Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) -9, 43.5 O/U at St Louis Rams (3-11) +9, Edward Jones Dome, St Louis, 8.15pm EST Thursday
by The Crazy Snake of Predictem.com
The Steelers retire to the relative comfort of a dome on the road after their previous 3 games at home reminded us all more of mud wrestling than football. Last week they were losing their perfect home field record and the lead in the AFC North in a sobering loss to the Jaguars. In that game they were out-gained 421 to 217 and held to just 22.29 of clock time. Jacksonville, manfully aided by their dynamic duo of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, ran for 236 yards of clock-munching grind and held possession for a whopping 37.39, beating the Steelers at their own game.
Meanwhile, St Louis was being handed their behinds by the rampaging Pack, which has not received the defensive accolades of the Steelers this season, but is quietly going about strangling the offensive life out of teams. The Rams are at least starting to look offensively healthy, however, with Bulger, Holt, Bruce and Jackson all afield for last week’s loss. In that game, they outgained the Packers, but Green Bay found themselves in many short field situations due to the inability of the Rams to maintain drives and possession in key situations.
The Rams did manage to hold Green Bay running back, Ryan Grant to just 55 yards on 18 carries last week and will need to emulate that feat against Steelers back, Willie Parker if they are to remain close to the Steelers here. The key to the Steelers’ game plan, as always, will be Willie’s ability to run the ball effectively and allow Ben Roethlisberger to throw his 15-25 high-percentage passes to keep drives alive. Short passes to slot receiver, Hines Ward interlaced with longer play action attempts to Santonio Holmes will define the Pittsburgh attack. The timing of that varies from game to game, but seldom the mix. Thus, Rams corner back, Fakhir Brown, who is most likely to cover Ward will need to come up big and put a stutter in the Pittsburgh step.
The Steelers will endeavor to stop the run of Steven Jackson and force Bulger to abandon the running game and become an easy target for heavy pressure from the Pittsburgh pass rush. They will hope to force errant passes and significantly reduce Bulger’s time to find effective wide out targets such as Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
Personally, I think 9 points is a heavy impost to carry for the Steelers given their recent form and their overall record on the road. They are only 2-4 straight up on the road this season and have been favored in all but one of those games (at Foxboro). They look vulnerable again here giving up a bunch and I am not keen to lay that many points. I have been potting the Steelers of late and my pocket has been significantly rewarded. I see no reason not to go to the well one more time here.
The Snake’s Bite: If it aint broke, don’t fix it, right? Taking the Steelers on has been good to me and 9 points is another big weight that I would rather leave well alone. Back the Rams to create some offense and keep this close. Even if they don’t, the Steelers haven’t looked that potent offensively of late in any case.