Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Pittsburgh -14
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
When: Monday, 12/21, at 8:15 p.m. ET
Pittsburgh might be on a two-game losing skid, but the early Monday Night Football betting action has still been on the big road favorite.
The Steelers opened as 11.5-point road favorites over Cincinnati. They were bet up to -13 as of Friday afternoon, and they were -14 at most spots on Monday morning. Tonight’s total has moved from 43.5 to 40.5 points, as bettors are expecting a low-scoring game.
This one sets up as a nice bounce back spot for the Steelers, who beat the Bengals 36-10 in the first meeting of the year. Pittsburgh started the season with an 11-0 record before losing consecutive games to Washington and Buffalo.
The Steelers were only able to pick up 224 yards against a Bills defense that has not been particularly great this season. Their offense averaged 30 points per game during the first 10 games, but they are only scoring 17 per contest over the last three.
Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has struggled, throwing five touchdowns and four interceptions over the three-game stretch. He entered those games with a 24-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Roethlisberger completed 27 of 46 attempts for 333 yards and four touchdowns in the blowout win over the Bengals in mid-November. His trio of wide receivers have also cooled off, dropping passes galore in the club’s last three games.
Diontae Johnson leads the team with 69 receptions for 694 yards, but he has had issues catching the ball lately. Head coach Mike Tomlin benched him for part of last week’s loss to Buffalo after a few early drops.
Rookie Chase Claypool and Juju Smith-Schuster have been reliable weapons this season. Running back James Conner has been decent, averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 155 attempts.
They will be facing a Cincinnati defense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL, allowing 382.3 yards per game. It will be without defensive tackle Geno Atkins for the rest of the season, as he is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Offensively, the Bengals are an entirely different team without rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. They covered the spread at a 6-1-1 clip in the first half of the season, earning him the moniker “Backdoor Burrow.”
Since then, the Bengals have averaged 10 points per game, including just seven in each of their last two games. Quarterback Brandon Allen has thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions during his three starts, but he’s ‘questionable’ tonight with a knee injury. Ryan Finley will get the starting nod vs. Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old North Carolina St. product has completed 10 of 19 passes for 75 yards with two interceptions in four games this year.
There are some weapons in the passing game, but they have been underutilized since Burrow went down. Tyler Boyd leads the team with 78 receptions for 840 yards and Tee Higgins has added 58 catches for 778 yards. Veteran A.J. Green has fallen off, catching just 41 passes for 419 yards.
They will be going up against a Pittsburgh defense that is ranked third in the NFL, allowing 303.1 yards per game. The Steelers are very balanced, coming in at No. 2 against the pass and No. 6 against the run.
This rivalry has been one-way traffic of late, with Pittsburgh covering at a 10-3-2 clip in the last 15 meetings. The Steelers have won their last 10 games in Cincinnati, but they are just 2-4 ATS in their last six games this season. Cincinnati has covered in four of its last five home games, but is 1-4 ATS in its last five games overall.
The pick: Pittsburgh -14
This game has all the makings of a blowout. Pittsburgh desperately needs to get back on track after a pair of duds and Cincinnati is the perfect opponent to beat up on. The Bengals have no semblance of offense and now they have to face one of the best defenses in the NFL. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, should have a “get-right” day on offense against the Cincinnati defense. This is a rivalry game and the Steelers are disappointed with how they have played lately, so I do not see margin being an issue. They have been excellent at covering the number in this series.