Anaheim, CA (PressExposure) December 10, 2009 -- Is it too soon to tag this as a must-win for the Steelersâ¦.I suggest absolutely not. A loss here would be devastating for the defending champs.
The Steelers donât want to be reminded about how many times theyâve beaten Cleveland the past five years. For all theyâre concerned this matchup has the importance of a playoff game. Pittsburgh is one of four AFC teams with a 6-6 record on the season and of those four they are by far in the worst slump.
The latest of those four straight losses â a 27-24 home defeat in which they surrendered 21 fourth quarter points to the Oakland Raiders â may have stung the most. Everyone is sharing the blame, but itâs been whoâs not in the lineup more than who is, that seems like the biggest problem.
Without Troy Polamalu the Steelers are 2-5 this season and now it looks like he may not return at all this year. For a pass rush thatâs struggled, taking away their playmaker has left the Steelers secondary vulnerable and no one has stepped up in Polamaluâs absence.
Cleveland QB Brady Quinn will make his first career start against Pittsburgh and with nothing to lose, we can expect to see the Browns attack with the deep ball to test a defense on a short week of preparation. The Steelers rush defense has allowed 92.5 yards per game during this four-game slump, nearly 40-percent more than the teamâs first half numbers, but Clevelandâs run-by-committee ground game has yet to appoint a proven leader.
Online sportsbooks have been under pressure from bettors hitting the Total on this game. The number opened at 36 but with money pouring in on the âUnderâ, it has moved down to 33.5 at many sportsbooks. The reason is a combo of a bad weather forecast and the fact neither offense is clicking. Pittsburgh will likely be missing their top receiver in Hines Ward, Big Ben is fresh off that concussion and the Brown offense is, wellâ¦the Brown offense.
SPORTSBETTING.com is reporting almost 70% of the money wagered on the Total has been placed on the âUnderâ.
Looking at the Football Betting [http://www.sportsbetting.com/betting-odds/] action on the side, it has been Pittsburgh money all the way. Laying 10-points, clearly bettors are hoping that QB Ben Roethlisberger will still find success against a Browns secondary that was shredded for 394 passing yards last week by San Diego.
Big Ben admitted this week that although the light is small at the end of what looks like a very long tunnel, his team is still confident.
The Browns will need to perform above their normal level if they hope to win this game straight-up and the NFLâs 29th ranked run defense will be under pressure all day. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 103 yards against Oakland but it was his first time hitting triple-digits since the teamâs Week 9 win at Denver.
Pittsburghâs back is up against the wall and while I see a win, Iâm not comfortable laying double digits with this current Steeler team.
I do like the âOverâ though, going against the sports betting public. I expect the Steelers to score 20-plus, but I also think this Cleveland offense opens the playbook up more this week and starts to stretch the field.
Good luck and enjoy the Thursday nighter.
You can check all the NFL Thursday Night Football Odds [http://www.sportsbetting.com/betting-odds/]