What follows the improbable dream? That’s what Mountain State sports bettors are considering as the 1-0 Pittsburgh Steelers await the 0-1 New England Patriots in their home opener Sunday.
Initial DraftKings reports have the public backing the under 41 to the tune of 95%, the highest undervote in the entire league. Patrons also support the Steelers at 74%, and they are receiving +1.
Overall, Steeler sentiment falls into two camps. On one hand, fans and gamblers buzz about the breathtaking 23-20 overtime victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the week’s highest moneyline payout, +260 at DraftKings West Virginia, as the Steelers had drifted as high as +7.
On the other, there is ominous injury news. Here are seven key considerations surrounding the Steelers. Injury situations are fluid and should be monitored throughout the week.
Steelers betting odds at West Virginia sportsbooks
No. 1: Uh-oh, no T.J.?
T.J. Watt, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, left during the fourth quarter with a pectoral injury. He is the heart and soul of what can be a dominant defense.
Watt led a Steelers D that notched a whopping seven sacks on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. And he made an athletic interception that led to the TD producing a 17-3 second-quarter edge.
If Watt tore his pectoral muscle, he likely would miss extended time and perhaps the entire season. His older brother, J.J. Watt, lost two months of the 2019 campaign when sustaining this injury as a Houston Texan.
The body language for Watt did not look good. Steeler fans will hope for the best but prepare for the worst news.
No. 2: Mike Tomlin is the king of points
Caesars Sportsbook WV revealed an interesting stat. Tomlin has the NFL’s best record of 38-35 since 2007 whenever WV sportsbooks are giving his team points.
Well, the Steelers opened at +1. And they are at home.
No. 3: Najee Harris is still not right
The Steelers’ prized No. 1 draft pick from 2021 downplayed a foot injury during the preseason. It didn’t matter then. It could now, as he came out of the game against the Bengals and may be battling this ailment all year.
Harris got bent in half backward on a play in which his foot and ankle were pinned and twisted under the defender. He was in pain and left the field under his own power (good) but left the stadium walking in a boot (not good).
There has been a question of Harris’ durability since it was revealed at the end of training camp that he was suffering from a Lisfranc injury. It may not go away without substantial rest.
Harris, the bulwark of the offense last year, had only 12 touches against the Bengals. He did score on a short TD toss but otherwise carried 10 times for 23 yards. How often are you going to say that Chase Claypool (6 carries, 36 yards) was the team’s leading rusher?
Jaylen Warren is next up if Harris can’t go. Warren will probably get more playing time soon.
No. 4: Trubisky justifies Tomlin’s faith
Yes, Steelers fans want the popular Kenny Pickett to be their starting quarterback.
But Mitchell Trubisky’s overtime performance showed that Tomlin made the right move by sticking with his veteran over the team’s No. 1 draftee and Pitt product.
The Bengals were foolish enough to give the Steelers a game-winning opportunity, and Trubisky was smart enough to take it. With overtime winding down, the Bengals punted with 15 seconds still left on the play clock.
That provided extra time Trubisky was able to use, driving the Steelers 45 yards in eight plays consuming just 56 seconds. What would he have done with only 41?
Cincinnati had not only gift-wrapped the game with turnovers, but fate had entered for Pittsburgh when the Bengals lost their long snapper during the game. Hence, a game-winning extra point was blocked and a bad snap encouraged an overtime snap to go wide.
Given all that, Trubisky put aside Pittsburgh having endured a 32-11 disadvantage in first downs to that point. When it mattered, he got it done.
No. 5: Minkah, Minkah, Minkah
What a game for Minkah Fitzpatrick. He took a first-quarter interception to the house and broke through to block the extra point that would have won the game for the Bengals.
He was part of a phenomenal defensive effort by the Steelers.
No. 6: Freiermuth: Young reliable
You always hear about old reliable. Well, second-year tight end Pat Freiermuth (as anyone reading this post over the last couple of years knows) can be called young reliable. He is one of the league’s premier under-the-radar players.
Freiermuth did it again for Pittsburgh in the game-winning drive. He snared a 26-yard aerial from Trubisky that put the Steelers on the edge of field-goal territory and then a 10-yard reception that got them just enough distance.
Prop players continue to play him both in yardage and scoring opportunities.
No. 7: Wild cards
Mac Jones’ initial observation showed no real damage to his back. The Patriots quarterback suffered an injury during the team’s 20-7 setback to the Miami Dolphins.
Bettors will keep an eye on that this week. If Jones can’t go, the Steelers will likely become favorites.