The (1-1-1) Pittsburgh Steelers are tied for last in the AFC North thanks to an uneven start to their season. They return home to Heinz Field in Week 4 (8:20 PM ET Sunday), which has been historically good to them.
However, they will play the (2-1) Baltimore Ravens, who are tied for first in the division, and who look poised to reclaim the AFC North crown from Pittsburgh’s grasp.
Steelers Need to Move on from Bell
It has been an up-and-down season for the Steelers as they have tried to find their identity without one of the league’s top runningbacks on the field. LeVeon Bell, who as we’ve mentioned before is holding out because of his displeasure with his current contract situation, has yet to take a snap for the black and yellow. Without Bell, the Steelers have been without its second dimension, which is a consistently great running game. With Bell in the past, Pittsburgh at times boasted the NFL’s best two-way offense as Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown provided a lethal passing duo combined with Bell’s ability to excel in breaking tackles and picking up yards per carry.
At this point, it seems clear that Pittsburgh needs to move on from Bell and find a way to save their season before it’s too late. The team announced recently that they have begun listening to trade offers for the back, something that would likely net Pittsburgh a significant haul in return. At that point, the Steelers need to commit to either a new runningback they may acquire through the trade or James Conner, who after lighting up the Cleveland Browns defense for 213 yards and two touchdowns, has amassed just 78 yards and one score. His carries have also been slashed as after 31 in that first game, Conner has combined for just 23 over the next two. For the Steelers, it is not fair to put the weight of the team on Conner’s shoulders but at the same token, a team without a rushing attack will get nowhere in this league, something that the Steelers are learning the hard way this season.
Will Baltimore Remain on Top?
For years, the AFC North was a two-team division and in a lot of cases, the winner would come down to the series of games played between rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore’s last division title came in 2012 which was the same year they won the Super Bowl, their second in franchise history.
This year, unless Pittsburgh can turn around their fortunes sooner rather than later, it seems the AFC North will be contested between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Ravens. That makes this game all the more important because if Pittsburgh wins, they go to 2-1-1 against Baltimore’s 2-2. That means the Steelers are just one win away from reclaiming the top of the division, something the Ravens can’t afford to happen even this early in the season, due to past patterns.
Will Pittsburgh win? That’s another question. The Ravens are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven games against the Steelers as well as 3-0-1 over the past four games at Heinz Field. Historically, Baltimore has played their rivals well on their own home turf but that hasn’t always resulted in victories. In fact, it has often resulted in more losses than wins as Baltimore is just 9-24 SU in their last 33 road games against Pittsburgh. That being said, Baltimore enters this game in possession of the one thing that seems to be most coveted in these AFC North battles and that’s defense.
The Ravens lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game and haven’t allowed a second half touchdown over their first three contests. They won’t have an easy matchup against Antonio Brown and if what AJ Green did to them in Week 2, by catching three touchdowns, is any indication, it could be a long night deep for the Ravens. Because much like Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger likes to find his deep threats down the field and will not hesitate to bomb one to Brown if the coverage is right.
If indeed defense does win championships, Baltimore will hope to see theirs on full display this Sunday night.
Our Betting Preview’s Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Picks & Predictions Verdict
Defense has been the story for these two teams over the course of their 30+ year rivalry as both teams have prioritized a strong unit on the other side of the ball. But in 2018, while defense will no doubt still be on display at Heinz Field, it is the offense of both of these teams that has people talking.
Both teams rank among the top offenses in the NFL, which is somewhat surprising to see, especially for Pittsburgh. That’s not to question Roethlisberger and the passing game as that was never in doubt, but this is overall offense. That means that despite a consistent running game, the Steelers have still managed to stay atop the league, which is extremely impressive.
The Steelers are three point home favorites and given the trends, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. We already talked about Baltimore’s struggles on the road against Pittsburgh but how about another stat. Following this victory on Monday night against what had been the hottest team in football, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Steelers won their 13th straight game under the night lights. They come into this one having won their last four following a Monday night game. So need to worry about the Monday night woes for this team.
So these are the Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers predictions and betting picks for this NFL preview:
- While not often winners in Pittsburgh, Baltimore does play the team quite well when it comes to the spread. Sunday night should be no exception. Our first prediction is to bet on the Ravens +3pts @ -110 with Bovada or Intertops.
- The total points likely to be scored in this game is set by almost all the top offshore sports betting sites at 50, which is one of the highest marks for a meeting between the two defensive powerhouses. It is not all that surprising given the scores both teams have played too thus far this season with the Ravens scoring 47, 23 and 27 points in their first three games and the Steelers adding 21, 37 and 30 of their own. As crazy as it seems to say for a Steelers/Ravens game, the pick is to take the over 50 total points @ best odds of -110 with BetOnline.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.