Two of the most popular teams in football meet in the second week of preseason action.
The Packers are 5.5-point favorites in Thursday’s contest, according to OddsShark.com. The OddsShark computer has it way closer, projecting Pittsburgh to easily cover. The point total for this matchup is 43, with over 60 percent of bettors backing the over.
The Steelers and Packers both have storied histories, but both are looking to return to former glory. Both teams appeared in the championship game of their respective conferences in 2016, but both fell short of that mark last season. It was more excusable for the Packers, who lost Aaron Rodgers early in the season and struggled to a 7-9 finish.
For the Steelers, it’s about Ben Roethlisberger and a closing window. Few teams have more offensive talent than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who objectively roster the best running back and wide receiver in all of football. But Roethlisberger turned 36 in the offseason, and Le’Veon Bell is unlikely to stay in Pittsburgh after this season following contentious contract discussions.
Roethlisberger’s health is already an issue, after taking a hit to the head earlier this week. Roethlisberger was rolling out when he collided with lineman Marcus Gilbert, forcing the quarterback into concussion protocol. He cleared and is eligible to play on Thursday, but it’s a reminder of the fragility of their future Hall of Famer.
Speaking of Canton-bound quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers has been feisty at training camp this summer. Rodgers and the Packers were 4-3 before Vikings LB Anthony Barr ended his season, and Rodgers knows that the Packers need to be better to contend in the ever-improving NFC North. Rodgers called his receivers “piss poor” after practice last week, and doubled down those comments this week, adding that he hopes his teammates are “not that soft.”
“The things I’m saying, I don’t have some vendetta against any player,” Rodgers told reporters earlier this week. “I care about winning, No. 1, and I’m going to say and do the things that I feel like can advance us. It’s going to be tough at some points. It’s not a popularity contest all the time. Obviously, as a human, you like being liked and appreciated, but I’m trying to win games because that’s my job.”
Steelers vs. Packers Prediction
I’m riding with the Steelers for the entirety of preseason, and here’s why. I believe that after Roethlisberger, they roster the best group of young quarterbacks in the league. It may not be saying much, but I’ll take both Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph over the majority of names we saw last week. Dobbs is the real interesting player to watch, because he’s in somewhat of a tough spot in Pittsburgh. The Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph in the offseason, a clear indication that they are looking at the future of the franchise and Dobbs is not a satisfactory solution. In that case, the preseason is Dobbs’ audition to the rest of the NFL, regardless of if he stays with the Steelers this season. The Steelers also have Landry Jones on the roster, and there’s no good reason for a team to keep four quarterbacks.
Prediction: Steelers 19, Packers 13