The Pittsburgh Steelers, renowned for ferocious defenses, are said to be taking a step back defensively, which is why we examine a few key spots in the schedule where the NFL odds totals look ripe for the plucking.
Steelers Defense Could Be Rather Offensive
Change is never easy but it is inevitable. The Steelers' defensive legacy hails from as far back as the 1970’s when the Steel Curtain swallowed whole opposing offensive lines as well as those who dared run headlong into the swarm. Images conjured of the menacing L.C. Greenwood, ball-hawk Mel Blount, Jack Ham and the notorious Jack Lambert punishing in tandem anything and everything crossing their paths and of course Mean Joe Greene, the legendary ringmaster of all the violence and mayhem, still reverberate throughout the decades.
While that legendary group reflects the halcyon days of Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense, the franchise has nevertheless continued to build and field skilled, physical defensive units. It is their stock-in-trade but last season the Steelers were ranked in the bottom half of the league in the defensive categories that matter. The archetype of the most recent iteration of Blitzburgh Dick LeBeau is no longer calling the defensive shots and one of the team’s all-time greats, Troy Polamalu, is hanging up his cleats after a stellar 12-year career. The team’s departure from emotional leader Brett Keisel and the retirement of veteran corner Ike Taylor is yet another sea change in the team’s defensive structure.
To say that this defense suddenly morphed from hero to zero is unfair and inaccurate. After the 2011 season the Pittsburgh defensive starters have been aging rapidly and their inability to control the line of scrimmage has been alarming. Pittsburgh’s pass rushers have been unable to put much heat on the quarterback and their points allowed ranking has swelled from first in 2011 to 18th last season.
With the sudden void in veteran leadership, the team will hope their bounty of early round defensive draft picks over the last few years will come to fruition. However, I believe these youngsters will need more time to round into form, which is why this season could be the best season to scrutinize the NFL odds totals and go over whenever Pittsburgh is matched against a high-octane offense. We know Pittsburgh can score as they were ranked 2nd in total yards/game and 7th in points per game last season. But now we are counting on their defense being as porous as their offense is prolific.
Let’s look at the NFL betting opportunities to go over the posted total:
September 10th at New England – The NFL odds total on this one is 48½ as of this writing and many will bemoan the fact that this total is too high as Tom Terrific could be watching the game in civvies while Jimmy Garoppolo takes center stage. Never fear, the Pats are loaded and Big Ben will go to work on a depleted New England secondary. The last time these two teams hooked up in Foxboro 86 points were scored.
October 1st vs. Baltimore – The Steelers and Ravens traded scores in their regular season matchup at Heinz Field last season when they vaporized the 47 total and lit up the scoreboard with 66 combined points. They met once more in Pittsburgh during their wild card clash in January when the weather was cold and postseason jitters were running rampant. The teams pushed the NFL odds total of 47 as Pittsburgh bowed 30-17. Look for a repeat of last regular season’s tilt.
November 8th vs. Oakland – Sure, Oakland is lousy and have seemingly stayed that way since the 70’s but this is where we can get a total not in the high 40’s to low 50’s. Oakland will be better offensively this season and let’s not forget that their defense is heinous and surrendered the most points in the league last season. It is also why Oakland’s games went over in 10 of 16 occasions. Don’t overlook this one kids.
December 6th vs. Indianapolis – Two words – Andrew Luck. Need I say more?
December 13th at Cincinnati – About the same time last season these two met in the Queen City and there were fireworks. The Steelers notched a 42-21 road victory and we expect more of the same. The only difference this time will be that the Cincinnati Bengals will put more than 21 on the board.
*Denver Warning – All bets are off on Denver's sides and totals until I see which Peyton Manning emerges for the 2015-2016 season. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers will welcome the Denver Broncos into Heinz Field on December 20th, I fear the snow will be falling and the total will be shaded far too high. Stay away for now.