Not too long ago, a matchup between the Patriots and Steelers was must-watch television. Tonight’s battle, however, is a very different story. Both teams are far from their glory days, and their proud fans have endured some unusually bad football this season because of it. However, tonight still marks a big game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hold a 7-5 record despite having a bottom-five offence in the NFL. They’re currently 5.5-point favorites against the visiting Pats, while the over/under sits at a miserably low total of 30.5 points.
Things haven’t been this bad for the New England Patriots in a long time, but at this point, the team should want to lose for the rest of the season. Of course, it’s basically impossible to get players to tank, but it would certainly be better for the future of the organization if they got a top-2 pick in next year’s draft. Bailey Zappe will most likely get his second straight start at QB for the Pats despite being shut out by Los Angeles last weekend, while Zeke Elliot will take over the role as top running back with Rhamondre Stevenson out due to injury.
Expect to see a lot of Zeke today. Bill Belichick’s team hasn’t been able to pass the ball effectively all year, and they’ve leaned heavily on the run game because of it. Pittsburgh won’t just let them run it up the middle all day though, so the Pats need to get creative with how they get him the ball. This offence has scored just 13 points in the last three games, and if Elliot stalls, I don’t see them doing much tonight, either. In fact, even if he does play well, they probably won’t be doing too much scoring, but it may be enough to win the game.
Pittsburgh’s season hasn’t been as frustrating as New England’s, but the fans have still had to watch some pretty brutal football. Last week, the Steelers fell 24-10 to the 2-10 Arizona Cardinals and didn’t score a touchdown until there was less than five minutes left in the game. The defence has been able to keep them around almost every week, but the Steelers don’t at all feel like a 7-5 team fighting for a playoff spot. They’ve scored more than 20 points just four times this season, and now with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback, things could get worse before they get better.
Thankfully, the Patriots are in town tonight. Pittsburgh wouldn’t be a 5.5-point favorite against many teams following last week’s loss, but it makes sense here. I expect to see Trubisky and the offence keep things fairly conservative. New England hasn’t been able to move the ball on offence in the last three weeks, so if Mike Tomlin’s team can get to 20 points, they should win the game. It’ll be a busy day for both Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris out of the backfield, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Diontae Johnson involved in a lot of short passes. Johnson has had his off field issues this year, but with his elite route running, he should be the main option on quick throws from Trubisky.
Patriots and Steelers: The Pick
The only thing I can safely predict about tonight is that it won’t be pretty. With two of the stalest offences in the league playing on a cold night in Pittsburgh on a short week, don’t expect many fireworks. The over/under of 30.5 points is the lowest we’ve seen this season, but it still makes sense to take the under. Let’s just hope that tonight’s bout between the Patriots and Steelers can be one of those games that’s so bad, it’s good.
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