- Pittsburgh will play on four days’ rest after their win over Baltimore last Wednesday, while Washington hasn’t played since their Thanksgiving win 11 days ago
Coming off back to back wins, Washington finds itself in the thick of the NFC East battle and looking like the best team in the league’s weakest division. Alex Smith has brought some stability to the offense, while Terry McLaurin and Thanksgiving star Antonio Gibson are two playmakers that add some explosiveness. That’s been enough, because the defense has been a decidedly above average unit throughout the season.
Now they play host to the NFL’s last undefeated team, so they are rightful underdogs in this one. But the Steelers head to Washington pretty banged up, having lost standout edge rusher Bud Dupree for the season last week. Ben Roethlisberger also didn’t practice this week, with the official listing being “not injury related/knee.” That seemed like just some veteran rest on the short week, but the lack of reps is never ideal.
The short rest could prove to be an issue. The Steelers of course will play on just four days’ rest after beating Baltimore last Wednesday. Washington meanwhile hasn’t played since their Thanksgiving thrashing of the Cowboys, and have had nearly a full week more to recuperate. While Pittsburgh has been a pass-heavy team of late, I don’t expect them to drop Roethlisberger back to pass nearly as much as they may have otherwise. He’s an old quarterback, they have the big picture in mind, and the missed practice time says enough about them wanting to protect their franchise quarterback through this difficult scheduling stretch.
The Steelers will play without their lead rusher, James Conner, though. I expect we’ll see plenty of Benny Snell and maybe some rookie Anthony McFarland, who the Steelers will turn to in Conner’s absence. If the Steelers do run the ball more, Washington will be more than content playing a slower game, as they have been very deliberate under Alex Smith. Smith is more of a ball control quarterback who takes the easy yards on underneath throws far more often than he pushes the ball down the field. Against a Pittsburgh defense that will still be tough even without Dupree, I’d expect Smith to get the ball out quicker than ever.
Both of these teams count their defenses as the better units on their teams, and I think both will gameplan with that in mind. For Pittsburgh, that means protecting Roethlisberger and forcing Washington’s offense to try to beat them. For Washington, that means limiting mistakes and trying to stay in the game by not turning the ball over. It’s a lot like Pittsburgh’s win over Baltimore last week, and something like that game’s 19-14 final score feels probable again here. I’m taking Washington with the points plus the under on the expectation Pittsburgh continues their unbeaten streak, but doesn’t necessarily do so in convincing fashion.
NFL Expert Picks
Washington +7 @ -106
Under 43.5 @ -108
NFL Free Picks
Week 13 saw a number of divisional clashes with the Saints and Falcons, Colts and Texans, and Rams and Cardinals meeting on Sunday. Sunday Night Football gave us a back-and-forth game between the Chiefs and Broncos, and tonight we get two games, with the Washington Football Team's trip to Pittsburgh ahead of the Bills vs. 49ers meeting on Monday Night Football. We get bonus football again on Tuesday with the Ravens welcoming the Cowboys to M&T Bank Stadium.
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