Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 12, 2016 at 1:13 PM
The Pittsburgh Steelers might have a tough fight ahead to reach the playoffs, but they have no shortage of backers in Las Vegas. The Steelers are a short 8-1 shot to win the Super Bowl, the fifth-best in the league. Pittsburgh is considered in a class with New England, Dallas, Seattle and Kansas City, the four other teams with comparably low prices to win it all. Unlike those four teams however, the Steelers have a slight problem—they don’t even control their own destiny to reach the postseason.
Of course if the chalk holds tonight in Foxboro and the Ravens lose to the Patriots, the Steelers will move into first place in the AFC North. Pittsburgh can also move into a wild-card spot with one more loss by Miami. That naturally presumes the Steelers will win their last three games—which is on top of their current four-game win streak and in addition to the three or four games in a row they’d need to win to take home the Lombardi Trophy. So let’s rephrase the question—are you ready to take an 8-1 price on Pittsburgh to close the year on at least a ten-game winning streak?
There are a lot of good reasons to be skeptical and all of those reasons boil down to lack of consistent depth in playmaking talent. Antonio Brown is a great receiver, perhaps the best in football—but where the reliable #2 option? On the other side of the ball, James Harrison is having a nice year at outside linebacker, but he’s the only defender that’s shown an ability to have a game-changing impact.
When you take those two players and then throw in Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell into the mix, it’s easy to understand why people like Pittsburgh’s chances in any one-game shot. If this were just about identifying a team to knock off, say the Patriots one time, there would be no dispute. Individual postseason games are won by big-time players making big-time plays and the Steelers have more of those than most.
But long winning streaks are won by depth, by being able to beat people in a lot of different ways. In the AFC alone, Oakland has multiple weapons in the passing game. Kansas City has several playmakers on defense. New England managed to win three of four games without Tom Brady himself. Do you have similar confidence that the Steelers can survive the inevitable game when, say Brown gets held in check. Or Harrison can’t get a pass rush? Where else does the production come from?
If Pittsburgh’s odds were 20-1, along the lines of Green Bay, this discussion would be different. If we were just evaluating the Steelers in a single-game situation it would most definitely be different. But we’re talking about team that still needs help to make the playoffs, likely has no margin for error and is priced along with the favorites. That’s a very high standard and unless the NFL decides to make football a 3-on-3 sport for the postseason, it’s not a standard these Steelers meet.