Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers are eager for a fresh start and in a matter of a few days they’ll launch their 2019 campaign against the defending champions, New England Patriots, in primetime Sunday Night Football. [Insert dramatic shiver].
For the first time since 2013, Big Ben will be without his former trusted weapons: the tandem of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who have separately moved on to greener pastures elsewhere. How the Steelers would fare without Bell and Brown was the subject of much debate during the offseason and not always in a positive light.
When a new season gives way to optimism and bonhomie – a tabula rasa – within all 32 franchises, NFL betting experts, media analysts and armchair critics can be relied upon to bring a soupcon of pessimism. Keep it real, so to speak.
Such was the case for the Steelers with everyone so focused on the departing two starlets and what their loss meant. That bookies threw their lot in too, dropping the Steelers in market estimation with some of the least favourable NFL odds they’ve seen in a long time across the board only added to this air of doom and gloom.
But is it really so bad?
Yours truly is not the only one thinking the Steelers are better off without the pair; well, certainly without Brown, whose petulant behaviour in recent weeks has tipped the needle on the ridiculous barometer. From childish tantrums over his choice bonnet to his laissez faire attitude on team practices, Brown is constantly throwing his toys out of the pram. It’s enough to do one’s head in.
But I digress.
Point is, the Steelers are definitely better off without the pair and they appear to be somewhat prematurely and grievously disadvantaged in most NFL betting markets, including their week 1 opener with the New England Patriots where they opened as the +7 underdogs against the spread.
In today’s NFL, experts know that only a turnover or two separates the best teams and the very worst teams from being on an even keel, and one has to consider the Steelers are far from being the worst team in the NFL to warrant a gift of seven points.
Indeed, the Steelers boast an entirely unblemished record against the spread as road underdogs from their 2018 campaign: they went 4-0-0 ATS, all the while winning three out of the four.
The Steelers also claimed a 17-10 win over the Patriots in December at Heinz Field, all the while the Steelers were priced as the +2.5 home underdogs at closing doors.
Steelers have been regular season road underdogs of 6 or more points only seven times in the past decade. Over the course of those tilts, they won just twice but – crucially – they went 4-2-1 ATS, including a push as the +7 road underdogs against New England back in 2015.
Big Ben’s championship credentials and Mike Tomlin’s managerial sheen underscore the value the Steelers bring to this highly anticipated season opener. So, it is no wonder bettors have since bet up the Steelers by at least 1.5-points.
They are now pegged as the +5.5 road underdogs at Foxboro with several online bookmakers and it won’t be surprising at all if the NFL line shortens as game time approaches.
HAVING SAID THAT beating the Patriots at the Foxboro is no mean feat. While there’s every reason to believe the Steelers can give the hosts a run for their money, betting against the Patriots has proven to be an ill-fated exercise.
A trap bet.
Time and time again, those that do fall for the trap rue the decision to follow the doomed path. Consider Bill Belichick has had an entire offseason to plan for this matchup. He’s not called the master, the greatest head coach of all time for kicks.
Yes, there are glaring roster limitations with the Patriots that are a cause for concern. Gronk is gone, Edelman is listed as questionable and a whole slew of other players have had well documented issues of late that would reduce the fabric of any other team to its seams.
Not the Patriots though. We’ve seen this before. Belichick could probably field the team mascot and water boy and still get the desired result.