Pittsburgh Steelers – Best Bets 2021
2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Review
The beginning of the season was everything a Steelers fan could dream of. The end was less than that. After starting the season at 11-0 and blowing out a slew of opponents, they dropped four of their last five and finished 12-4. To make matters worse, they fell to the rival Browns in the playoffs – a team they beat 38-7 in Week 6. Despite all that late-season falloff, the one thing that didn’t regress was their offense. In their last three games of the year, they averaged 29.0 points, which is actually higher than their season average of 26.3. Either of those numbers is a huge increase from the Steelers’ 2019 and shows a trend in the right direction.
What’s New for 21/22
The biggest change for the 2021 Steelers is in the backfield. Their leading rusher in 2020 was James Conner and the Steelers watched him walk in free agency. He’ll now be splitting time in the backfield with Chase Edmonds in Arizona. On one hand, the Steelers had more than a couple of successors for the RB1 gig with Benny Snell Jr and Jaylen Samuels, but then they went and got help in the draft. With their first round pick (#24 overall) they snagged Najee Harris, who many project as the bell-cow of this backfield.
Apart from the big change in the backfield, there are a few fresh faces along the offensive line. They added a slew of offensive linemen to add some depth to the lineup, but only RG Trai Turner projects as a starter. They also lost stalwart tackle Alejandro Villanueva to divisional rival Baltimore.
Another name of note that departed was linebacker Bud Dupree. After six years with the Steelers, he signed a five-year deal with the Titans. While a significant loss, T.J. Watt and Devin Bush should still hold down the LB corp.
Strength of Schedule
The Steelers have the hardest strength of schedule in all of the NFL. Their opponent’s combined 2020 record comes out to 155-115-2, which is a .574 win percentage. Two games with the Ravens and two with the Browns will do that to you. This is likely the reason why a lot of their season odds are as large as they are. The other reason is the really terrible end to last season.
Super Bowl +5000
AFC North +500
To Make Playoffs +140
Win Total o/u 8.5 +120
So it may seem like a stretch to claim that the Steelers are going to win the division. After all, the Ravens looked far better late in the year and in the playoffs. The Browns are turning the culture of their team around and took the Steelers out of the playoffs. Still, the +500 number seems tempting to me. Their offense is going to keep them in just about any game and I think there is enough of that early team in there that could put together a good enough run to hold the other two off for a second straight year.
Pick: Win AFC North (+500)
So it may come as no surprise since I like the Steelers to win the division at +500, I also am digging the over for them. Difficult schedule or not, 8.5 seems like a cakewalk for Big Ben and the gang. They’ve got two with Cincinnati, one with the Broncos and one with the Lions. That should get them nearly halfway there alone. The fact that they are offering plus-money on that line is a cherry on top.
Best Bet! Pick: Over 8.5 wins (+120)
Pittsburgh Steelers Player Prop Bets
Ben Roethlisberger Passing Yards – o/u 4050.5
Yes, I am aware that Big Ben is now 39 years old. I am also aware that he’s not had the healthiest track record in his career. However, when he is healthy, he easily hits the over on this total. The last time he played a full 16 games and came in under this number was 2008. He also managed to come in over that number in less than 16 games in three seasons. If he were to have played the one game that he missed last year, he would have hit this number yet again. This may be a pick that is contingent upon the health of a 39-year-old QB, but I’m taking the over here anyways.
Pick: Ben Roethlisberger Passing Yards – over 4050.5 -110
Najee Harris – NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
There are a lot of people salivating at the QB options for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Trevor Lawrence is going to get protection enough to rack up the wins/yardage needed. Justin Fields and Trey Lance may have to sit and wait to get the starts. There are some tempting receivers, but they’re likely to play second fiddle to their teams’ number ones.
None of these things are issues for Najee Harris, who is set to come out and start for the Steelers right out of the gate. He looked so good in the first three preseason games that Mike Tomlin is benching him with a lot of the other starters for the final game. With this volume and a chance to start right away, not to mention the receiving chops he’s flashed, I think he’s got a good chance to steal this award away from some of the flashier names.
Pick: Najee Harris Wins Offensive Rookie of the Year (+850)
The Steelers have a high-volume offense that makes it pretty safe to take just about anybody on their offense. All three of their wideouts are projected to go in the fifth or sixth round. If there is one that I’m fading, it would be JuJu Smith-Schuster (ADP 68). His average yards per catch was way down last year – it fell from 13.1 to 8.6. He also fumbled the ball three times and seemed to fall out of favor with Roethlisberger. I also think another year of working with Chase Claypool (ADP 67) will lead to more targets for him as well. Either Diontae Johnson (ADP 52) or Chase Claypool are solid targets, and of course, I’m liking Najee Harris as well.
Draft: Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool
Fade: Juju Smith-Schuster