Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Time: 10 AM Sunday
Spread: PIT -3
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-2-1 after falling 14-26 to the Baltimore Ravens in week 4. The Steelers will stay at home in Week 5 as it hosts visiting Atlanta as 3-point favorites in a 10 AM (CT) game on FOX. The over/under is set at 58 points for the game according to NFL oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Steelers have had a rough going defensively. It is ranking No. 26 in the league, giving up 29 points per game, which has not been enough even with a No. 11 offense that averages 25.5 per contest. Its pass offense remains top-notch, ranking No. 3 overall at 338.8 yards per game, but the Steelers are getting precious little via the ground game, ranking No. 29 with just 72.3 rushing yards per game.
Ben Roethlisberger is, of course, the reason behind the passing success. The legendary veteran has thrown 64 percent for completion for 1,414 yards and eight TDs. He does have five interceptions already, though, and he has been sacked nine times for 59-yards lost. Getting so little help from his running backs is a large contributing factor, as is an offensive line that has done little to protect nor create holes. Running back James Connor is struggling in his second NFL season with just 3.7 yards-per-carry though he does have three of the team’s four rushing touchdowns. Big Ben is managing just 2.3 yards-per-carry on his 10 attempts. No one else has rushed for much of anything, and the Steelers have attempted just 20.25 rushes per game through its first four contests.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been the team’s brightest spot perhaps: He has caught 31 of 39 targeted passes for 416 yards and a TD. He has five 20-plus yard receptions and 201 yards after the catch this season. Antonio Brown, Jesse James, and Vince McDonald all have 200-yards or better, as Roethlisberger has done his job airing it out. The Steelers have eight rushing TDs on the season, but it has also surrendered 12 to its opponents. Smith-Schuster has 21 of the team’s 70 receiving first downs, but it is going to have to get more out of Conner on handoffs. Even if Pittsburgh is strong offensively as it has been, it cannot continue to be both so one-dimensional nor to play such pitiful defense.
The Falcons have struggles of its own. The team sits at 1-3 and in last place in the NFC South, and it has been outscored 116-122 this season, a victim of three losses by six points or less. Atlanta has a No. 6 ranked offense that scores 29.0 points per game, but its defense ranks among the worst at No. 30 in giving up 30.5 points per game. Its passing has been the bread and butter, much like its opponent this week. Atlanta averages 314.8 passing yards per game, but it, too, is under 100-yards per game via the rush.
Matt Ryan has been good as usual at quarterback. The veteran has thrown 99 of 145 (68.3 percent) for 1,316 yards while boasting a 9.1 yard-per-attempt average. He has 10 TDs and just two picks but has been sacked 2.5 times per game for a total loss this season of 57 yards. Still, with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, he has done work. Jones has 502 yards on the season, and Ridley has soaked up the end zone glory with six touchdowns. Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper each have topped 100-yards, and the receiving has not been the problem.
Like the Steelers, backfield production has been scarce. Tevin Coleman has 210 yards, but no other backfield performer has more than 75 outside of him, and the team averages just 4.0 per attempt. Ryan has 12 rushes for 43 yards and a team-high two rushing TDs. This game will be a battle won in the air, though both teams perhaps should focus on finding a ground game for the sake of the remainder of their respective seasons.