Lions vs. Steelers Odds, Predictions, NFL Picks: How Ben Roethlisberger Impacts This Spread
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Jared Goff No. 16 of the Detroit Lions and teammates
- With late-breaking news that Ben Roethlisberger will miss Sunday's game, Lions vs. Steelers odds have swung substantially.
- Pittsburgh went from an 8- to a 6-point favorite while the over/under fell from 43 to 40.5 points, where the odds sit as of Sunday morning.
Lions vs. Steelers Odds
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via Gun Lake. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
Editor’s Note: This preview was written before news broke that Ben Roethlisberger would be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and miss Sunday’s matchup. Our analyst now sees slight value on the Steelers if you’re desparate for action, but would not recommend chasing the steam on the Lions.
Two of the NFL’s oldest teams will go at it in Pittsburgh on Sunday when Dan Campbell leads his hard-playing Lions into a battle with Mike Tomlin’s Steelers.
The last time Detroit won a football game in Pittsburgh, Dwight Eisenhower was president. The Lions have not won in Pittsburgh since the start of the Super Bowl era. If the market is correct, that streak will likely not end Sunday — the Steelers have a roughly 77% chance of winning based on the moneyline.
To end their woes against the Steelers, the Lions would need to break another streak — their eight-game losing streak to start to the season. While this team has had some heartbreaking losses this year, the Lions have been largely uncompetitive. Many, including myself, can’t wait to see what a Campbell press conference after a win will be like. In all likelihood, though, we’ll be waiting at least another week.
This game features two struggling offenses, one good defense and a defense that is getting healthier. The forecast in Steel City is calling for low 40s and potential rain or snow.
Sound like an under game?
The total here has ticked down from 44 to 42/43 across the board, but don’t worry. There’s still a little room to bet against points.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Lions vs. Steelers Injury Report
- RB Jamaal Williams (thigh): Out
- K Austin Seibert (right hip): Out
- OLB Austin Bryant (shoulder): Questionable
- T Taylor Decker (finger): Questionable
- WR Chase Claypool (toe): Out
Lions vs. Steelers Matchup
|Lions Offense||DVOA Rank||Steelers Defense|
|Lions Defense||DVOA Rank||Steelers Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Lions Offense is Worse Than Advertised
If you blindly told Lions fans they traded for a former Super Bowl runner-up quarterback in the offseason, they’d probably have been pretty happy.
When you reveal that you meant Jared Goff, the grins would quickly turn to frowns.
Life for Goff was good early on in Los Angeles, but his limitations were always clear. He couldn’t play outside of structure, struggled with decision making and could not play in any sort of bad weather. Since the trade to Detroit, those faults have become even more exposed.
Evaluating the Lions offense is not a fun endeavor, but there are some important things to note. In all situations, the Lions are 24th in success rate and 30th in Expected Points Added (EPA) per play. These are bad but would not indicate that this offense is the worst in the NFL.
However, if you strip out garbage time (win probability less than 6%), the Lions fall to 31st in EPA per play and 31st in success rate. They are dead last in both passing metrics, even behind the Houston Texans. This Detroit team has had some success in garbage time — like Week 1 against the 49ers — and that has buoyed their metrics to some extent.
How Can The Lions Score Here?
The Steelers defense was the best unit in the NFL last year. While there’s been some regression in 2021 — mainly in the secondary — Pittsburgh still has a number of advantages against this Lions offense.
Pittsburgh’s passing defense is middle-of-the-pack in terms of EPA per play allowed and success rate allowed through the air. Those metrics are better when adjusting for opponent — the Steelers have only played two below-average offenses this season (the Russell Wilson-less Seahawks and Bears).
The secondary has been exposed by teams that have multiple weapons in the passing game. Joe Haden is still a fine corner at age 32, but the other CBs — Cam Sutton, Arthur Maulet and James Pierre — are very beatable.
Is Detroit the team that can exploit that? Not really. Detroit lacks a top receiving option, and its receiving corps are led by Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown. The Lions claimed Josh Reynolds off of waivers from Tennessee this week, but I don’t expect him to contribute much in his first game.
Pittsburgh’s strength is on the defensive line, where this team ranks top five in pressure rate and pass rush win rate. The Steelers do this while blitzing at a bottom-five rate in the NFL since T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward are enough to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Detroit will get a boost this weekend when left tackle Taylor Decker returns from a finger injury. Decker is a very good player and has anchored the left side of the Lions offensive line since he was drafted in 2016. His return will shift Penei Sewell to right tackle, although he’s only had tackle reps on the left side this season. Sewell is a masher in the run game, so maybe Detroit can find success on the ground.
Steelers Bugged By Injuries
The offensive line was the main concern entering the season for Pittsburgh, and those concerns have been validated. It’s an extremely young unit and is bottom five in both pass block and rush block win rate.
Ben Roethlisberger is getting the ball out fast, masking some of the offensive-line issues, although he was still on the injury report before the Bears game.
Pittsburgh’s offense took another hit when wide receiver Chase Claypool landing on the injury report with a toe problem. It looks like he’s going to avoid surgery, but his status is up in the air this week. The Steelers are already missing JuJu Smith-Schuster, which leaves them with just Diontae Johnson and James Washington on the outside and Ray-Ray McCloud in the slot.
Does it matter against Detroit? The Lions have had the worst passing defense in the NFL by far, giving up a full yard per play more than Jacksonville, which ranks 31st. Detroit is dead last in EPA per dropback allowed and 31st in passing success rate.
The Lions’ secondary has been hit hard by the injury bug, starting in Week 1 when cornerback Jeff Okudah tore his Achilles. Then cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu hurt his thigh in Week 2 and has been out since, leaving the Lions starting multiple undrafted rookies in the secondary. Even converted safety Will Harris had to play corner because undrafted rookie AJ Parker also got hurt.
Reinforcements are on the way this week, though, as Melifonwu is off the IR and may play, and Parker is also returning. I’m not going to pretend that this will no longer be a horrible passing defense, but with some healthier bodies and an extra week of prep, maybe this unit will have more success.
NFL Pick: Lions vs. Steelers
Editor’s Note: This pick was made before news broke that Ben Roethlisberger would miss Sunday’s game. Our analyst’s updated projections are close to the market — he now sees a small edge on Pittsburgh if you’re desparate for action, but recommends not chasing the steam on Detroit at this point.
There’s some love in the market this weekend for the Lions, and I understand why. Only five of the Steelers’ 16 wins since the start of last season have come by more than one score. And remarkably, every single Pittsburgh drive this season when the Steelers have led by 14 points or more has resulted in a three and out. That stems from Tomlin’s general conservative approach.
I can’t touch this Detroit team with a 10-foot pole when Goff is outdoors in potentially bad weather. But the Steelers’ wide receiver injuries, coupled with a potentially healthier Lions’ secondary, make me more bearish on Pittsburgh’s offensive output Sunday.
Better numbers on this total were available on Monday and Tuesday, but this is still an under look for me. I don’t mind the Steelers’ team total under either, but getting to fade Goff outdoors is too much to pass up.
Pittsburgh also presents a good teaser option, going from -8 to -2.
Pick: Under 43 | Bet to: 41.5
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