The Steelers have made the post-season in back-to-back years with records of 12-4 and 9-7-1 respectively, but, in order to do that, they’ve needed to go 7-2 and 8-2-1 in one score games in the two seasons respectively, which is highly unlikely to continue into 2022. The Steelers’ defense will probably be better than the 20th ranked unit they were in terms of efficiency last season, but they’re unlikely to be as good as their 3rd ranked finish in efficiency in 2020, while their offense figures to continue to struggle like they have the past two seasons, when they have ranked 28th and 30th in offensive efficiency.
The Bengals, meanwhile, ranked just 17th in overall efficiency in the regular season last year and needed to win the turnover battle to win three close post-season games, which is not sustainable long-term, but they are significantly improved on the offensive line this off-season, which was a huge weakness for them last season, holding back what should have been an elite offensive unit, given their skill position talent and their quarterback play. Despite their offensive line improvements and the Steelers offensive struggles, the Bengals are just 6.5-point home favorites over the Steelers.
Including playoffs, 10 of the Steelers’ 13 losses over the past two seasons would have covered this 6.5-point spread and the Bengals are the caliber of team that should be able to give them another 7+ point loss, as they did in 14-point and 31-point victories last season. My calculated line actually has the Bengals favored in this one by 12.5 points, so we’re getting quite a bit of line value with them as just 6.5-point home favorites. This is one of my favorite plays of the week, as I don’t expect this to be a close game.
Cincinnati Bengals 30 Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -6.5