Can it be this bad? Pittsburgh Steelers fans and West Virginia sportsbook bettors may hardly believe the spread of Pittsburgh +14 at DraftKings WV for this Week 5 matchup against the host Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers beat this team last year in the opening game. Now, at 1-3 this season, they are the biggest dog in the entire NFL, against the Bills.
Mountain State gamblers will decide whether that is too much when they weigh in. Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayWV:
“That’s going to be an intriguing decision for the bettors. We may have seen a line like this once when Ben Roethlisberger was out a couple of years ago and we didn’t know who would be the starter for Pittsburgh, but otherwise, this is rare.
“The Steelers are coached pretty well, and I am sure Mike Tomlin is going to have a good game plan coming in for them,” he added. “I don’t think a heartbreak decision from last week sets them back too far. I do think they made the right decision overall bringing Kenny Pickett in.”
Avello said that Buffalo is the public’s top Super Bowl choice (+400) for a good reason. The Bills showed grit in reversing a 20-3 deficit and beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 last week.
Steelers betting odds at West Virginia sportsbooks
Here are some key things bettors will consider for this game.
No. 1 Kenny Pickett gets his first official start
It’s his job as soon as he can take it. Kenny Pickett served notice about being ready last week. Relieving Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter, he rallied the Steelers to two second-half touchdowns and a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead against the New York Jets.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, his debut was wasted as the Steelers lost in the closing seconds. Now he starts. Is he ready? After Buffalo, the Steelers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then hit the road against the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles before their Week 8 bye.
At this point, Pickett is a little better than Trubisky. But he has the potential to be more.
No. 2 Pickett’s evolution meets a stern test
The Pitt graduate and first-round 2022 draft pick electrified the house when entering the third quarter of a game the Steelers trailed 10-6. He tallied two touchdowns (an NFL first for a QB playing his first game), and the joint was jumping.
But he also threw three picks in one half against the Jets.
Yes, he can be excused on all of them, either because of deflections or the meaningless nature of the Hail Mary toss, but what happens when he faces a tough defense like Buffalo? Welcome to the fire, Kenny P.
No. 3 Pick-to-Pick, Pickett to Pickens
This could excite Steelers bettors soon. George Pickens exceeded 100 yards receiving Sunday, and Pickett has the arm strength to find him.
Given the lack of explosiveness from Najee Harris and the disappearance of Chase Claypool, this combo may become a Steelers staple.
Claypool, a speed burner, has not been on the same page as any of his quarterbacks for a while.
No. 4 Muth in the spotlight
We’ve been calling for it all year. Finally, the Steelers targeted tight end Pat Freiermuth a team-high nine times on Sunday. He responded with a career-high 85 yards on seven catches.
Bettors might consider whether a Pickett-led offense will use the pass to set up the run, instead of the more common run to set up the pass philosophy Pittsburgh had been using.
No. 5 The Steelers are 0-3 without T.J.
The Steelers can’t overcome the loss of T.J. Watt. With him, they probably would not have yielded two touchdowns on the final two drives against the New York Jets.
Any type of play — a big sack, an interception, or merely a stop when the Jets had fourth and 7, trailing 20-10, would have brought Pittsburgh a win. But with no Watt and very little pass rush, the Steelers are not putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
No. 6 Was Week 4 emotionally devastating?
The Steelers have lost three straight, including two at home that were winnable. Having a near-certain victory taken away will produce one of two reactions.
One, the team will be fired up the following week and obtains a slice of retribution. Two, it will cave completely.
Had the Steelers held off the Jets, they would have forged a 2-2 tie among all four AFC North teams. Now they are on the outside looking in.
No. 7 The betting public is divided on Steelers-Bills
The enormous point spread did not cause the public to jump overboard on the Steelers. Gamblers support the Bills 53-47%, which represents reasonable betting respect for the Steelers.
A more substantial percentage, 62%, back the over 47. That’s a testament both to Buffalo’s prolific scoring and the promise of Pickett.
If you think the crazy upset can happen, the Steelers are a whopping +650 on the moneyline at DraftKings.