The Pittsburgh Steelers just took a big step backward in their progress while the Buffalo Bills might be getting healthy just in time for Saturday's NFL picks.
Darn those Pittsburgh Steelers. Not only did they come back to beat the Green Bay Packers (+1.5 away) 24-19 last week, it was third-string QB Landry Jones who engineered two fourth-quarter touchdowns to deny us our rightful payday. This was after Bruce Gradkowski's preseason debut was cut short by an injured left finger. Harrumph.
No offense to Gradkowski, but there's a much more important injury the Steelers need to deal with. Center Maurkice Pouncey is expected to miss at least the first half of the regular season after breaking his ankle (or perhaps his fibula) in the game against Green Bay. Losing Pouncey could be enough to ruin Pittsburgh's season. It certainly won't do the Steelers any favors this Saturday (4:00 p.m. ET, NFLN) when they visit the Buffalo Bills. Our NFL odds board at press time has the Bills favored by 2.5 points.
Pittsburgh fans will no doubt cringe when they think about Pouncey's abbreviated 2013 campaign. In the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Pouncey got run into by his own teammate and suffered a torn right ACL and MCL, leaving him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. This injury isn't quite as bad; Pouncey will presumably be designated for return this time, and can play in Week 9 if things go well.
He'd better get healthy. Pouncey is either an elite or a barely above-average center, depending on who's scouting, but when he missed the rest of 2013, the Steelers missed the playoffs at 8-8 (9-7 ATS). Upon his return, they won the AFC North at 11-5 (9-7 ATS), and were expected to compete for another division title with the entire starting offensive line coming back from last year. Cody Wallace is expected to replace Pouncey at center.
Fix Yourself a Sammy
This won't be quite as problematic for the Steelers on Saturday. Week 3 of the preseason is considered a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, but in reality, we'll see a lot more of the second-stringers this weekend than we will down the road. Pouncey's snaps would have been limited against Buffalo anyway. Still, his absence will be felt against the Bills, who have one of the best defenses in the league.
The problem with the Bills this August has been on the offensive end. Injuries at multiple positions have taken the steam out of Buffalo's attack, although once again, our NFL picks got blindsided when third-stringer EJ Manuel mounted a late TD drive in last week's 11-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns (–2.5 at home). Harrumph. Anyway, some of those injured Bills have come back recently, including wideouts Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. We'll take that, plus Pouncey's absence and Buffalo's QB depth, and we'll run with the home side this Saturday.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Bills –2.5 at The Greek