Denver Broncos (10-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5)
The Steelers are on fire right now. They’ve been fantastic since Ben Roethlisberger came back from injury. They lost to Cincinnati and Seattle, but both of those games were close and both of those opponents are very tough. They also beat Cincinnati in the rematch last week (though they were definitely helped by Andy Dalton and Tyler Eifert going down with injury), beat Oakland, and blew out the Colts (45-10) and Browns (30-9).
Prior to Roethlisberger going down, they lost in New England (another close loss to a tough opponent), blew out the 49ers (43-18) and beat the Rams. In the 9 games Roethlisberger has played, the Steelers have moved the chains at a 75.83% rate, as opposed to 63.64% in the 4 games he missed. When he’s healthy, this is one of the better offenses in the NFL and their defense is better than it was last season. They rank 9th in rate of moving the chains differential and are even more talented than that suggests.
I’d go as far as to argue they’re a top-5 team (remember, they were leading the Bengals in Cincinnati even before Dalton and Eifert went down), but this line is out of control. The Steelers, favored by 4.5 last week in the early line, are now favored by a whole touchdown. I love fading significant line movements whenever it makes sense and I think it does here. The Broncos are a good team as well, ranking 8th in rate of moving the chains differential, so we’re getting line value with them.
The Broncos did lose at home to the Raiders last week and I feel like a lot of the line movement was because of that loss, but the Broncos held the Raiders to negative yardage in the first half and 8 first downs in the whole game (as opposed to 10 punts) and won the rate of moving the chains differential 57.12% to 47.64%. The Broncos lost by a field goal because they turned it over twice (while the Raiders didn’t) and fumbled in their own end zone (for a safety). They’ll be fine going forward.
They’re also healthier this week. Middle linebacker Danny Trevathan will return from a 1 game absence and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is in his 2nd game back, after missing 5 games. The Broncos have a great defense, one capable of slowing down the Steelers’ offense more than arguably any other team because they have great cornerbacks who can match up with the Steelers’ talented wide receivers. I’m not too confident in the Broncos, but they should be the right side.
Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Denver Broncos 13
Pick against the spread: Denver +7