NFL Odds & Preview — Steelers-Rams: Will Mason ‘Jar’ L.A.’s Defense?


When Ben Rothelisberger has been ruled out of action in the past, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t been able to accomplish a whole lot. And they could have, in a sense, laid down after Big Ben suffered a season-ending injury. But there is a lot of time left on the schedule, and this team is determined to make a playoff run. With three straight victories, they play host to the Los Angeles Rams in a game that will start at 4:25 PM ET at Heinz Field.

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It could have been panic time when Mason Rudolph was pressed into action, but it wasn’t. The Steelers knew that their second-year quarterback out of Oklahoma State lacked real game experience, so they started him off with a package that included short passes that didn’t carry a lot of risk with them. Rudolph got more and more comfortable, and has gradually worked his way into a situation where he can run the whole playbook, so to speak.

As we go into this game, Rudolph is sitting with a pretty decent QB rating of 94.7, which is actually higher than that of his opposite number, Jared Goff, who is at 86.8.

Despite consecutive wins where they outscored their opponents by a 61-20 margin, the Rams have not looked too imposing, especially when the opposition has offered more resistance. And of course, Todd Gurley has not been a dominant force by any measure. Gurley is averaging just 3.9 yards a carry and has caught only 15 passes. You can’t really say that injuries from last year have had a huge carry-over effect, but rather the offensive line has had a disappointing campaign. For one thing, they have allowed opposing pass rusher to mount more quarterback “hurries” than all other teams but one. And Pittsburgh has 29 QB sacks.

In the NFL odds that have been posted on this game, the Rams are favored on the road:

Los Angeles Rams -4 (-105)
Pittsburgh Steelers +4 (-105)

Over 43 points (-105)
Under 43 points (-105)

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Last year the Rams made it to the Super Bowl allowing 4.8 yards per rush. This year that number has been trimmed to 3.6 (third best in the league) and there can be several things attributed to this. One is that they have been playing with less of an average lead – 2.9 points this year as opposed to 5.6 last season. That means they have been playing against teams that have been more apt to run the ball in so-called “normal” situations.

Yeah, there is going to be a test here for the Steelers. James Conner is out. And you’ve got Aaron Donald returning to his hometown and staring at you on the other side of the line. What the Steelers might be able to get out of this is some pretty good service out of Jaylen Samuels, who was a forgotten man early in the season but now a target out of the backfield (26 catches) and a guy who can run some of those wildcat plays.

Pittsburgh has the ability to mitigate any effects of the Rams’ pass rush. The offensive line has surrendered fewer sacks, on a percentage basis, than any team in the NFL.

Sean McVay has lost only once to an AFC team, and that was in the Super Bowl. But that game afforded ideas to a lot of defensive coordinators. And the Steelers have nine first-round draft picks on that defense. And they’ve covered eight of their last nine as an underdog. So we are grabbing the points.

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