Ravens’ COVID Cases Have Boosted Steelers’ Odds For Season Sweep Of Them

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Note: This story has been updated.

The Steelers have an undefeated record, their first partnership with a sports betting operator, and postponement of Thanksgiving night’s matchup as a near-touchdown favorite over the Baltimore Ravens.

The divisional rivalry game that had been scheduled for 8:20 p.m. Thursday will instead be played Sunday afternoon, the NFL announced at mid-day Wednesday, with more details to follow. The rescheduling was due to COVID-19 cases among the Ravens, who have had the status of at least six players jeopardized by either testing positive or coming in close contact with players who tested positive.

The betting line had already shifted in the Steelers’ favor during the week as the COVID announcements mounted. Before announcement of the postponement, they were giving 5 to 5.5 points to the Ravens at Pennsylvania’s 10 online/mobile sportsbooks.

None of those 10 is BetMGM, but that operator hopes to be in the state soon, which it demonstrated this week by becoming the first gaming partner of the Steelers in order to gain various marketing/sponsorship advantages with one of the NFL’s premier franchises.

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Teams tracking in opposite directions

The Steelers and Ravens met in Baltimore Nov. 1 with the Ravens favored by more than a field goal and still the favorite to win the AFC North, even though the Steelers were a game ahead in the standings beforehand.

Pittsburgh won, 28-24, and has never looked back in rolling to a 10-0 record. For Baltimore, it was the start of a downturn in which it has lost three out of four – including Sunday’s overtime loss to the Tennessee Titans — and fallen to 6-4, a game behind the Browns in the division.

Taking that into account along with the coronavirus, FanDuel, FOX Bet, Caesars, and BetAmerica all had the Steelers as 5.5-point favorites Wednesday morning. The sites using Kambi odds (DraftKings, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Unibet, Barstool, Parx) favored Pittsburgh by 5.

The best moneyline bet for a Steelers backer was the -225 being offered by DraftKings, FOX Bet, BetRivers, and PlaySugarHouse.

The over/under has been set at 45 by the Kambi sites and 44.5 by the rest.

The Ravens rushed for 265 yards against the Steelers Nov. 1, so it is notable that two of their running backs, J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram, are unavailable as COVID-19 cases. They still have Gus Edwards, who ran for 87 yards in that game, in addition to Lamar Jackson’s scrambling ability.

The Steelers have no COVID cases, meanwhile, after getting their second tight end, Vance McDonald, back from that list. They had no need for him anyway Sunday in manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars, 27-3.

Can Steelers run the table?

The lack of a strong running game has been the only perceived weakness in the Steelers as they have knocked off one opponent after another in becoming just the 16th team in the past half-century to win its first 10 games.

Only two of those — the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots — finished the regular season undefeated. That means the Steelers are still a longshot to go 16-0, with FanDuel currently making those odds +700 and DraftKings offering the bet at a less profitable +500.

Most sites offering Super Bowl futures make the Steelers +550 to claim a seventh Lombardi Trophy in February, behind only the Kansas Chiefs (generally +300).

For those interested in betting Pittsburgh to at least come out ahead of K.C. as AFC champion, the best wager would be with FanDuel at +270.

For individual player props, linebacker T.J. Watt is now the favorite at all sites offering Defensive Player of the Year, with his +220 price ahead of Aaron Donald’s +250.

While the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is an odds-on favorite (-125) to win MVP, Ben Roethlisberger can be had at 20/1 on FanDuel by those thinking he could jump ahead if Mahomes stumbles and the Steelers go undefeated. For Comeback Player of the Year, meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s veteran QB stands well behind Washington’s Alex Smith, +400 to -650.

Promos can give a bettor an edge

Some of the betting sites have special promos worth checking out for Steelers-Ravens or the still-scheduled Thanksgiving Day contests (Texans-Lions and Washington-Cowboys), with a good chance more could be added this week to those already showing up.

Among those already available:

  • FanDuel has its “risk-free same game parlay” available for any of the Thanksgiving games. Bet three or more legs, and you get a refund of up to $10 in site credit if you lose.
  • DraftKings rewards those betting $20 or more on either side of the moneyline in Ravens-Steelers with a $10 free bet on that team to win the AFC North.
  • FOX Bet offers a “super boost” of an even-money wager on Roethlisberger to throw at least two TD passes vs. the Ravens (maximum wager $10).

BetMGM signs with Steelers in advance of launch

The Steelers waited longer than many franchises to recognize the world of legalized sports betting by entering an agreement with an operator, and the one they finally chose might be considered unusual.

BetMGM has been approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a sports betting license, but as it has no casino in the state, it cannot set up its sportsbook unless an existing casino accepts a partnership with it.

No such arrangement has been announced, but a press release from MGM Resorts International Tuesday heralded “BetMGM will become an Official Sports Betting Partner of the Pittsburgh Steelers once their online sports betting product launches later this year.”

The announcement described advertising and sponsorships BetMGM will have with the Steelers Kickoff pregame show, the Mike Tomlin Show, and other radio shows and media. BetMGM will also create a sweepstakes contest giving away prizes such as season tickets.

“Steelers Nation is one of the most passionate fan bases in professional sports and we’re thrilled to bring the excitement of BetMGM to Steelers fans,” said Matt Prevost, BetMGM chief revenue officer. “We’re eager to launch BetMGM’s gaming offering in Pennsylvania and I can’t think of a better way to kick off our entry into the state than through this monumental partnership.”

The press release said BetMGM expects to launch its online casino gaming site in Pennsylvania “within the coming weeks” and its sports betting platform before the end of the year.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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