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2019 Pittsburgh Steelers Season Preview

Welcome Back Everyone!

The Blues have hoisted the Stanley Cup and Kawhi Leonard has dismantled another NBA Super Team.  I’d say that makes it time to take a look at some value bets for next NFL season.  Last season, I had a successful run at my win totals future bets.  I went 2-1 taking the Ravens and Saints Over Win totals, and I had my well documented failure in taking the under on the Rams win total.

Here’s the first one that I like so far:

Pittsburgh Steelers Over 9 Wins (-115):

Biggest Reasons Why Pittsburgh Failed in 2018:

  • The Antonio Brown/Le’veon Bell dramatic saga.  The Steelers were an absolute mess last season both on and off the field. Antonio Brown showed that he was a major problem in the locker room fighting with virtually every member of his team.  While he is probably the most talented receiver in the NFL, I think the Steelers will be relieved of his drama and can focus on building a team with the right characters moving forward.  I think the same can be said about the uncertainty that came with Le’Veon Bell last year.  Weekly, you’d hear reports that he was “maybe” coming back, but he was ultimately a no show at the end of the day.  The coaching staff and leadership didn’t correct the situation until it was far too late.  No one on the team pulled in the right direction and this led to mistrust and lack of confidence in the brain trust of the organization.  Never underestimate culture in an NFL locker room.

Why it will change in 2019:  Simply put, the two talented clowns in Bell and Brown are history and someone else’s problem now. Clearly, they caused the most issues in the locker room.  It appears that management has decided to pass on skilled drama in favor of football character.  They’ve refocused the core values of the team and I think it will pay dividends in the long run.  While I have historically ridiculed Tomlin’s football acumen, I think he generally gets the most out of his players.

The Steelers, of all teams, have had no problem finding talent at receiver throughout their recent history.  Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Emmanuel Sanders, Martavis Bryant (for a short run) and Antonio Brown were all home grown prospects of the Steelers system.  JuJu Smith-Schuster should carry the torch going forward at the position.  Bottomline, I am not worried about the offense whatsoever.  They still have a talented offensive line, and James Conner proved that he can be a weapon in the running game.

  •  Anemic Home Pass Defense.  Over the last decade, Pittsburgh has generally been one of the toughest venues to play in.  The windy conditions, cold weather, and rugged playing surface have historically made it very difficult to throw and kick.  But in 2018, opposing QB’s lit up Heinz Field.

Why it will change in 2019:  The past two seasons have shown that the Steelers can still rush the passer effectively.

I think their biggest problem has been their conservative zone scheme.  Shazier’s absence has been glaring in the middle of the field.  I think that drafting an athletic linebacker in Devin Bush will help mitigate these coverage deficiencies that have killed the Steelers for the past two seasons.  On average, they surrendered a 105 QB rating at Heinz field in 2018.  Only the Detroit Lions, who play in a dome, put up a worse number than that.  I am going out on a limb and saying there is absolutely zero chance that happens again.  There is way too much talent on that roster to perform that poorly in a typically windy/inclement weather environment that has rushed the passer at elite levels for 2 straight seasons.

  • Big Ben was Sloppy. Big Ben was sloppy last season (both literally and figuratively).  He needs to be more efficient and take the easy throws when they are available.  Too many times, I see him go for the risky home run throw when there is a wide-open player at the first down marker.  Roethlisberger had 4 multi INT games and threw a handful of back breaking picks in the red zone late in critical games (Denver being the most inexcusable). I will continually pound the idea that yards are the most overrated statistic as Big Ben threw for a career high 5k yards last season and the Steelers had arguably their worst season in a decade.  That should be all the proof you need.

Why it will change in 2019:  Roethlisberger has had a great track record of rebounding from bad seasons.  His two worst QB ratings were followed up by two of his best.

Despite his high volume of picks, he had great protection last season (sacked on only 3.37% of pass attempts).  The offensive line is a strength of this team and they should improve their running game.  He is now relieved of the burden of forcing it to Brown and he should feel more comfortable spreading it around.  They’ve added a talented veteran wideout in Moncrief, and I think getting Vance McDonald the ball more will be a priority.

He’s contractually secured for the next couple years; unlike last year, as his future was a little up in the air with a newly drafted QB.  While I’m not counting on Ben to start the TB12 diet, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was more motivated and in better shape coming off their most embarrassing season yet. 

  • Too Much Hype in 2018. I think the Steelers had started to believe all the hype that had been injected into them over the past few seasons by those who cover the NFL.  I honestly don’t think they put in the work that they needed to for the past two years.  It’s inexcusable for a roster like Pittsburgh’s to lose to the Raiders outright and blow a multi TD lead against a conference rival (Chargers).  

Why it will change in 2019:  The story of the AFC North this offseason has unquestionably been the Cleveland Browns.  They’ve made the big splash type moves in the offseason, and I think they have become the story of the NFL.  With all the hype around Cleveland, I think this a perfect time to buy low on one of the perennial contenders in the NFL:

I think it is rare to get a consistent team like Pittsburgh at the 9-win level.  I think they will play this season angry and with something to prove.  They have always been much more effective with an underdog type mentality.  I expect them to get to 11 wins, and I think you’d get much more value with Pittsburgh or Baltimore to win the AFC North over Cleveland.

Thanks!

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