Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Time: NOON (CT), CBS
Odds c/o Sportbet
The Pittsburgh Steelers need their starting quarterback to win football games. Maybe that should not have been much of a surprise.
The Steelers are coming off consecutive losses to the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, and Ben Roethlisberger’s status is uncertain this week as he attempts to recover from a knee surgery he had just less than three weeks ago.
The Steelers visit the Ravens with EVEN odds at oddsmakers Sportsbet, with an over/under set at ’43’ in one of the more difficult games for bettors to react to league-wide this week.
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Pittsburgh has struggled badly offensively without Big Ben launching from the pocket. The Steelers have been outscored 57-31 in his absence, with Landry Jones providing nothing but mediocrity in his stead. Jones threw 29 of 47 last week for 281 yards but he had an interception and just one TD in the game, while the Steelers also managed just 94 yards via the ground attack.
Le’Veon Bell had 81 of those yards on 21 carries, but Pittsburgh fumbled three times (recovering two of them) and the defense allowed 362 total yards from the Patriots, who dominated the second half in outscoring the Steelers 13-6 over the final two quarters.
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Jones is in his fourth season out of Oklahoma, but he did not have much of a showing. He first appeared in the loss to the Dolphins two weeks ago, throwing one pass as his role became clear that he would lead the Steelers with Big Ben out due to the knee injury.
Roethlisberger is listed as a game time decision for this one, but one would figure the 4-3 Steelers play him if it is at all possible. Pittsburgh still leads the AFC North and really needs to secure victory this week.
Antonio Brown and Sammie Coates need their QB back too. Brown and Coates have combined for over 1,000 receiving yards and seven TDs, with the pair also having accounted for 45 first downs (30 coming from Brown). The task has been heavier for Bell with the change in QB, but he has reacted well despite averaging under four yards per attempt last week.
Bell is good for 5.0 on the season and his 344 yards lead the team. Of course, getting DeAngelo Williams back in the backfield would be a terrific boon too. He is listed as questionable for the game due to a knee injury, but he leads the team in rushing TDs with three and is the best red zone threat. This game is so tough to call with the uncertainty revolving around both the starting QB and a top RB.
The Baltimore Ravens are 3-4 on the season, but have dropped four straight since beginning the year 3-0. Losses to the Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, New York Giants and New York Jets have knocked the Ravens down to second in the AFC North, and the team is desperate to right the ship this week. It has lost by eight points or less in all four of those games, with two of them decided by four or less.
This week should be close, too.
Last week in the loss to the Jets, QB Joe Flacco struggled. The veteran quarterback threw 25 of 44 for 248 yards but did not throw a TD while launching two INTs and incurring two sacks (for a loss of 14 yards). His passer rating of 54.0 was putrid. The Ravens also managed just 11 (!) rushing yards in the game, with 11 carries averaging one yard per.
Total it up and that is 245 total yards of offense in a game which saw kicker Justin Tucker do all of the scoring. He hit 3 of 3 FGA with a long of 50-yards, but the Ravens just could not find the end zone, nor get into field goal range enough for Tucker to propel them over the edge.
Punter Sam Koch also turned in a terrific game with six punts for 50.8 yards each (including a long of 59), but it is going to take more than just good special teams play to knock of a Steelers team just as desperate for victory as Baltimore is.
The teams come in with six straight losses between them, and the only certain thing in this unpredictable affair is that one team ends that losing streak. As to whether it is Pitt or Baltimore, it largely depends on the health status of Pittsburgh’s key offensive players, and most especially Big Ben. Expect a lot of late betting action for this one as the details reveal themselves prior to kickoff.