Week 15 Preview: Steelers at 49ers
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (10-3)
at SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (10-3)
Kickoff: Monday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
Line: San Francisco -3, Total: 37.5
A couple of 10-win clubs square off in a tremendous Monday Night Football matchup when the Steelers visit the 49ers.
Even with 11 days off since their last game, the Steelers are banged up. QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain last week, and while he limped through the second half, he didn’t look good playing through pain. A potential downgrade to Charlie Batch would be significant, but it appears Roethlisberger will start Monday. The Niners are coming off an upset loss in Arizona, and they are susceptible to the big pass play. Their top-ranked rush defense should neutralize the Pittsburgh running game, but they’ll likely struggle to move the ball against a top-notch Steelers defense. San Fran has been held to less than 250 yards of offense in two of its past three games, both which resulted in defeats. The Steelers have been tremendous a bet after an ATS defeat, going 10-2 ATS in such situations over the past two seasons. The pick here is PITTSBURGH to win and cover.
This FoxSheets trend shows how the Steelers usually rise to the occasion against quality opponents:
PITTSBURGH is 34-13 ATS (72.3%, +19.7 Units) when playing against a top-level team (Win Pct. > 75%) since 1992. The average score was PITTSBURGH 22.1, OPPONENT 18.8 - (Rating = 2*).
Although the Under has occurred in the past three Steelers games and three of the past four 49ers contests, this four-star FoxSheets trend expects the OVER to occur on Monday night:
Play Over - Home teams against the total (SAN FRANCISCO) - after covering the spread in 4 or 5 out of their last 6 games, top level team, winning 75% or more of their games, in the second half of the season. (38-10 over the last 5 seasons.) (79.2%, +27 units. Rating = 4*).
Pittsburgh has won four consecutive games, holding opponents to a mere 36 total points during the win streak. Roethlisberger was nothing short of incredible last week, completing 16-of-21 passes (76%) for 280 yards, 2 TD, and 1 INT despite his painful injury. That equates to 13.3 yards per attempt and a 129.6 passer rating, his fifth passer rating of 115+ this year. If Roethlisberger is unable to go, Batch has done a decent job filling in as his backup, going 4-2 as a starter with an 84.2 passer rating (11 TD, 7 INT) in seven seasons with the Steelers.
Pittsburgh’s ground game has increased its yardage in each of the past four games, going from 70 to 105 to 108 to 136 and to 147 last week. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 76 yards last week, his second-highest total of the year. Although the 49ers sport the league’s top rushing defense (71 YPG), they could be without star LB Patrick Willis (hamstring), whose absence could pave the way for Mendenhall to have another quality performance.
San Francisco has been crushing teams at home this year, winning five straight at Candlestick Park by a combined 144 to 40 score. The Niners are 6-1 SU (6-0-1 ATS) at home on the year, and are out-rushing opponents by an average of 133 to 66 in these seven tilts. Offensively, San Fran continues to possess an erratic rushing attack, gaining 138, 77, 164, 74, 144 and 94 yards over the past six games. The 49ers could struggle again Monday against Pittsburgh’s sixth-best run defense (97 YPG).
But the Steelers also possess the league’s top passing defense, putting even more pressure on Niners QB Alex Smith to perform. Smith’s team has the fourth-fewest passing yards in the NFL, but he has been consistently solid all season, completing 62% of his passes for 2,565 yards (197 YPG), 15 TD and 5 INT. Smith will be able to breathe a bit easier with Steelers ruthless LB James Harrison suspended for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy last Thursday.