Over Or Under 8.5 Regular-Season Wins For The Steelers?

The Steelers are positioned to improve coming off of their 8-8 campaign

The Odds

  • The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers were assigned an 8.5 regular-season win total by DraftKings Sportsbook. They also have +2800 odds (T-10th highest) to win the Super Bowl, +1400 odds to win the AFC Championship (T-4th highest) and +350 odds to win the AFC North (2nd highest). 

  • Let's take a look back at last season, the offseason and Pittsburgh's schedule en route to figuring out if over or under 8.5 wins is the best bet!

Last Season

  • Despite dealing with a number of debilitating injuries last season, Pittsburgh managed to go 8-8 and narrowly missed the playoffs. 

  • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (351 passing yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 56.5% completion rate) was injured in the second game of the year, which opened the door for Mason Rudolph (1,765 passing yards, 13 TD, 9 INT, 62.2% completion rate in 10 games) and Delvin "Duck" Hodges (1,063 passing yards, 5 TD, 8 INT, 62.5% completion rate) under center. 

  • Running back James Conner (464 rushing yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 251 receiving yards, 7 total TD in 10 games) also dealt with injuries, which led to playing time for rookie Benny Snell Jr. (426 rushing yards, 3.9 yards per carry, 2 TD in 13 games) and Swiss Army Knife Jaylen Samuels (175 rushing yards on 2.7 yards per carry, 47 receptions for 305 yards, 2 TD in 14 games) to see substantial time in the backfield. 

  • Still reeling from losing both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered without Big Ben, as indicated by the fact that they ranked dead-last in Football Outsiders’ Offensive DVOA. Their offensive line was putrid, as indicated by the fact that they ranked 30th in pass protection, 27th in Power Rank and 31st in Stuffed Rank. 

  • However, their defense kept them afloat. Pittsburgh’s D racked up 54 sacks and their 9.7% adjusted sack rate was the best in the entire NFL. Further, they ranked 3rd in Defensive DVOA, which was a stark contrast from their performance on the other side of the ball.

  • They also ranked 8th in Special Teams DVOA and were an above-average unit. 

  • After getting off to an 0-3 start, the Steelers won five of their next six games, narrowly losing to the Baltimore Ravens 26-23 in Week 5. That string kept them alive if it wasn't for a bad loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 11, they would have won nine out of 10 contests in the middle of the year. Although they finished on a sour note, losing to the Buffalo Bills at home and then the New York Jets and Ravens on the road to close out the year, five of their eight losses came by single-digits and all five were decided by one possession.

Offseason Acquisitions And Losses

  • The Steelers didn’t lose a ton of talent this offseason. Offensive lineman Ramon Foster retired and Javon Hargrave, Artie Burns and Nick Vannett moved on in free agency.

  • Pass-catching tight end Eric Ebron signed with the Steelers on a two-year, $12 million contract and while he played just 11 games and racked up 375 receiving yards and three touchdowns playing alongside Jack Doyle with the Indianapolis Colts last season, he’s just one year removed from hauling in a whopping 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018 with the Colts. He should immediately contribute. 

  • Fullback Derek Watt signed a three-year, $9.75 million deal in March. He will look to make a difference in Pittsburgh’s running game, as he will help pave the way for the stable of running backs.

  • The team also re-signed restricted free agent Zach Banner to a one-year deal. He will likely compete for the starting right tackle position to fill the void that Foster left.

  • In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Steelers selected former Notre Dame wideout Chase Claypool in the 2nd Round, former Charlotte defensive end Alex Highsmith in the 3rd Round, former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. in the 4th Round, former Louisiana guard Kevin Dotson in the 4th Round, former Maryland safety Antoine Brooks Jr. in the 6th Round and former Nebraska defensive lineman Carlos Davis in the 7th Round. 

  • Since Claypool is listed at 6’4 and 238 pounds, he has the body of an NFL tight end with 4.5 speed, which makes him particularly interesting given that Ebron and Vance McDonald are also viable versatile targets for Roethlisberger with similar girth.

Looking Ahead 

  • As noted above, the Steelers were assigned an 8.5 regular-season win total by DraftKings. They also have +2800 odds (T-10th highest) to win the Super Bowl, +1400 odds to win the AFC Championship (T-4th highest) and +350 odds to win the AFC North (2nd highest). 

  • Pittsburgh’s opponents went 117-139 last season, which is the 2nd-easiest schedule in the NFL in that regard. 

  • They’re listed as -121 favorites to make the playoffs (and are +100 to not make the playoffs) and MGM lists their odds to win 0-4 regular games at +6500, 5-8 games at +135, 9-12 wins at -167, and 13-16 wins at +2000. 

  • One thing is for certain: oddsmakers are expecting major bounce-back seasons by Pittsburgh's offensive playmakers. Roethlisberger is listed at +400 to win the Comeback Player Of The Year Award, right behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (+300). His passing yardage over/under is also listed at 4000.5. JuJu Smith-Schuster is expected to rebound, as his over/under receiving yardage is set at 1175.5. (on DraftKings) and 1099.5 (on FanDuel). After racking up 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018, Smith-Schuster hauled in just 42 passes for 552 yards and three scores due in large part to Big Ben’s absence last year.
Brook Ward, Flickr
  • With Roethlisberger throwing to Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson and newcomer Deon Cain at the wideout position and Ebron and McDonald as a two-headed monster at tight end, this offense should be a high-powered attack once again, but only if their offensive line can protect their franchise quarterback and pave the way for Conner, Samuels, Snell and McFarland out of the backfield.

  • Further, T.J. Watt (+1200) has the third-highest and identical odds as brother J.J. Watt (+1200) to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Coming off of a 13-sack campaign in 2018, T.J. racked up 14.5 sacks last season and might have established himself as the most talented Watt brother (sorry, Derek).

  • Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Devin Bush Jr., Bud Dupree, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds also highlight a dynamic defense that should build off of their dominant 2019 showing.

  • Right after the 2020 schedule was released, Pittsburgh opened as -195 moneyline (4-point) favorites against the New York Giants in Week 1 (per FanDuel) and also opened as 4.5-point home favorites Week 2 at home vs. the Denver Broncos

  • Bye: Week 8

  • Home games: Broncos in Week 2, Houston Texans in Week 3, Philadelphia Eagles in Week 5, Cleveland Browns in Week 6, Cincinnati Bengals in Week 10, Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, Washington Redskins in Week 13, Indianapolis Colts in Week 16

  • Road games: Giants in Week 1, Tennessee Titans in Week 4, Ravens in Week 7, Dallas Cowboys in Week 9, Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, Buffalo Bills in Week 14, Bengals in Week 15, Browns in Week 17

  • While the dates and times of these games are most likely in question due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s hard not to see the upside that this schedule creates due to road matchups against the Giants, Jaguars, Bengals and Browns, along with home tilts against the Browns, Bengals and Redskins. On paper, it’s easy to label those games as clear advantages for the Steelers. 

  • That leaves nine more games, and if the team manages to go 2-7 in those contests assuming that they take care of business in the aforementioned seven, they’d surpass their 8.5-game win total. 

Best Bet

  • MGM’s odds list 9-12 wins as the most probable outcome for Pittsburgh, and that seems like a logical range based on their schedule and their upside. Considering that they sputtered without Big Ben last season and that their defense should be deadly yet again, this team should be a force to be reckoned with, even if they're an average or above-average offensive club.

  • Take the OVER, bet on the Steelers to make the playoffs and even take a shot on them advancing if you get the odds you're looking for!

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Note: the advice above is the analysis of the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of BetQL. The outcomes described are not guaranteed in any way.

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