Bengals vs. Steelers Betting Odds & Picks: Can Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Hang in Primetime?
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (2).
Bengals at Steelers Betting Odds
- Odds: Steelers -3
- Total: 45
- Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: ESPN
Odds as of Sunday evening and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
The Steelers’ post-Ben Roethlisberger outlook seems bleak. They’re 0-3 and Mason Rudolph lost his first start. Now they host a division rival in primetime as small home favorites.
Can they cover?
Our analysts break down this AFC North showdown from every angle, complete with projected odds and a staff pick.
Bengals-Steelers Injury Report
Which team is healthier? Steelers
Pittsburgh’s main injury is TE Vance McDonald (shoulder), who is listed as doubtful for this game. Outside of that, the Steelers look pretty good.
The Bengals have been struggling to stay healthy so far and will be without OL Cordy Glenn (concussion) and DT Ryan Glasnow (thigh). DL Carl Lawson (hamstring) is also listed as doubtful. — Justin Bailey
Note: Info as of Sunday.
Steelers Running Backs vs. Bengals Linebackers
The Bengals have been straight-up brutalized by opposing backfields to open the year, and although the defensive line is partially at fault, the bulk of the blame goes to linebackers Nick Vigil and Preston Brown, who have both been exposed on the ground and in coverage.
In Weeks 1-3, the Bengals allowed top-three marks of 188.3 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage per game to opposing backfields.
The Bengals are fortunate to be only No. 28 in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA with a 5.2% mark. They are at their worst in the intermediate range of the field, where they rank No. 31 with 1.75 second-level yards allowed per run: Once opposing backs get 5-10 yards past the line of scrimmage, the Bengals linebackers have been incapable of limiting yardage.
To make matters worse, the Bengals are No. 31 against running backs with a 45.4% pass-defense DVOA. Last year, they also No. 31, with a 22.0% mark.
On the ground or through the air, they can’t stop anyone.
One of their main problems is that they have a league-worst Pro Football Focus tackling grade of 39.7. Even when Bengals defenders get close to ball carriers, they struggle to bring them down.
Vigil and Brown specifically have been among the worst defenders on the team, and that’s reflected in their PFF grades.
- Nick Vigil: 37.2 overall, 49.4 run defense, 35.3 coverage
- Preston Brown: 59.5 overall, 58.6 run defense, 60.8 coverage
The Steelers have struggled this year on offense, especially without Ben Roethlisberger, but they’re at home in a must-win game facing a division opponent they have consistently dominated.
To make life easier on Rudolph, they are likely to lean on the running game and design easy completions for him with short passes to running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, both of whom are strong receivers.
The Steelers have had great continuity on their offensive line for years, and they have returned all five of their starters from last season, so I expect them to make headway on the ground against the Bengals front seven.
If the Steelers are committed to protecting their young quarterback with the ground game and short-passing attack — and I don’t know why they wouldn’t be — the Steelers backs could collectively put together a 200-yard, two-touchdown performance. — Matthew Freedman
Sean Koerner’s Projected Odds
- Projected Spread: Steelers -3
- Projected Total: 43.5
Despite a +3 turnover margin in Week 3, the Steelers still managed to lose to San Francisco, 24-20. There is no reason to have them anything more than a 3-point home favorite against the Bengals.
We need to significantly lower our expectations for the Steelers with Roethlisberger out for the season. Rudolph does not look ready to fill Big Ben’s shoes in a way that can get them back into the playoff hunt. I’m also speculating that Devlin Hodges could make some starts at some point this season.
This line could very well could go back to 3.5 before kickoff, in which case, it’s worth fading the Steelers. You could also buy the extra half point for cheap, but this is a no bet for me unless it’s +3.5 or better. — Sean Koerner
PRO System Match
Underdogs have historically performed well in division games as increased familiarity among opponents keeps games competitive, and it’s been profitable to bet small dogs in these matchups to win outright.
Even though teams matching this Pro System have a losing record of 110-113-2, bettors have still been able to turn a profit due to plus-money bets. A $100 gambler would have returned a profit of $4,770 following this strategy since 2003.
The Bengals +176 are a match for this system. — John Ewing
Ewing: Over 45
The Steelers scored 20 points in a Week 3 loss to the 49ers. The Bengals also struggled to get their offense going, managing only 17 points of offense in a loss to the Bills.
Unsurprisingly, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati each went under their Week 3 total. It’s natural given their recent offensive struggles that bettors would want to wager on this under. But history says the over has value.
Since 2003, the over is 480-437-12 (52.3%) in games when both teams went under the previous week.
Oddsmakers know recreational gamblers tend to chase results. If both teams went under in their past game, the bookmakers will shade the total to the under anticipating public money.
This strategy works the best early in the season when we can take advantage of bettors putting too much emphasis on a small sample of team performances.
Since 2003, in Weeks 2-4, it’s been profitable — to the tune of 110-68-1 (61.8%) — to bet the over when both teams went under the previous week. Despite the Bengals being 25th in points per game and the Steelers being 28th, don’t be surprised if the teams go over this total.