Pittsburgh Steelers may not be the sexy NFL pick but if they were talked up more by the punditocracy bettors might be attracted their way. Let’s take a look and see what we’ve got under the hood.
Pittsburgh Steelers Odds At a Glance
Depending on your choice top-rated sportsbook , SBLV odds on the Pittsburgh Steelers range anywhere from +2200 (Bovada and BetOnline) to +2850 (Heritage Sportsbook). By these odds, it’s fair to say, the Steelers strike a very middling pose in the broad spectrum of the 2020-21 NFL season.
This sense of modesty and averageness carries through the bulk of NFL betting markets currently on offer for the upcoming season. For instance, to win the AFC Conference, Steelers are priced between +1200 to +1427 – the latter of which price is found with Bookmaker. And to win the AFC North, Steelers are trading anywhere from +325 to +450 – the latter price of which is found with Bookmaker again.
Across all sports betting platforms, season win totals are projected between 9 to 9.5 for the Steelers, which puts them just a smidgen above .500. In other words, a middling side. Moreover, if the odds (vig) associated with the projected season win total were any indication, it would seem sportsbooks feel that Pittsburgh, at best, is a 9-win team.
No sportsbook at this point in time expects the Steelers to crack 9.5 wins on the season, enter double-digit territory. Those sportsbooks that project 9.5 wins in fact all serve up the UNDER as the favored outcome; in some cases, the vig is as high as -135 and -140 (BetOnline and Heritage, respectively).
Suppose the current landscape has everything to do with the previous season, in which Pittsburgh went 8-8 SU and missed the playoffs. But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year it can’t possibly have escaped notice that the Steelers were a man down for nearly the entire term. An important man down, mind you. The starting quarterback.
This begs the question whether NFL betting markets have it right or whether the Steelers are being grievously underrated. Pushed to make a call right now, the latter does appear to be the case.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2019-20 Lookback
Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending elbow injury in week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Which forced Mike Tomlin to resort to the backup quarterback carousel that included second-string quarterback, Mason Rudolph, and third-string quarterback, Devlin Hodges. Although it didn’t take long to get the measure of both backups – as poor substitutes for Big Ben – the Steelers nevertheless proved competitive, nearly sneaking into the playoffs.
Bearing in mind that inexperienced and under-developed quarterbacks were at the helm of the offense, to finish with a .500 record is a minor miracle. It wasn’t pretty. Some of the teams they beat left much to be desired. But don’t let that take away from the Steelers and what was a respectable effort, when other teams practically crumbled in similar situations. Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, etc.…all failed to strike an audible chord behind backup play.
What last season speaks to is the quality of Tomlin as a head coach. Tomlin has never had a losing season since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise and, even, the loss of Big Ben didn’t blemish his record. Equally, it points to the strength of the defense, which was ranked in the top five in many categories.
Pittsburgh Steelers Underrated for 2020
Historically, the AFC North has been dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since its inception in its current form in 2002, the Steelers have taken the crown 8 times, while the Ravens have won it 6 times and the Bengals four times. The Browns are yet to win a divisional title.
In the last five years, Steelers twice won the division (2015 and 2016), and during their last division-winning campaign they reached the AFC Championship game (lost to Patriots).
Given Lamar Jackson’s breakout season in 2019, in which he led the Ravens to a 14-2 SU mark and a second-straight divisional title in as many years, it’s no surprise the Ravens are deemed the team to beat in the division and one of the teams to beat in the league. In fact, they’re the trendy NFL pick.
However, backing the Ravens with impunity presupposes the notion that Jackson will be allowed to run riot all over again. If there’s one knockback against Lamar Jackson it’s his issues on the big stage.
In 2018 and 2019, the Ravens crashed out of the playoffs, each time winless following a subpar performance by their starting quarterback. And yet: it’s not only that teams were able to dismiss Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in the postseason – of which the Titans were exemplars — but also the amount of film on Jackson and successful schemes against the Ravens now available to build on that suggests 2020 may not be a cakewalk.
Of course, Lamar Jackson may overcome those big stage issues. It’s part and parcel of the maturation process, development of a young quarterback. But if the Ravens do face bumps in the road (as yours truly believes they very well might), surely we can all agree the Steelers are best primed in the AFC North to give the Ravens a run for their money – more so than the NFL odds would suggest.
A healthy, spry Big Ben, who claims his arm after the year-long rest has never felt better, sets up the Steelers advantageously in the AFC North. He’s not looking to just participate in 2020 either.
Cleveland Browns still come across all hype and no bite. No question, on paper, they have enviable offensive and defensive morsels but it’ll take time to gel those together. New head coach Kevin Stefanski has his work cut out and that’s excluding the current unprecedented challenges. Simply put, navigating an offseason that’s been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic puts Stefanski and his staff at a disadvantage.
The Bengals, who picked up Joe Burrow with their No.1 draft pick, are a team deeper in the rebuild process than the Browns are at the moment. It would take something spectacular to surprise us all, especially in the wake of the pandemic as well.
Pittsburgh Steelers the Smart Bet to Win AFC North?
All told, Big Ben navigating the Steelers offense and complemented by a defense that ranked fifth overall in total defense and first in sacks last season is an attractive prospect. One certainly worth the flutter on NFL picks. T.J. Watt is fast growing into a superstar; he’s on course to potentially surpass his more well-known sibling. Minka Fitzpatrick was a revelation with the Steelers last season and JuJu Smith-Schuster is sure to flourish with Roethlisberger back.
If the combination of Rudolph and “Duck” Hodges can string together 8 wins imagine how far Big Ben and the Steelers could go. In double-digits potentially. To look at the schedule, the Steelers have a particularly good-looking trek over the course of 16-games, especially in the second half, after a Week 8 Bye, when seven of their nine games down the stretch are against teams that missed the 2019 playoffs.
Cracking 9.5 wins and winning the AFC North may seem bullish for early NFL picks but, let’s face it, if the Steelers win 10 to 13 games (or better) and go on to win the division, few will be really surprised. Moreover, if they do exactly that and go into the playoffs as a result, the sum total of their parts would make Pittsburgh a serious contender for Super Bowl LV. The combination of veteran leadership, experience, solid and established coaching, familiarity and longevity within the ranks, strengths on both offense and defense, is altogether a winning combination. At the very least, if nothing else, the Steelers deserve to be in the conversation.