Los Angeles Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Chargers -6
Where: SoFi Stadium
When: Sunday, 11/21 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh sorely missed veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s leadership down the stretch of its 16-16 tie against the winless Lions last week.
The Steelers hope to have Big Ben back under center on Sunday night when they travel to SoFi Stadium for a meeting with the Chargers. Roethlisberger missed last week’s game after testing positive for COVID-19—he has cleared the required protocols and is expected to start on Sunday night.
The line movement in this game has been correlated with the Roethlisberger news. Los Angeles opened as a 3.5-point home favorite, but the uncertainty about Pittsburgh’s quarterback situation caused the Chargers to move to -6.
There has been some immediate movement following the latest Big Ben update on Saturday morning, with the line quickly falling to -5. Sunday’s total opened at 48.5 and has been bet down to 47.5.
The Steelers had rattled off four straight wins to get back into contention in the AFC North, but Mason Rudolph was not able to get the job done against Detroit as a 6-point favorite. Rudolph went 30 of 50 passing for 242 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Roethlisberger has not been putting up crazy numbers, but his leadership has certainly contributed to the unbeaten streak that now dates to Oct. 3. Pittsburgh has notched wins over Denver, Seattle, Cleveland and Chicago—three of those four victories came at home.
The Steelers rank No. 24 offensively, averaging 331.1 yards per game. Rookie running back Najee Harris has seen his workload increase of late, rushing for at least 80 yards in four of his last five games. He is facing a Chargers defense that ranks dead-last against the run, allowing 155.1 yards per game.
Los Angeles has not been horrible overall defensively, sitting in the middle of the league (361.1 YAPG). However, its run defense certainly needs to improve moving forward. The Chargers opened the season with a 4-1 record, but they have now lost three of their last four games to barely remain in the playoff picture.
DraftKings has the Chargers listed at -200 to make the playoffs, while Pittsburgh is priced at +175. Los Angeles will be looking to bounce back from a 27-20 loss to Minnesota as a 3.5-point home favorite last week. Quarterback Justin Herbert was held to just 195 passing yards in the loss.
Herbert has now thrown six touchdowns and five interceptions over the last four games—he opened the year with a 13-to-3 TD-to-INT ratio in the first five games. His yards per game average has also dipped from 315.2 to 242.3.
The Los Angeles rushing attack is led by running back Austin Ekeler, who is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Chargers rank tenth offensively in yards per game (370.2), but they are in the bottom third of the league when it comes to rushing yards.
Herbert’s top targets have been wide receivers Keenan Allen (698 yards) and Mike Williams (608 yards). They are going to face a Pittsburgh defense that is No. 13, allowing 348.9 yards per game. However, the Steelers are going to be without cornerback Joe Haden (foot), defensive end T.J. Watt (knee) and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (COVID-19).
“You’ve got to made adjustments with players like that,” Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Keith Butler said of Watt and Fitzpatrick. “They’re two of the best players you’ve got. … Hopefully, the guys will step up. They understand how good of players those guys are. We’re just going to have to give it our best shot and see what happens.”
Pittsburgh is 2-6 against the spread in its last eight games, going ‘under’ the total in six of its last eight road games. Los Angeles is 9-4 ATS in its last 13 games and has gone ‘under’ in 10 of its last 15 overall.
The pick: Los Angeles -6
It has sounded like Roethlisberger has been trending towards playing throughout the week, so this line moving from -6 to -5 based on Saturday morning’s update is probably nothing but some bettors trying to get cute. I am not buying that line move and I am also not buying the Steelers in this game. The return of Big Ben is not as impactful as Pittsburgh’s key absences on the defensive side of the ball. Herbert is capable of torching an injury-riddled defense, especially in a home game where he feels comfortable. The Chargers have been undervalued in the betting market dating back to last season, while Pittsburgh has been the opposite story. I don’t think the Steelers have the firepower to crawl out of an early hole on Sunday night.