When the Steelers escaped from Cincinnati with a victory last weekend, they did so at a price. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown were both injured late against the Bengals, and now every day for recovery is valuable before the Steelers head to Denver.
It’s the biggest underdog Pittsburgh has been in months, since the last time Roethlisberger was sidelines. He missed four weeks in October after spraining his knee Week 3 in St. Louis, and was backed up first by Michael Vick and then Landry Jones.
During that four-game stretch without Roethlisberger, the Steelers were an underdog each week, by an average of just under four points. However, they went 2-1-1 ATS over that span, including a 25-13 win over the Cardinals in Landry Jones’ first appearance of the season.
The Steelers were underdogs just three times this season, and only once (at Seattle) after Roethlisberger returned from injury. They were a seven-point favorite in their previous meeting with Denver, but that was at Heinz Field and featured Brock Osweiler in the Broncos’ huddle.
As the week has progressed, the Steelers spread has steadily grown. Some sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com have increased their lines by 4.5 points since the spread opened Saturday night.
Vick is out of the picture, and it’ll be Landry Jones in the driver’s seat if Roethlisberger can’t play. Jones scored 25 and 13 points respectively in his two appearances, and those numbers are unique for a reason. Pittsburgh kicked five field goals over those two games, signaling that Jones may have had some trouble finishing drives. That doesn’t bode well against the Broncos, who led the NFL in yards allowed on defense during the regular season.
Roethlisberger could play banged up, and we’ve seen that before. The real concern is Antonio Brown, who needs an independent evaluation to determine if he is right to play. Brown has been unstoppable in the last month, recording 556 receiving yards in the last four games.