Pittsburgh Steelers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 7/11/2014
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't had a losing record since 2003, which shows how well-run this franchise is. However, the Steelers finished 8-8 last year for the second straight season, and missing the playoffs in back-to-back campaigns just isn't acceptable in the Steel City.
Actually, the Steelers did nearly sneak into the postseason field, which is a minor miracle considering the team started 0-4 for the first time since 1968 (only one team in NFL history has made the playoffs after starting 0-4). Pittsburgh played much better after that outside of a record-setting 55-31 loss in New England in Week 9. The team closed with three straight wins and would have made the playoffs had San Diego lost to Kansas City in Week 17. Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed a 41-yard field goal to win it at the end of regulation, and the Bolts won in overtime.
So I suppose a glass half-full person would say that the Steelers were one of the AFC's better teams in the final eight games of the season and have positive momentum heading into 2014. A glass half-empty person might say this franchise is stuck in neutral under Coach Mike Tomlin and that its championship window under Ben Roethlisberger is closed.
The good news was that Big Ben played all 16 games for the first time since 2008 and he put up pretty good numbers, completing 64.2 percent of his passes for 4,261 yards (second best in career), 28 touchdowns (also second best) and 14 interceptions. What was very unusual was the Steelers ranked just 28th in rushing at 86.4 yards per game. They also ranked near the bottom of the league in yards per carry as the Steelers gained 3.5 yards per in 2013. Only two teams averaged less than that.
I would give you two main reasons for the struggles: an injury-plagued offensive line and the fact that rookie Le'Veon Bell missed the first three games with a foot injury. The Steelers lost their best offensive lineman, Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, to a blown-out knee in the season-opening loss to Tennessee. That was devastating, but I suppose the good news was it happened so early he should be 100 percent to start this season. Nine different offensive linemen started at least one game last season as injuries again scrambled the offensive line. Bell still finished with 1,259 rushing and receiving yards combined. breaking the team rookie record of Franco Harris.
Bell is the clear-cut No. 1 now, although the team added Patriots free-agent LeGarrette Blount. He was great late last year for the Pats but seems to be the same type of back as Bell. I don't really know why the Steelers then used a third-round pick on Kent State running back Dri Archer unless it plans to use him essentially as a Darren Sproles type as a pass catcher. Archer is a burner. I also am puzzled why the Steelers waited until the fourth round of the draft to take a receiver, Clemson's Martavis Bryant, after losing Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery to free agency this offseason. Antonio Brown (110 catches, 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns) is a fine No. 1 receiver, but after that with both Sanders and Cotchery gone? Pittsburgh is counting on guys like Markus Wheaton and former Saint Lance Moore.
This unit usually goes how future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu goes, and he shockingly played all 16 games last year for just the second time since 2008. Polamalu isn't quite what he used to be, but certainly opposing receivers know he's back there. Pittsburgh, which lost starting linebacker Larry Foote for the season in Week 1 last year as well (he's gone now), was 13th in total defense and a decidedly un-Steeler-like 21st against the rush (115.6) and 14th in scoring (23.1). So the team looked defense with its first two picks of the draft, grabbing linebacker Ryan Shazier from Ohio State and tackle Stephon Tuitt from Notre Dame.
The Steelers did little to upgrade a very shaky cornerback situation, with Ike Taylor clearly well past his prime now. Cortez Allen should start opposite him, but he has only 10 starts in three seasons. Pittsburgh had only 10 interceptions in 2013. The Steelers did sign very good Panthers safety Mike Mitchell to replace the departed Ryan Clark. Cornerback looks like a weak spot on this unit with a consistent pass rush at No. 2.
2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis
The Steelers are tied for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 120-136 last season, a winning percentage of .469. That's tied with Cincinnati for the hardest schedule in the AFC North, but the Browns and Ravens have just barely easier slates. Pittsburgh's home schedule (.484) appears more challenging than on the road (.453). The Steelers are 6-point home favorites Week 1 against the Browns with a total of 41. The Steelers swept the Browns last season by a combined score of 47-18. Pittsburgh has totally owned this series since Big Ben was drafted. Roethlisberger has never lost to Cleveland at home, and the Steelers are 7-1 (loss in Cleveland in 2012 when Big Ben was out injured) in the "rivalry" this century.
I'm going to assume the Steelers will win the opener, and they better because the next two games are going to be physical monsters: a short Week 2 at Baltimore and then Week 3 at Carolina, the second-best defense in the NFL. One has to presume a 1-2 record, but then the schedule opens up nicely before the Week 12 (too late) bye: vs. Bucs, at Jaguars, at Browns, vs. Texans, vs. Colts, vs. Ravens, at Jets, at Titans. It's possible Pittsburgh is favored in all those. Maybe not Indy or at New York, but it's possible. The second half of the schedule is not as kind: vs. Saints, at Bengals, at Falcons, vs. Chiefs, vs. Bengals. At least the Steelers get the Saints off a bye and outdoors when it should be cold. The Chiefs will take a step back this year, but Atlanta should be better. Cincy is the division favorite. All-in-all, a pretty solid schedule. I struggle to see a three-game losing streak in there -- barring a shocking loss in the opener -- but could envision two three-game winning streaks. Just one game out of the Eastern time zone (Nashville).
2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Steelers are +3000 to win the Super Bowl, +1600 to win the AFC championship and +240 to win the AFC North. As noted in the Cincinnati preview, the Steelers have shorter Super Bowl odds than the Bengals but longer AFC and division odds. Pittsburgh has a wins total of 8.5, with the "over" a -160 favorite. It is +180 to make the playoffs and -225 to miss out. Roethlisberger is +5000 to win NFL MVP and +15000 to lead the league in passing. Bell is +5000 to top the NFL in rushing. Brown is +2000 to top the NFL in receiving yards. Shazier is +800 to win Defensive Rookie of the Year while Tuitt is +3000.
2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Picks and Predictions
Part of me is rooting for Pittsburgh to have another non-winning season because I want to see what the team does with Tomlin. This is probably the most loyal franchise in the NFL. So would it really cut him loose? My guess is no unless it's a total disaster. Bill Cowher had one three-year stretch of no playoff berths and went on to win a Super Bowl. Tomlin also has won a Super Bowl ring.
I think Bell will have a nice year, and Big Ben is always good when the offensive line keeps him upright. It would be hard for that unit to be as injury-ravaged in 2014. I am not sold on the receivers outside of Brown. Shazier and Tuitt should be fine NFL players, but the defense is still rather blah unless Polamalu can summon one more terrific season while playing every game. Linebacker Jarvis Jones also needs to do more in his second season. I do like the schedule and believe this should be a nine-win team, so go over the 8.5. I wouldn't take it for the division or a playoff berth, however. Ditto on any individual props.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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