Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-0)
The Steelers have gotten off to a disastrous start to the season. They got blown out in New England week 1 in a game they were likely viewing as a measuring stick for their season and then last week they lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the year with an injury in a game they likely would have won if Roethlisberger had been healthy. Now they are 0-2 and are looking at 14 games with a backup quarterback under center. The 49ers, meanwhile, improved to 2-0 with a blowout victory in Cincinnati last week. As a result, this line has shifted significantly in the past week, from Pittsburgh -1 a week ago to Pittsburgh +7 this week.
One thing that seems to have gotten lost in all of this is that the 49ers had a significant injury loss in the past week as well, losing left tackle Joe Staley indefinitely. Staley isn’t as important to the 49ers as Roethlisberger is to the Steelers, but he’s easily their best offensive lineman and he’s arguably their best offensive player. On top of that, while the Steelers can turn to Mason Rudolph, a 2018 3rd round pick and a potential long-term successor for Roethlisberger, the 49ers will have to start 6th round rookie Justin Skule on the blindside. The Steelers still have a solid defense and a strong pass rush, so they could create a lot of problems for the 49ers’ offense in this game.
Without Staley, I have this line calculated at San Francisco -4, so we’re getting good line value with the Steelers at +7. Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers might be the toughest opponent the 49ers have faced thus far this season, after opening the season with the Buccaneers and Bengals. The 49ers were able to win both of those games on the road, but returning home might not be much of a boost for them this week, as teams are just 28-52 ATS since 1989 in week 3 home openers. The 49ers could be tired after traveling twice to start the season and, now back at home, they could overlook a team starting its backup quarterback. There isn’t a great Pick of the Week option this week, but the Steelers are my favorite play this week if you can get the full touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh +7
Confidence: Pick of the Week