This Week’s Results: 4-6
All Time Results: 30-22, +7.02 Units
Pittsburgh Steelers -1.5 (-155) vs. Cincinnati Bengals-.02 Units
Barring a tie, one of these AFC North division rivals will leave this matchup with their first win on the season. Keeping my bets minimal for this game. More interested in seeing where these teams are right now, and if there is any value betting or fading them going forward.
The Baltimore Ravens have only once been favored by more than a field goal in Pittsburgh in the last 30 years. Currently, Baltimore is laying 4 next week in Pittsburgh, which seems like too much. But I want to see new Steelers QB Mason Rudolph play a good game before I fire on that match-up.
Historically, the Steelers have been incredibly resilient under Mike Tomlin, illustrated by the fact that they have never had a losing season during his tenure. My instinct is to back the Steelers laying such a small number in a game critical to salvaging their season. Thanks to the Browns upset win over the Ravens yesterday, the Steelers could find themselves only one game back of the division lead with a win tonight.
The Steelers are 14-2 on Monday Night Football under Tomlin, including 5-0 at home.
James Connor Over 67.5 – .01 Units
Last year, many declared that James Connor dutifully replicated the production of All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. Well, yes & no. Yes, he had some big games. No, he was not Bell, or even Bell-light. We saw the same thing when Damian Williams had some big games after Kareem Hunt was released from the Chiefs. These far less talented backs can put up big numbers because the defense will not game plan for them. Once they prove worthy of attention – defensive game plans refocus on them, and the well often dries up.
Connor has been non-existent so far this season. Now that the Steelers are working in a first-year starter in QB Mason Rudolph, Connor is the most senior offensive weapon for opposing defenses to stop.
At some point, Connor will have to overcome his difficulties if the Steelers are going to succeed. If he can’t make his mark against the Bengals 28th ranked rushing defense (DVOA) the Steelers may have to find a replacement. The Bengals are allowing the 3rd most yards per play so far this season.
Last week against the 49ers, Rudolph rarely took any risks downfield as the Steelers conservative game plan was telling that he might not be ready to bomb away the way Big Ben always did. The best way for Rudolph to gain comfort playing in the big leagues will be for the Steelers to force the defense to creep up and sell out to stop the run. Regardless, if it is difficult sledding, I feel Pittsburgh must stick with the run in this game and let their quality offensive line impose their will. Connor will need to follow suit and step up his game.
Andy Dalton Under 255.5 – .01 Units
On the other side of the coin from Tomlin, Bengals HC Zac Taylor is looking for his first NFL win. The question tonight will be can Taylor, last years Rams QBs Coach, pivot Dalton out of his historical poor play in Primetime games and particularly against these Steelers. Taylor coached Goff up well enough to earn a $100+ million contract. Coaching Dalton to quasi-elite status may be the even more daunting task.
Andy Dalton has only 3 wins and 12 losses for his career against Pittsburgh and has lost his last 6 against them. In those 15 career games against the Steelers, Dalton has thrown for less than 250 yards 11 times.
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