsburgh Steelers Team Total has been set at 24½ (PaddyPower, Ladbrokes) for this game while the San Francisco 49ers Total has been set at 19 (Ladbrokes). Noteworthy: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened the Steelers as 5-point favorites in this game in their NFL Games of the Year (released mid-Summer), while last Tuesday in their Advanced Line for this Week 2, the SuperBook installed Pittsburgh as 7-point chalks for this game, so you can see the change in perceptions.
San Francisco 49ers
No, your eyes didn’t deceive you. It was probably your head and too much reading and damn over-thinking, something quite prevalent in 2015 where we have smart phones and satellites but over-reaction on overdrive. Slow down if you can. The San Francisco 49ers (8-8 SU, 6-9-1 ATS overall) looked very good on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings, and the hosts more than deserved the 20-3 win in their Week 1 opener. QB Colin Kaepernick (17/26, 165 Passing yards, 41 Rushing yards) showed he can run the 49ers (80/1 to Super Bowl, William Hill) Offense and should be their QB and RB Carlos Hyde (226 rushes, 168 yards, 2 TDs) had a breakout game and is a player to watch and one those who play Fantasy Sports should take a close look at. RB Reggie Bush (Calf Strain) suffered an injury in the 1st Quarter of the win, but Head Coach Jim Tomsula (1-0 ATS) said that Bush looked fine, will be getting an MRI and is expected to be ready to play.
The 49ers Passing game didn’t really click against Minnesota, but in Week 1 against a game opponent, playing with so many new names on the Roster and with an unconventional QB like Kaepernick, that’s understood. There will be games where WRs Anquan Boldin, Free Agent-signee Torrey Smith and TE Vernon Davis make the difference for this team, but with Hyde dominating, San Francisco did the smart thing and just kept handing him the football. And with Hyde, former Australian rugby player and Rookie Jarryd Hayne (4 rushes, 14 yards), the oft-unheralded Bush and QB Kaepernick himself, this team has some unique but productive people who can run the pigskin—often not the perception of the San Francisco team.
Like they were against the New England Patriots in Week 1 in the NFL 2015/16 Regular Season lidlifter, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6 SU, 9-8 ATS in 2014) will again be without star RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant who are both serving individual Suspensions for violating the NFL’s Drug Policy (smoking marijuana). Bell—serving a 2-game Suspension—will be eligible to return next week (Week 3 at Rams) while Bryant—who is serving a 4-game Suspension— will be eligible to return for the Steelers in three weeks (Week 5 at Chargers). And besides the absences of Bell and Bryant, Pittsburgh is also without starting C Maurkice Pouncey (Left Fibula/Ankle) while CB Cortez Allen (Head) has been listed as Questionable for this game. Pittsburgh (33/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) and Head Coach Mike Tomlin (68-68-2 ATS) also have five players on the Injured-Reserve List, including starting K Shaun Suisham (Knee) who has been replaced by K Josh Scobee (1/1 XP, 2/4 FG, Long: 44 vs. Patriots).
So, unlike some other teams, Pittsburgh and GM Kevin Colbert have done a nice job having solid backup guys in place (on Offense) for when trouble arises. This will only make Pittsburgh’s Offense that much stronger when Bell, Bryant and eventually Pouncey, are all on the Roster and playing at the same time. Against New England, you couldn’t have asked for better games from Free Agent-signee (Panthers) DeAngelo Williams (21 rushes, 127 yards) and superstar WR Antonio Brown (9 receptions, 133 yards, TD) and guys like TE Heath Miller (8 receptions, 84 yards), Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey also showed how deep the Steelers are on Offense. Now keeping QB Ben Roethlisberger (50-38-2 ATS at Home) upright and healthy will be the thing as whereas the Offense is a strong point, the Defense and the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens look like they’ll be the three big hurdles for this football team this season.
Series Numbers, Recent Relevant Trends and Game Expectations
This is a meeting between two NFL organizations who have shown they both know how to get to and win Super Bowls. And even though the absence of Bell and Bryant for the Steelers seems like a massive thing, the team played a very good game on the Offensive side of the ball without the two and Pittsburgh will have the luxury of having a week’s play under its belt, the Home site (Heinz Field), the situation (Regular Season Home opener), and the Body Clock—the 49ers (PDT) will be three hours behind host Pittsburgh (EDT)—advantage here, although the recent relevant Trends somewhat support San Francisco. The last time these two played was in 2011 where the 49ers won 20-3 in San Francisco as 3-point Favorites while the last time these two met in the Steel City, the Steelers hammered the 49ers, 37-16 and covered as 10-point Favorites way back in 2007. And LB NaVorro Bowman and the 49ers are 5-2 ATS the L7 against Pittsburgh, but an interesting thing to be aware of is that the Steelers are now 4-1 SU and ATS over their L5 Regular Season games, with the only fail to the Point Spread coming in last week’s opener against the Patriots and in a decision in which it depends if you grade the Opening or closing NFL Odds.
For those who do the latter, then at +7½, Pittsburgh is a perfect 5-0 ATS over the L5 Regular Season games. But enough with the ticky-tacky. What might happen here? As always, the Home site will be huge here and probably worth a little more than the 3 points oddsmakers routinely weigh for a Home site. Why? It’s the Steelers, a team with a massive and loud fan base and it’s the Home opener. And the game comes after a Loss, and after one of the most highly publicized games ever (Deflategate non-Suspension) and a game Pittsburgh could have definitely won and one in which the Steelers even outplayed the Super Bowl champs to a certain degree.
Here, expect a Williams-Hyde Rushing duel, and for those two to (again) be the primary vehicles for both OCs. While the Niners may actually be better than Pittsburgh on Defense, where the Steelers should have an edge and be able to steal 14 points in this game is on long balls deep downfield to Brown and Bryant—passes Roethlisberger can make and Kaepernick can’t. Pittsburgh connected on several against the Patriots, but also had some near-misses, meaning Big Ben and OC Todd Haley will want to go to those plays again, even against tougher San Francisco DBs. Expect the 49ers to again show they aren’t even close to being the team on paper or in people’s heads in July, but back the host Steelers to get the needed victory and close cover with your NFL picks thanks to veteran Roethlisberger (34-25 ATS off Loss) and his wise decision-making here at Heinz Field where the forecast is for a high 74° with a chance of Thunderstorms in the morning, cloudiness during the game and a 50% chance of Rain.
Predicted Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 24 San Francisco 49ers 17
NFL Pick: Steelers -5.5 at Heritage