Over his career, Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in NFL history. His luck ran out against the Seahawks on Sunday. The Steelers are putting Roethlisberger on IR in response to his need to undergo season-ending surgery on his elbow.
That likely means Pittsburgh will turn to Mason Rudolph under center. He performed well in relief of Roethlisberger against the Seahawks, but he wasn’t quite able to pull out a big win for his team. In theory, he should be more prepared to play at San Francisco next week.
Losing a player of Roethlisberger’s caliber is obviously a game changer for the Steelers. They entered the season with hopes of making another Super Bowl run behind their franchise quarterback. Now, Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff need to greatly adjust those goals. If Rudolph can get this team into the playoffs it will represent a major accomplishment for the second-year pro.
That doesn’t mean all hope is lost for fans in the Steel City. Players like James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster will still line up for the team on Sunday. They won’t be quite as effective without Roethlisberger at the controls, but they can make plays for Rudolph. The offense could still find its way into finishing the campaign in the top-half of the NFL standings.
The real pressure will be heaped onto Tomlin’s defense to regain their status as a feared unit around the league. Giving up 33 points to the Patriots in Week 1 followed by 28 to Seattle in Week 2 is certainly not the start Steelers fans were hoping for. In particular, their secondary needs to improve greatly if they want to craft a top-10 defense this season. That’s likely what will be required to give this team a realistic shot of making the playoffs without Roethlisberger racking up points for the offense.
The obvious bet you want to make here is to hammer the Steelers’ under at 9 wins. The combination of their 0-2 start and Roethlisberger’s injury makes the prospect of Pittsburgh going over highly unlikely. Unless you think Rudolph is going to take the NFL by storm, you should make a considerable wager on the under. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Pittsburgh goes 10-4 without Big Ben at the helm. That’s obviously what would be required for them to hit the over.
The other, less obvious, betting strategy you should consider employing with the Steelers moving forward is taking a close look at betting their under in each game. It’s very likely that Tomlin and his coaching staff will place a greater emphasis on running the ball in an effort to take pressure off Rudolph. That will effectively reduce the number of possessions in Steelers games moving forward. Clearly, that lends itself towards the under being a prudent play. Keep a close eye on Oddschecker.com to see where the over/under is placed for Pittsburgh’s game at San Francisco on Sunday.
In the near future, the Steelers should be a very fluid situation for bettors. Rudolph looks like he’ll get the first shot to replace Big Ben, but a bad game or two could easily push Pittsburgh into the free agent or trade market to upgrade the position. There’s always the chance their season could completely go off the rails without their veteran leader in the locker room. It’s a scenario we’ve seen play out with other franchises.
That outcome is far from a certainty though. The Steelers value stability more than any other team in the NFL. That’s part of the reason why Tomlin is still their head coach. It’s not out of the question that he can rally this team to play passionate football as a group that’s trying to “win against the odds.” Look for a lot of “nobody believes in us” rhetoric to emanate from Pittsburgh in the immediate future. That might seem foolish to us on the outside, but it’s possible it can galvanize this Steelers team.
At the present time, go hit the under win total. You need to wait on everything else to see how things are going to play out. Things don’t look sunny in Pittsburgh at the moment, but they still have the talent and infrastructure to grind out a respectable season.