It’s JuJu time. Nick Ballistreri shares his Over/Under pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers Win Total
Things will look a little different at Heinz Field this season for the Steelers. After a 9-6-1 season in which the Steelers missed the playoffs, they shipped long-time star receiver Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders, figuring he was no longer worth the headache. Star running back Le’Veon Bell also took his talents to New York to play with the Jets. With all the changes on the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers still have their stalwart, Ben Roethlisberger. As long as Big Ben is in town, the team will compete. The question is, will it be enough for a playoff spot?
As I just mentioned, talent has left the building in Pittsburgh. However, by no means does that mean the cupboard is bare on offense. The team is still lead by Ben Roethlisberger, who is entering his 16th season as the Steelers starting QB. Ben had another phenomenal season last year, totaling a career-high 5,129 passing yards, 32 Touchdowns, and 16 Interceptions.
While Roethlisberger has always been prone for his interceptions, he makes plays happen. Being a bigger QB, he continuously keeps plays alive in the pocket, shedding would be sacks and scrambling to keep the sticks moving. This season, he will have to do it without All-Pro Wide Receiver Antonio Brown, who I mentioned has been traded to the Raiders.
When Le’Veon Bell held out last season, many thought the sky would fall, and the offense would struggle to move the chains. Enter James Connor. Last season, James Connor was just a second year RB coming off an unimpressive 144 yard rookie season. Frankly, he wasn’t looked at as anything but a Le’Veon Bell backup. When Bell’s holdout continued, Connor shined.
Filling in, Connor finished with 973 yards and 12 TDs in only 13 games. He also chipped in with 55 receptions. Without Connor, the Steelers season would have had a whole different outlook. He came in and proved his worth, and entering just his 3rd season, I fully expect Connor to build on his breakout campaign. Behind a solid offensive line, Connor should be able to handle a full season’s workload, taking the burden off of Big Ben.
While the receiving corps lost Antonio Brown, they are by no means undermanned talent wise. The team has 3rd year phenom JuJu Smith-Schuster as their new #1 receiver. JuJu built off his solid rookie season with an absolutely monster season last year, finishing with 111 catches, 1,426 yards and 7 TDS. JuJu is in the conversation for the best receiver in the game. He’s that good, and he should be looking at another monster season as Ben’s #1.
The team also has promising 2nd year receiver James Washington. While Washington didn’t have the best rookie season, he has shown promise and the coaches in training camp are raving about his play. He has also shown flashes in preseason. The team also added veteran Donte Moncreif, who has been inconsistent throughout his career but has shown flashes on dominance.
With Tight End Vance Mcdonald also coming off a solid in which he tallied 610 yards and 4 TDS, the team should feel good about their offense this season. While Big Ben may be getting up their in age, he can still sling the rock with the best of them. Expect this offense to put up big numbers this season.
While the Steelers defense has some promising pieces, nobody is mistaking them for the Steel Curtain teams of the past. They allowed 22.5 PPG last season, and while not terrible, that is far from outstanding. The team has relied on the offense to carry them in recent seasons.
That being said, the defense has young talent everywhere, starting with LB TJ Watt. Many of you may know Watt as JJ Watt’s younger brother, but TJ is making a name for himself as well. Watt is coming off a 13 sack season, and is looking to improve on that number.
The Steelers have used prime resources to build this defense. Two seasons ago, they selected Terrell Edmunds, a safety from Virginia Tech with their first round pick. In April’s draft, they used the 10th overall pick on LB Devin Bush. Bush is looking like a stud, getting nothing but positive reviews from scouts around the league. If Bush can play up to his potential, the linebackers might be okay this season.
At corner, the team still has veteran Joe Haden. Haden is a solid player who has shown his staying power in this league. The secondary is not on par with the best in the league, but they hope to at least stay league average this season. With the offense the team employs, that might be all they need on defense.
Steelers Over/Under Pick
Draftkings has set the Steelers O/U at 9. Now, you might be thinking the losses of Bell and Brown may be too much to overcome. However, Bell didn’t play last year, and Brown was a headache for the team. I think this is a classic case of “addition by subtraction”. By getting rid of the distractions and drama, I think the team will be much improved.
With Ben leading the offense, and him having weapons all around him, I expect another great year out of him, and a monster season from JuJu. James Connor will continue to improve on offense as well.
As always, the AFC North is going to be a dog-fight. The Ravens are always a solid team, and the Browns are rapidly improving. The Bengals…well that’s a story for a different day. Let’s just chalk up 2 wins there. I think the Steelers will survive the division, and win at least 4 games from this bunch. With the rest of the schedule not looking too daunting, I think the Over 9 here is the right move. I think a 10-6 season and a playoff birth is more likely than not.
Steelers Over 9 -134 @ Draftkings