Odds of +350 offered by DraftKings on the Steelers to make the playoffs may not seem very promising for them or their fans, but man, that sounds like they’re a virtual lock compared to where they were last month.
That sportsbook had Pittsburgh’s postseason chances at 30/1 two weeks ago and 10/1 last week. The latter was before the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens Sunday for their third straight win and the New England Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins, tying those two with the Steelers at 8-8 in pursuit of the AFC’s seventh seed.
Due to tiebreakers, the Steelers are behind the others, and to play beyond Week 18 they have to win at home over the Cleveland Browns, against whom they’re favored, while the Patriots and Dolphins must lose against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, respectively. The three games start simultaneously at 1 p.m., with the Pats a touchdown underdog and odds on the Dolphins-Jets game fairly even.
FiveThirtyEight, which a couple weeks ago gave Pittsburgh less than a 1% chance of making the playoffs, had them at 21% Thursday, compared to 42% for Miami and 33% for New England.
It's VERY plausible for the Steelers to make the playoffs. Unbelievable.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 2, 2023
In checking potential payouts at Pennsylvania’s mobile sportsbooks for a three-leg moneyline parlay combining wins by the Steelers, Bills, and Jets, the best that turned up was +343 from PointsBet. Thus, that +350 return from DraftKings on Pittsburgh “to make the playoffs” seems the best option for any Steelers fan looking to be additionally incentivized on that outcome this weekend.
Rookie QB on a roll despite so-so numbers
The Steelers’ 16-13 win in Baltimore was their second straight 3-point victory produced by a last-minute touchdown drive led by Kenny Pickett. The rookie quarterback had yet to become the team’s starter when Pittsburgh lost to Cleveland the first time the two teams met, a 29-17 victory by the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on Sept. 22.
In GW drives against the Raiders and Ravens over the last two weeks, Kenny Pickett completed 10 of 13 pass attempts for 121 yards and two TDs.
— Karl Ludwig (@LudwigKarl8) January 2, 2023
For the final regular-season game, the sportsbooks consistently listed the Steelers Thursday as 2.5-point favorites. At -135, BetMGM was offering bettors the most favorable moneyline return to take them. It also offered the lowest points total at 39.5, while FanDuel, PointsBet, and FOX Bet were the highest at 40.5.
The Browns (7-9) have had their own well-publicized quarterback change, with Deshaun Watson returning from suspension in the season’s 12th game. Cleveland has nothing but pride to play for in Sunday’s contest, having been eliminated from the playoffs, but that was also true last Sunday in playing the spoiler by beating Washington 24-10 to erase the Commanders’ hopes.
In that game, the Browns had their best offensive performance since Watson replaced Jacoby Brissett, as he threw for three touchdowns — two of them to Amari Cooper. Nick Chubb also ran for 104 yards on just 14 carries.
The Steelers defense has been sterling during their recent resurgence, however, with no opponent scoring more than 17 points in the last six games. Their recent success coincides with the return from injury of edge-rushing linebacker T.J. Watt, with whom Pittsburgh is 6-2 since its bye week. (Only two teams in the Super Bowl era have made the playoffs after starting 2-6, but Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and Detroit all have the chance to do so Sunday.)
Pickett has no gaudy statistics to show for his part in the Steelers offense. They’ve been winning with the kind of ground attack they showed against the tough Ravens defense, with their 198 rushing yards led by Najee Harris’ 111 on 22 carries.
Pickett, Harris, and Watt may all be instrumental Sunday in helping the Steelers win so that, at the very least, they provide coach Mike Tomlin with his 16th consecutive non-losing season. As to whether it’s even more meaningful, that depends on what takes place in Miami and Buffalo.
Photo: Jeff Lange/USA TODAY Network