Steelers vs. Bengals Odds, Picks & Predictions: Back Steelers in First Game Without Big Ben
The Bengals’ revenge season starts off with a banger, hosting their rival Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1.
A major change happened in Pittsburgh, by the way, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retiring at the end of last season. Let’s dive into this one.
Steelers vs. Bengals Betting Odds Week 1
|Date & Time||Sun, Sept. 11, 1 p.m. ET|
Despite making it all the way to the Super Bowl last year, the Bengals are not a team that tested favorably according to the advanced stats. Even with firepower at quarterback in Joe Burrow and wide receiver in Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals finished the year 18th in the NFL according to offensive DVOA. They finished behind teams such as the Eagles, Broncos, and Browns.
Of course, the Bengals turned it on towards the end of the season, scoring over 30 points in Weeks 16 and 17 before resting their starters in Week 18 with a playoff spot already locked up.
The Bengals do have a legitimate excuse for having some growing pains last year, as it was Burrow’s first year back from a horrific knee injury. In November of 2020, Burrow went down with a nasty-looking injury and ended up tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee.
The Bengals also had a weak offensive line last year, as everybody remembers Burrow running for his life in pretty much the entire Bengals playoff run. Including the playoffs, he was sacked a total of 70 times last year — 51 times in the regular season and 19 in the playoffs.
In 2022, though, Pro Football Focus is projecting the Bengals to have the most improved OL in the NFL. They replaced three starters along the line, so what was a weakness last year could legitimately be a strength this year.
Ultimately, the main hangup I have with the Bengals is coaching. Despite having an elite quarterback and weapons (No. 1 ranked receiver room in NFL according to PFF), the Bengals head coach and offensive play-caller Zac Taylor is one of the most run-heavy play-callers in the NFL.
It felt like the football community as a whole was frustrated with Taylor in the playoffs, as he would consistently call run plays on first down, generally to no success. This would put the Bengals in obvious passing positions, where the opposing defenses could take advantage of the Bengals weak offensive line.
The hope is that with Burrow being another year removed from that knee injury and the improvements along the line, we will see a less conservative Taylor, but that is something we have yet to see of him.
On the Steelers side, for the first time since 2003, they head into a season without Big Ben as their quarterback.
Normally, when a legendary, hall of fame player retires it creates a void for the team. But, in Roethlisbergers case, it might actually be a net positive for the Steelers chances in 2022.
It was a tough watch, but Big Ben was a shell of himself the last two years of his career. He no longer had the necessary arm-strength, often opting to check it down or throw short. This led the Steelers to having the eighth-worst offense in all of football last year, according to DVOA. They finished the year 9-7-1 and every team with a worse offense than them finished below .500.
Heading into 2022, the Steelers are expected to have Mitch Trubisky as their starting quarterback, at least at the beginning of the year. Behind Trubisky is rookie Kenny Pickett, who has looked good in the preseason. For Week 1 it will most likely be Trubisky as the starter, but the expectation is Pickett will take over at some point during the season.
The Steelers do have elite weapons surrounding the QB, as they are strong at receiver, running back, and tight end, but they are most likely going to struggle along the offensive line. PFF gives them the third-worst OL heading into the season.
Defensively, the Steelers figure to be stout. They are led by All-Pro and 2021 Defensive Player of the Year pass rusher T.J. Watt, who finished last year with 22.5 sacks, which broke the single-season record. At secondary, they are led by another All-Pro in Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was a First-Team All-Pro in 2019 and 2020.
Overall, this is a tough game to predict. On one hand, the Bengals won both of their games against the Steelers last year by double-digits. On the other hand, it cannot go understated just how bad Roethlisberger was last year. He finished as PFFs worst QB in the entire NFL.
So, even though Trubisky hasn’t exactly been an elite quarterback himself, he is still an upgrade from what the Steelers got last year. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of confidence in this one, but the best value I’m seeing is backing the Steelers +6.5.
This is a value bet I found while line shopping on the OddsJam NFL odds page. Tipico offers this at -108, whereas every book is giving you -110 at best. Be sure to check out the lines yourself before locking in your bet to get the most value possible!
Steelers vs. Bengals Betting Pick: Lean Steelers +6.5 | -108 at Tipico
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