Wild Card NFL Betting: Pittsburgh Steelers Who Will Shine
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the beneficiary of the Buffalo Bills, who followed their head coach Rex Ryan’s urging and stifled the New York Jets, who fired Ryan after the 2014 season. The Bills’ victory (combined with an earlier Steeler win over the Browns) vaulted the Steelers over New York into the NFL betting playoffs. Let’s take a look at some of the players who will be crucial if the Steelers are to advance against the Cincinnati Bengals to make it into the divisional round.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 5, 2016
When the Steelers had Big Ben at the helm, they were 8-4. The fact that Landry Jones and Michael Vick led the team to a 2-2 record in the other games is a testament to the running game and the defense (and to some nifty passing by Jones), but the key is that this team goes as Big Ben goes. In his starts this year, Roethlisberger has averaged more than 300 passing yards per game — in a running back that lost starting tailback Le’Veon Bell early on, as well as his starting center and left tackle — the crucial pass protection position on an offensive line.
The truth is that Roethlisberger has improved over the last few seasons — and even over the course of this season. Learning to throw from a three-step drop, at the insistence of offensive coordinator Todd Haley, has meant that Roethlisberger has absorbed less punishment from defensive lines than he did before Haley made the change, because he’s getting rid of the ball faster. He still has a ridiculously strong arm — and amazing accuracy, a rare combination — and he can still turn a broken play into a huge gain as well as any other quarterback in the league.
The fact that Pittsburgh has adopted more spread formations has helped this as well. The spread means more receivers are wide in the formation, making it more difficult for defenses to disguise blitzes. It also makes better use of the amazing speed that the Steelers have at the wide receiver position. Which takes us to…
Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant
These two receivers are the linchpins of the Pittsburgh passing attack. In addition to these two, Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey can both get 10 yards down the field in time to grab a three-step timing throw, and they are also ridiculously quick when it comes to shaking defenders on end-arounds and screen passes. So Roethlisberger has deep slants, screens, end-arounds, seam and post patterns all available to him, making the offense extremely difficult to stop.
The replacement for Le’Veon Bell has been terrific this season. The Steelers hope that he can bounce back from his ankle injury and start — and play well — against the Bengals. While Roethlisberger can lead a passing attack with the best of them, the Bengals have a stout defense and a solid pass rush, and if the Steelers can’t run the ball, the Bengals will be able to focus on rushing the passer and picking off those balls that fly out when Roethlisberger is forced into a poor decision.