The Pittsburgh Steelers repeated as AFC North champions this season and are in the playoffs for a fourth straight year. They are the conference’s No. 2 seed and awaiting their foe at Heinz Field in next weekend’s divisional round. Here’s an analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers postseason hopes.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 Postseason Betting Analysis
Le’Veon Bell previews the playoffs and describes how the team is ‘self-scouting’ during the bye week. pic.twitter.com/nGKC2phJam
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2018
- Odds to win AFC: +220
- Odds to win Super Bowl LII: +500
What About Brown?
The Steelers aren’t winning a Super Bowl or maybe even their divisional round game – probably against Jacksonville – without the NFL’s best receiver in Antonio Brown. He partially tore a calf muscle in the Steelers’ crushing home loss on Dec. 17 vs. New England and hasn’t played since. He reportedly is making progress in his rehabilitation.
“I know how hard he works. And I know all the work and the time … he’s been putting in and I’m confident he’ll be back,” star RB Le’Veon Bell said of Brown playing next weekend.
If the Steelers hadn’t locked up a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, Coach Mike Tomlin stated Brown would likely have been listed as questionable for a game during wild-card weekend. With nearly two more weeks to focus on his recovery, Brown appears likely to play next weekend.
Brown led the NFL with 1,533 receiving yards, was fourth in TD catches (9) and fifth in receptions (101). He might have won the receiving Triple Crown had he played the entire Patriots game and then the following two weeks. Brown did become the first receiver in NFL history with five consecutive seasons with triple-digit receptions, breaking his tie with Marvin Harrison at four.
Can They Beat Patriots?
Tom Brady simply owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that’s why it’s hard to imagine the Steelers going to Foxboro in the AFC title game and winning. Last year’s game wasn’t close, with the Pats winning 36-17. Brady torched that Pittsburgh defense for 384 yards (then a franchise playoff record until he broke it in the Super Bowl) and three TDs. Chris Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores.
Then in Week 15 this year, it looked like Pittsburgh had scored a late game-winning TD to beat the Patriots and be in the driver’s seat for the top seed in the AFC. However, a Ben Roethlisberger 10-yard TD pass to tight end Jesse James with 28 seconds to go was overturned on review. Big Ben would then throw an interception on the end zone when all Pittsburgh needed was a field goal to force overtime.
It does seem the Steelers are never fully healthy when facing the Pats. Pittsburgh lost Brown early in that Week 15 game and lost Bell late in the first quarter of the AFC title game to a groin injury.
“We have always felt like we haven’t finished what we kind of started. Last year was a crazy run; we go into the AFC Championship Game without all of our players that we necessarily need. I end up getting hurt and run down. And it cost us,” Bell said.
Maybe No. 2 Seed Isn’t Bad
The last three times the Steelers were the No. 2 seed they made it to the Super Bowl – 1995 (losing to Dallas), 2008 (beating Arizona), 2010 (losing to Green Bay).
Pittsburgh will play the highest-seeded team that survives this weekend’s AFC Wild Card games, with the Steelers hosting whomever on Jan. 14 at 1:05 p.m. The most likely team to come into Heinz Field next week would be the Jaguars, and that would be a chance at payback for Pittsburgh.
In Week 5, the Jaguars crushed the Steelers 30-9 at Heinz Field. Telvin Smith and Barry Church returned a pair of Roethlisberger’s interceptions for touchdowns. The Jaguars picked Roethlisberger off five times in all and sacked him twice Big Ben was so bad he hinted at retirement after. But he got much better as the season went on and finished completing 360 of 563 passes for 4,251 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions in 15 games. He also ran 28 times for 47 yards.
Only three QBs in these playoffs have won a Super Bowl: Roethlisberger, Brady and New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Traditional pocket quarterbacks typically have more success in the playoffs. That’s why the Patriots and Steelers are favored to reach the AFC championship game.
No Team Has Better Kicker
If Pittsburgh is in a close game in these playoffs and it comes down to the kicker, then the Steelers are in good shape. Chris Boswell broke the Steelers single-season scoring record with 142-points, a record previously held by Norm Johnson who registered 141-points in 1995.
In addition, four game-winning kicks in the final minute (or with zeros on the clock) this year helped Boswell earn his first Pro Bowl nomination and first for a Steelers kicker since Gary Anderson was voted in after the 1993 season.