Pittsburgh Steelers at Seattle Seahawks (-4, 46.5 o/u)
After going 14-2 at home in the past two regular seasons, the Seattle Seahawks (5-5, 3-2 Home) have already dropped two games at CenturyLink Field this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4, 2-2 Away) will try to make it three when they visit the “Clink” this Sunday (4:25 PM Eastern).
The Steelers are coming off a much-needed bye week that should have QB Ben Roethlisberger recovered from a foot injury suffered three weeks ago. Roethlisberger was due for an extended rest, yielding the starting spot to Landry Jones in a Week 10 game against the Browns. But he was pressed into action when Jones exited with an ankle injury.
Though somewhat hobbled, Roethlisberger didn’t disappoint, throwing for the most passing yards in NFL history by a QB coming off the bench (379 yards). He also had three touchdowns to just one interception en route to a comfortable 30-9 win.
This weekend, he’ll be facing a Seattle secondary that looks to be on the decline. But Big Ben isn’t taking the Legion of Boom – or the still-dominant front seven – lightly.
“I have a great appreciation for that whole defense,” Roethlisberger told the Steelers’ official website. “Their defensive ends, their front seven really get after it. Their secondary locks people down. … If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.”
A fascinating game-within-the-game will see Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman going head-to-head with Pittsburgh receiver Antonio Brown. The wideout has recorded 27 catches over the last two outings, fourth-highest in NFL history over a two-game stretch.
On the other side of the ball, the Seattle offense will be without RB Marshawn Lynch, who will be sidelined for at least a month (hernia surgery). Things could be worse for the ‘Hawks, though; they could not have backup Thomas Rawls to fill in. The rookie out of Central Michigan ran for 209 yards on 30 carries in last week’s 29-13 win over the 49ers. It was the third time in four starts that Rawls hit the century mark, and he actually looks like a better fit for the Seahawk offense at this point.
“He’s done very well and been consistent,” head coach Pete Carroll said of Rawls. “Whenever he’s been given a real good shot, he’s come through in a big way.”
This week, rumors circulated that QB Russell Wilson had become an issue for the Seahawks as his celebrity status had become larger than the team itself.
“I think when guys sign their contracts, and it’s their time, it’s recognized by the players around them as well that they just got paid,” Carroll said this week about Wilson. “And how they handle that and how they deal with it, the players are going to watch them, and they see them. Not that they’re trying to find out something wrong, but the dynamics shift.”
The rumors of Wilson’s celebrity being a distraction are debatable. But one thing that’s certain is that the dual-threat QB has taken the most sacks in the league this year (35), and many have been drive-killers. Seattle sits second-last in the league in red zone offense at 39-percent, down from 52-percent last season. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is still struggling to work tight end Jimmy Graham – long one of the best red zone weapons in the league – into the offense. The former Saint has just two majors after piling up 26 in New Orleans over the past two years.
The sputtering offense has made the Seahawks a bad bet this year, sitting at just 3-6-1 against the spread. (They’re also a terrible 2-5 ATS in their last seven home games.) The Steelers, meanwhile, are 5-3-2 ATS, overall, in 2015 and 5-1 ATS in their last six road games. Coming off a rest week and facing a Seahawk team in flux, the Steelers and the points look like the play.
Pick: Steelers +4.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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