Since Mike Tomlin’s arrival as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007, the team has had its up years and its middle years, but never a “down” year — if by that, one means a losing season.
The oddsmakers, however, are projecting just that to happen this year to stain what has been a mostly sterling record of achievement by the franchise under Tomlin, whose teams have gone 154-85-2 in the regular season. The over/under on Steelers wins in 2022 has been set at 7.5 before they start their season, with a close but tough road trip to play the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
Tomlin’s 15 straight seasons without a losing record are the most in history by an NFL coach starting his career. One thing he had on his side — and frequently at his side — in all that time was future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger, who retired at the end of last season after 18 years running the Steelers offense.
Most consecutive seasons of .500+ to begin career in NFL history
Mike Tomlin 15*
Marty Schottenheimer 14
Don Shula 13
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) September 7, 2022
The rather gloomy forecast for Pittsburgh this year — far and away given the longest odds to win the AFC North among the four teams — has a lot to do with uncertainty over the success the offense will have replacing Big Ben with either new starter Mitch Trubisky, backup/heir apparent Kenny Pickett, or backup-backup Mason Rudolph.
All three performed quite capably in the preseason. As for NFL regular-season games, none has won any plaudits as of yet. It may be up to a defense with returning stars T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick to keep intact Tomlin’s record of having a team that is at least decent, if not good or great.
Losing season could still beat win total
Examining how Pennsylvania’s many legal online sportsbooks list the futures odds on the Steelers win total, there is some variation in the pricing, even if they all agree 7.5 is the right number to attract action both ways. Those betting the over — you can win the bet with eight Steelers victories even if Tomlin’s streak is snapped by an 8-9 season — would be best using -105 pricing by either FanDuel or BetMGM. Doubters betting the under can get an even-money (+100) price on that at Caesars Sportsbook.
There is pessimism that the Steelers will make the playoffs, again despite doing so two-thirds of the time under Tomlin. The odds against it generally are 3/1 to 4/1, with the best return offered to a successful Pittsburgh backer being the +350 from DraftKings and Betway.
And here are the best odds available — long though they be — to reward a bettor believing the Steelers will vastly exceed expectations:
Winning AFC North: 11/1 (Caesars)
AFC Championship: 50/1 (DraftKings, Betway, Caesars)
Super Bowl title: 90/1 (DraftKings, Betway)
Player props to consider
Some of the Steelers’ hopes for 2022 rest with the potential of their top two draft choices, Pickett and wide receiver George Pickens. Penn Bets previously noted both are among top choices to be selected Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Among other futures bets that can be made before Sunday’s season start, Watt is the returning Defensive Player of the Year, and Betfred offers odds of 8/1 on him to win it again. It and other sites put him behind only the Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett. Trubisky, meanwhile, is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, listed at 12/1 by DraftKings.
And there are a number of prop bets that can be made on individual players’ season performance, both offensively and defensively. They include:
Najee Harris: over/under 1100.5 rushing yards (-106 to bet the over at FanDuel)
Diontae Johnson: o/u 950.5 receiving yards (-110 to bet the over at FOX Bet)
Chase Claypool: o/u 725.5 receiving yards (-110 to bet the over at Caesars)
Watt: o/u 13.5 sacks at Caesars (-125) or o/u 14.5 sacks at FanDuel (-112)
Fitzpatrick: o/u 2.5 interceptions (-112 at FanDuel)
As for Sunday’s opener …
Those uninterested in tying up their money in futures bets are likely far more intrigued by Sunday’s opening game, which has the Steelers as serious underdogs — as they were a year ago when they went into Buffalo and upset the Bills to kick off the season.
On Friday morning, the sportsbooks consistently favored Cincinnati by a 6.5-point spread, with FOX Bet and its even-money price for Pittsburgh representing the best outlet for Steelers Nation.
The best moneyline return on the Steelers was the +235 from DraftKings, Betway, and sites using Kambi odds such as BetRivers, Unibet, and TwinSpires. Those betting the over would want to consider the 44 being offered by PointsBet at reduced -107 vig, while under bettors could find 44.5 at BetMGM and elsewhere.
The Joe Burrow-led Bengals come into the game with high expectations after their unexpected run last year, though odds generally have them second behind the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh in both meetings last year, including a 41-10 rout at home in what is now known as Paycor Stadium. It wasn’t Burrow but returning running back Joe Mixon who did the most damage in those contests, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, including a 165-yard game.
Photo: Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY