By Daniel Benjamin
Las Vegas sports bookmakers have a lot of confidence in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Westgate LV SuperBook gives Pittsburgh 9/2 odds to win their seventh title, which is up from 8/1 at the start of the season. While it is not surprising the struggling Patriots (2-2) are no longer the favorites to capture their sixth Super Bowl crown, it is kind of a surprise that the Steelers are now the leaders.
The Steelers (3-1) don’t have the best record in the league—that title currently belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)—and they have yet to play their best football. Granted, they are coming off an encouraging performance against their arch-rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. But the Steelers still have a lot to work to do if the are going to be world champions again.
First, the Steelers need to run the ball more constistently. Yes, Le’Veon Bell had a fantastic game against Baltimore, though his 186 total offensive yards were nearly double his previous season-high. The Steelers’ 42 rushing attempts for 173 yards against the Ravens were both a season-high. Pittsburgh currently ranks 21st in the league, averaging 95 rushing on 27 attempts per game for a 3.5 yards per carry average.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also really hasn’t gotten much going through the air, with the exception of when he is throwing to Antonio Brown. The area that Roetlisberger needs to improve the most is on his deep throws. He is just 4-for-23 with one interception on throws of 20 or more yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers have struggled stopping the run. The Steelers surrendered 222 yards on the ground to the Chicago Bears in Week 3. They are surrendering the 10th most rushing yards at 113.0 per game and they possess the seventh-worst yards per carry mark at 4.6. Penalties have been the other big problem for the Steelers, as they have had 70 flags accepted already with the offense being guilty on 39 occasions and the defense being flagged 31 times.
New England is Westgate’s second choice at 5/1 odds followed by Green Bay at 6/1. Atlanta, which opened up with the second best odds at 6/1, now has the fourth best odds at 8/1. The Chiefs round out the top-5 list at 9/1, which is up from 10/1.
Eli Rogers will get a chance to play against Jaguars
Eli Rogers was a healthy scratch against Baltimore, but head coach Mike Tomlin said that Rodgers will suit up this upcoming week against Jacksonville. Rogers started the season as the Steelers’ main slot receiver and punt returner. But he had seen his number of snaps decrease in every game through the first three weeks, and has only six receptions for 54 yards on the season. Plus, he lost a fumble as a punt returner against the Bears that cost the Steelers points.
It is unclear how much of a role Rogers will have against the Jaguars. Rookie JuJu Schuster-Smith appears to have overtaken Rogers as the main slot receiver and Antonio Brown returned punts last week. Smith-Schuster has eight catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns, including three receptions for 47 yards along with a score against the Raves.
Rogers caught 48 passes last season for 594 yards and three touchdowns last season.
James Harrison was inactive versus Ravens because of illness
Veteran linebacker James Harrison has not played in the team’s last two games. Harrison was inactive for the Ravens game because he was ill, Tomlin said.
“He was sick,” Tomlin said, “and he missed a lot of time in preparation and that went into the equation.”
Harrison is currently the fifth on the team’s depth chart among outside linebackers. He has been on the field for just seven snaps this year after not getting on the field against the Bears.