Betting Preview and Prediction: Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Patrick Mahomes threw for 258 yards and three TDs without an interception in a 36-10 home win over Pittsburgh last month.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Line: Kansas City -12.5

Total: 46

Where: Arrowhead Stadium

When: Sunday, 1/16 at 8:15 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

It took a miracle for Pittsburgh to even make the playoffs, as the Steelers (+3) needed a win over Baltimore and a Jacksonville (+17) win over Indianapolis in Week 18.

Both results came to fruition, giving veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger one last shot at postseason glory. He will be up against a Kansas City team that beat him 36-10 in Week 16.

“We probably aren’t supposed to be here,” Roethlisberger said. “We probably are not a very good football team. Out of 14 teams that are in, we’re probably at number 14. We’re double-digit underdogs in the playoffs.”

They sure are. Oddsmakers opened Kansas City as a 13.5-point favorite, but the early betting action has pushed the line down to -12.5. Some of that movement could be correlated to news that Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire will miss his third straight game with a shoulder contusion.

The total has also seen a downward trend, moving from the opening number of 48 to the current price of 46. Pittsburgh has gone ‘under’ in four of its last six games, while Kansas City has gone ‘over’ in each of its last five games.

The Steelers trailed 23-0 at halftime against the Chiefs three weeks ago. Roethlisberger and co. have struggled to move the ball consistently throughout the season, entering the playoffs at No. 23 in yards per game (315.4). He went just 23 of 35 for 159 yards, one touchdown and one interception in that contest.

Pittsburgh will be hoping rookie running back Najee Harris finds some lanes on Sunday night. Harris has rushed for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns this season, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Wide receiver Diontae Johnson caught a team-high 107 passes for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Steelers will also need a strong performance from their defense, which ranks No. 24 in yards allowed per game (361.1). They are facing a Kansas City offense that is third-best in the league, averaging 396.8 yards per contest. Star defensive end T.J. Watt was banged up when these teams met on Dec. 26, recording just one tackle.

Watt will need to be more of a factor this time around if Pittsburgh wants to slow down Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,839 yards and 37 touchdowns. His top target, speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill, is expected to play through a heel injury on Sunday.

Running back Damian Williams is also ‘probable’ with a toe issue—Williams will receive the bulk of the carries with Edwards-Helaire sidelined. The Chiefs will have tight end Travis Kelce on the field after he missed the Week 16 meeting due to COVID-19 protocol.

Pittsburgh has covered the spread in four of its last six games, including each of its final two regular-season games. Kansas City won nine of its final 10 contests, covering the spread in six of its last eight. The Chiefs enter the postseason on a six-game home winning streak.

The pick: Pittsburgh +12.5

I absolutely love the “nothing to lose” mentality that Pittsburgh has entering the playoffs. No one is expecting much from the Steelers on Sunday night. If head coach Mike Tomlin can do one thing, it is motivating his players. Roethlisberger won’t need any motivation, as this could be the final game of his career. I expect Watt and the defense to perform well above their regular-season numbers, especially against a Kansas City offense that is dealing with some injuries in their backfield. This spread has ticked up 2.5 points from what it closed at when these teams met at Arrowhead in Week 16, but there is way more pressure on Kansas City this time around. The Chiefs have been hot-and-cold over the last two seasons as far as the spread is concerned, but I see some value on Pittsburgh as an ugly ‘dog.

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