MNF: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Pick
Cincinnati Bengals (0-3 SU, 2-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS)
Date/Time: Monday, September 30, 8:15 PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Opening Point Spread: Cin +4 / Pitt -4
Gameday Line: Cinci +3/Pitt -3 (Sportbet)
Opening Over/Under Total: 43.5 (up to 44.5 on gameday)
Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field is the site for week 4 Monday Night Football with the Steelers playing host to their division rivals from Cincinnati. A few years ago a week four game between these two teams would have given one of these teams an early lead in the division race, but this year these teams stand at a combined 0-6, so both will be looking for their first win. Sportsbooks have made Pittsburgh 4 point favorites and set the total at 43. Here are three reasons the play is to take the 4 points with the road dogs.
The Steelers Offense Is a Disaster
Pittsburgh came into the year believing in “addition by subtraction,” remove the headaches of Antonio Brown and Le’ Veon Bell and the offense will perform better. Instead, the new-look Steelers with mediocre talent at the skill positions, and now Mason Rudolph at quarterback are looking like subtracting their star players has made them one of the weakest offenses in the league. On their way to 20 points last week in San Francisco, they managed only 4.7 yards per play and only possessed the ball 24 minutes despite their defense taking the ball away five times. The rushing offense is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has yet to gain 200 yards on the season. James Conner has not had the success he had last year and has not yet got to 100 yards on the ground. JuJu Smith-Schuster has mostly lived up to the high expectations set for him, but none of the other pass catchers have proven to be legitimate NFL starting receivers. Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner designed an offense for a Hall of Fame QB, not an inexperienced signal-caller that doesn’t have the capability to make pre-snap adjustments. Rudolph completed only two passes longer than 1 yard downfield last week, couldn’t keep the chains moving against a middle of the pack defense in San Francisco, and only made one trip to the Red Zone that wasn’t successful.
The Bengals defense has been up and down this year under new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. They played well in Seattle and Buffalo last week but had multiple blown coverages against the 49ers. Fortunately for Cincy, Rudolph will not be running an offense as complex as the 49ers. Cincinnati should be able to keep the ball in front of them and make the Steelers sustain long drives to get points. The Bengals run defense has been a little porous so far this year and will have to be tightened up, but if they can prolong Pittsburgh’s difficulty in the running game, they should be able to limit the Steelers to the 20 point range and give Andy Dalton a chance.
The Steelers Defense Is Close to Being a Disaster
Pittsburgh is averaging allowing 441 yards per game and 6.3 yards per play. This puts them close to the bottom in the league in both categories and has led their opponents to score right at 30 points per game. Pittsburgh can claim some success in the five takeaways against San Fran, but 3 of those were gift wrapped, and without them, the 49ers would have scored in the high 30’s last week. Pittsburgh has a defense loaded with early draft picks, but they can’t generate much pass rush, and opponents are completing 74% of their passes against the Steel Curtain secondary.
Andy Dalton doesn’t generally strike fear in a defense’s heart, but he has averaged 350 yards per game for the season even without A.J. Greene who will probably not be available again this week. New coach Zac Taylor has brought the Sean McVay style offense to Cincy which fits Dalton’s strengths of getting the ball out quick to defined reads. Cincinnati will try to get the running game going in Pittsburgh. Joe Mixon also has not yet reached 100 yards on the season and is averaging less than 3 yards per carry. Cincy’s offensive line has been the root of their problems, but should be healthier this week especially if tackle Cordy Glenn can clear the concussion protocol and return to action. Pittsburgh’s defense is not going to fix all of their issues in one week, so look for the Bengals to be able to move the ball and score. This could be a game that the first team to 20 wins the game, and that could very well be the Bengals.
There Is Line Value on the Bengals
This line implies that Pittsburgh is better than Cincinnati, but nothing on the field has backed that up. This game will be close throughout, and if the Steelers do get a lead, coach Mike Tomlin will become ultra-conservative and start playing not to lose. He won’t let Rudolph throw a bad pick that gives the Bengals a short field or maybe a pick-six. Taylor will be more likely to be aggressive when Cincy has the ball, and if they can get ahead by more than a touchdown, it is unlikely Rudolph can bring Pittsburgh back. I think these teams are even so the line should be at -3. Pittsburgh shouldn’t be giving 4 points to any NFL team not name the Miami Dolphins.
Take the Points and Road Dogs
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