The Steelers won 12 games last season, but their offense was a big problem, as they ranked 28th in first down rate over expected at -2.83%. Many are expecting them to be better on offense, after using their first round pick on running back Najee Harris and with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger another year removed from his elbow injury, but first round running backs usually aren’t a good value and it’s unclear how Roethlisberger will hold up over the course of the season, after looking better in very limited pre-season action.
The Steelers also are likely to be noticeably worse on the offense line, having to replace four starters from a year ago with low cost options, the most promising of whom, Zach Banner, is out for the start of the season. The Steelers’ defense led them to their impressive record last season, but they lost some key players this off-season and will also be without stud defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt to begin the season due to injury. Defensive performance is also significantly less predictive than offensive performance and the Steelers likely wouldn’t be able to rely on being as dominant defensively as they were a year ago, even if they did return all of their key players.
After ranking 11th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +1.46% a year ago and winning 12 games against an easy schedule, the Steelers are likely to see a steep drop off in their win total and should be underdogs of at least a touchdown in Buffalo against one of the best teams in the league. Let’s take advantage of the Steelers being a little overrated in what should be another multiscore victory for the Bills, who beat the Steelers by 11 late last season.
Buffalo Bills 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Pick against the spread: Buffalo -6.5