Miami Dolphins (0-6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)
The Steelers have had a strange season. On one hand, they haven’t lost by more than a field goal since their week 1 trip to New England, despite starting three different quarterbacks, even winning with third string undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges under center in their most recent game before the bye. Even with that 30-point week 1 loss in New England included, the Steelers have a -8 point differential that isn’t terrible, especially considering they’ve faced the second toughest schedule in the league by DVOA and that they are the only team in the league who have faced both the undefeated Patriots and the undefeated 49ers. This week, the Steelers get back second string quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was showing signs of progress before being concussed in the Steelers week 5 game loss to the Ravens, a game they likely would have won had he not gotten injured.
On the other hand, the Steelers have benefited immensely from turnovers and turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. The Steelers have a +7 turnover margin on the season that ranks 2nd only to the Patriots and is easily the best among teams with a negative point differential (the Lions are +4 at -11 and the Cardinals are +2 at -31). There have been just 18 instances of a team losing a game this season despite winning the turnover battle and the Steelers were on the losing end of 3 of those games (Seahawks, 49ers, Ravens). In terms of first down rate differential, the Steelers rank 22nd at +-.72%, which is underwhelming. In my roster rankings, they rank 21st, with their defense suffering a huge blow when Stephon Tuitt went down for the season with an injury in their last game before the bye. He had been one of the top defensive linemen in the league this season.
Tuitt might not be missed this week though, as the Steelers’ schedule suddenly gets much easier with the Dolphins coming to town. The Dolphins are better when veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center, as young quarterback Josh Rosen has shown no ability to deal with the heavy amounts of pressure let up by this backup caliber offensive line, but they are still one of the worst teams in the league by a mile, regardless of who is under center. After an off-season teardown, they have few talented players remaining and those players likely aren’t giving 100% effort for a coaching staff and front office that transparently doesn’t care about winning this season. This line is about right at -14, but I’m not taking the Dolphins this season unless I have a great reason to, so the Steelers are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Miami Dolphins 13
Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -14