Top Sunday Night Football Player Props: Seahawks vs. Steelers
Steelers RB Najee Harris, Under 71.5 Rushing Yards @ -115
It is easy to get wrapped up in how well Najee Harris played last week. For the first time in his young career, Harris eclipsed the 100-yard mark against the Broncos last week. He handled 23 carries for the tune of 122 yards, carrying a 5.3 yards per attempt average by the end of the game. The Broncos boast a quality run defense, so it’s not as though Harris had this performance against scrubs, but it still feels like an outlier in an otherwise poor rushing season from the Pittsburgh offense.
Last week’s matchup was also better setup for the offense to run the ball anyway. While Denver's run defense had been good leading up to Week 5, they are also one of the best defenses against “short passes,” according to Football Outsiders. The Steelers generally love to replace their run game with the short passing game but knew that was not the matchup to do it.
This week against the Seahawks, on the other hand, is the matchup to return to quick passing. Football Outsiders has the Seattle defense as the second-worst defense against short passes, only faring better than Jacksonville. The Seahawks cornerback room is a disaster right now, thanks in part to some odd reshuffling of the group this offseason and new starter Sidney Jones still trying to get his sea legs in the system. Safety Jamal Adams has also struggled, while star linebacker Bobby Wagner has lost the range that once made him dominant.
Taking the under here is less about Harris the player and more about the most likely game plan out of the Steelers offense. This is the perfect game to crush the opposing pass defense with a flurry of 1-15 yard passes and allow their superior wide receiver talent to win. Perhaps last week’s run-heavy game plan really was a turning of the page for this offense, but until we see it a couple more times, I’m not buying it.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns @ -115
I am not at all sold that last week’s game against the Denver Broncos was a revelation for the Steelers offense. It feels more like the Steelers caught a good defense on a bad week and took full advantage of it. Sometimes those things happen, especially with an offense that is as talented at the skill positions as Pittsburgh’s is.
That said, my long-term skepticism about the Steelers offense does not blind me from seeing that this is a ripe opportunity for Roethlisberger to look competent again. As mentioned in the previous section, the Seahawks pass defense is bad. They rank in the bottom-five in total pass defense DVOA and are the second-worst in defending short passes by DVOA, which is the exact area of the field Roethlisberger generally wants to target. Assuming the Seattle defense continues to cover poorly for another week, the Steelers offense should find themselves in the red zone on a regular basis on Sunday night.
And to that end, the Steelers offense has quietly been better in the red zone than they are at getting there in the first place. Though the Steelers are just 22nd in total offensive DVOA, they rank 15th in DVOA in the red zone. They can punch in opportunities at a decent rate compared to the league, the problem has just been getting down there. Against a bad Seahawks defense, that should not be a problem.
Pittsburgh’s pass versus run splits in the red zone matter here, too. Roethlisberger has recorded 22 red zone drop backs this year, while the Steelers have only attempted eight rushes inside the red zone. They still generally do not trust their offensive line to get tough yards and would rather lean on their stellar receiving talent, and that should hold true in a particularly favorable matchup here.
Longest Touchdown, Seattle Seahawks @ +135
I expect the Steelers to win and score a fair amount. They have a good matchup against the Seahawks defense and all the skill talent to capitalize. Pittsburgh’s offense does not generally create many explosive plays, though, and are instead an offense that wins by 1,000 paper cuts.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, have staked their offensive identity on shot plays. Of course, Russell Wilson is arguably the best quarterback at those deep play-action shot plays in the league, but backup and spot starter Geno Smith is still plenty aggressive and capable of those plays himself.
Smith has a good arm and is more than willing to hang in the pocket, to a fault. Smith’s willingness to hang around and look for big plays will probably get him burned once or twice in this game, but it should also generate an explosive or two. Keep in mind he has downfield threats such as Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to work with. We probably should not trust the consistency of the Seattle offense through four quarters of this game, but the volatility is there and Smith just needs to hit the high end for one big play to make good on this prop.