Monday Night Football Picks: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I had split my first five NFL game previews this season until sweeping last Monday's Seahawks-Bears matchup in Chicago. The Bears easily covered the spread, and the total stayed a couple of points under 43.5 - it really wasn't ever close to going over, but Seattle scored a last-second garbage TD to make the final score 24-17. I believe a lot of Bears games will stay under the total this year with that fantastic defense and that plenty of Seattle's will too - more because the Seahawks' offense is not good.
This Monday, it's an intriguing matchup between the Steelers and Bucs from Tampa. When you think Pittsburgh Steelers, you should think success and stability. The franchise has played in the second-most Super Bowls (eight) and won the most (six). It has been owned since inception by the Rooney Family, and the team has had just three head coaches since the merger: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. Each has won at least one Super Bowl.
Yet, things are amiss in that franchise. For one thing, it's a shocking 0-1-1. Second, Le'Veon Bell continues to infuriate his teammates by refusing to sign his franchise tag - he was most recently seen jet skiing in Miami. That really something you want to share on social media while your teammates are putting in the work? Third, Antonio Brown skipped all team functions on Monday either because he was given permission or without it depending on who you ask (Brown was disciplined by Tomlin, so I guess we have the answer). Why is Brown being such a pill? He's the second-highest paid receiver in the NFL, but many think he's just being petty because young JuJu Smith-Schuster got a whopping 19 targets last Sunday to Brown's 17. Dude, two targets? Receivers are such divas.
Meanwhile, all is well in Tampa with the Bucs a surprising 2-0 and Coach Dirk Koetter, once the co-favorite to be the first coach fired, now off the hot seat.
Steelers at Bucs Betting Story Lines
Bell is obviously a huge story, and presumably he's not playing Monday. Must be nice to give up around $850K each week. Some believe he won't sign the tender until the Tuesday after Week 10. Article 10, Section 15 of the collective bargaining agreement states a player earns an accrued season as long as he signs by that deadline. Bell wants to be a free agent, so he will. Maybe he comes sooner. James Conner has been pretty good in Bell's place, but he's just not the same weapon as a receiver out of the backfield as Bell.
The reason Pittsburgh is winless has more to do with a defense that hasn't been very good since the career-ending injury suffered by linebacker Ryan Shazier and kicker Chris Boswell surprisingly struggling.
Meanwhile, the top story in the NFL through two weeks has been young Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. A close No. 2 is Bucs backup journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Harvard grad has thrown for at least 400 yards and four scores in each game, both Bucs upset wins. He has joined Mahomes and Drew Bledsoe (1997) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with at least four touchdown passes in each of their team's first two games of a season. Here, Fitzmagic looks to become the first player in league history with at least 400 passing yards in three consecutive games. Remember, Jameis Winston is eligible to return from his suspension on Tuesday.
The Bucs have been chock-full of big plays this year; DeSean Jackson has 275 yards and three touchdowns on just nine catches. He had a 58-yard score in Week 1 and 75-yarder in Week 2. Jackson now has 23 career touchdowns of at least 60 yards, tied with Jerry Rice for the most such TDs in league history. Sorry DeSean, you are no Jerry Rice.
Steelers at Bucs Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the game is a pick'em with a total of 53.5 . On the moneyline, the Steelers are -125 and Bucs +105. On the alternate lines, the Steelers are -1 (-118) and -1.5 (-110). Pittsburgh is 0-2 against the spread (0-1 on road) and 2-0 "over/under" (1-0 on road). Tampa is 2-0 ATS (1-0 at home) and 2-0 O/U (1-0 at home).
The Steelers are 1-4 ATS in their past five in September and 1-7 ATS in their past eight overall. The Bucs are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 following an ATS win. The over is 7-2 in Pittsburgh's past nine. It's 5-1 in Tampa's past six following an ATS win. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.
Steelers at Bucs Betting Prediction
A bit torn here. Pittsburgh has the better quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger (he passed John Elway on the yardage chart last week), but he tends to be much worse on the road. Fitzpatrick can't possibly keep this up, although he absolutely deserves to keep the job entering Week 4 unless he's something like 12-for-30 for 125 yards and four picks on Monday.
The Steelers have won a stunning 12 straight night games, while prime time is fairly new to the Bucs. Just too many distractions currently with Pittsburgh. Take the home side on the moneyline and go over the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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