Tennessee Titans (0-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
A lot of people are really down on the Steelers right now, but I like their chances to have a bounce back year, as teams normally do after a significant win decrease. Teams that decrease by 4 wins, on average, have a win increase of about 2 the following season. Sure, they’re getting older and they lost guys like James Harrison and Mike Wallace this off-season, but neither was what they once were last season. Harrison definitely showed his age and should be replaced easily by Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, while Wallace was not himself at all coming off an extended holdout. He caught just 55.2% of the passes thrown his way and averaged just 13.1 yards per catch.
The Steelers should also have better injury luck, after having the 7th most injuries last season, according to adjusted games lost. Sure, they’re already without Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller in this one, but they’re still in better shape than they were last season. Remember, they were 6-3 last year before guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Ike Taylor got hurt. And that was with guys like David DeCastro and Troy Polamalu barely playing.
Polamalu’s return is the biggest deal. Troy Polamalu has missed 22 games over the past 4 years and in those 22 games, the Steelers have allowed 20.2 points per game. With him, however, they allow just 15.5 points per game. As good as their defense is, he might be their single most important defensive player when healthy because he can impact the game with his mere presence. He’s only going into his age 32 season, so he shouldn’t be done and luckily injuries haven’t sapped his abilities when he has been able to suit up. He’s still been very effective when on the field. It’s just a matter of staying healthy, which he will be for this game. That’s a huge deal.
Given that, I think this seven point line is too low. The Titans are not that good of a team. I think most people would agree with that, but the Steelers shouldn’t have much trouble beating. On top of that, the Steelers are a much better home team than road team over the past few seasons. Over the past two seasons, they outscore opponents by 9.5 points per game at home and 2.5 points per game on the road. I have some confidence that this will be a double digit win.
Also, one note, I’m changing how I do picks this year. I’ll be grouping my picks into high confidence, medium confidence, low confidence, and no confidence picks. I’ll also have one pick of the week.
Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Tennessee Titans 12
Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -7