Steelers vs. Seahawks Odds, Picks, Predictions: Can Seattle Cover Sunday Night Spread Without Russell Wilson?
Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Seahawks QB Geno Smith
- Can the Seahawks cover this Sunday Night Football spread against the Steelers without Russell Wilson?
- Our expert doesn't think so -- in fact, with Wilson out, he believes Pittsburgh has the edge on both sides of the ball.
- He analyzes the Steelers vs. Seahawks odds and matchup below.
|Time||8:20 p.m. ET|
For the first time in more than nine years, the Seahawks will take the field without quarterback Russell Wilson, who landed on the Injured Reserve with a finger injury.
In Wilson’s career, the Seahawks are 100-48-1 (67.6%) straight up and 78-64-7 (54.9%) against the spread (ATS). Can they weather the storm of losing Wilson on a trip to Pittsburgh?
Geno Smith, Seahawks Offense Face Daunting Scenario
This is a nightmarish spot for the Seahawks offense without Wilson. A Steelers defense that is tied for fifth with a 28.6% pressure rate (per Pro Football Reference Advanced Stats) will have the benefit of a hostile home crowd of terrible towels against a quarterback in Geno Smith, who has been largely terrible under pressure for his entire career.
While his relief outing last week looked good on the surface as he led a late touchdown drive and completed 10-of-17 passes for 131 yards, Smith was just 2-of-8 for 12 yards with an interception under pressure. This aligns with his performance under pressure in his two full seasons as an NFL starter with the Jets:
- 2013: 40.6% completion pct., 5.5 YPA, 1 TD, 7 INT, 42.6 rating
- 2014: 38.5% completion pct., 5.3 YPA, 5 TD, 5 INT, 52.8 rating
Quarterback stats under Pressure via PFF
Smith undoubtedly has the best receivers he’s ever worked with in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but Smith will struggle to deliver the ball to them consistently if he’s pressured on 1-in-3 dropbacks and most third downs.
Speaking of third down: It was already an issue for the Seahawks even with Wilson, as Seattle ranks just 26th in the league with a 34.7% third-down conversion rate. Even though third-down data can be noisy, the Seahawks are unlikely to improve with Smith at the helm. Not to mention, they’re also unlikely to match their 76.9% red-zone TD percentage on offense without Wilson, especially against a Steelers defense that is ranked fifth with a 43.8% red-zone TD rate allowed.
With Pete Carroll at the helm, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will likely be under a mandate to run the ball early and often. But this is unlikely to work, either, as Seattle is down top running back Chris Carson (IR-neck) and faces a Steelers defense that is ranked sixth in both early-down rushing success rate- allowed (43%) and Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA (+27.4%).
Steelers’ Bad Offense Is Better Than Seahawks’ D
The Seahawks’ best chance to pull off the upset will be capitalizing on the Steelers’ beleaguered offense that features a shaky offensive line and an increasingly washed-up Ben Roethlisberger, who has less mobility and arm strength than ever. The Steelers offense ranks just 22nd in overall DVOA (19th passing, 22nd rushing).
The issue for the Seahawks: Their own defense has been worse than the Steelers offense, ranking 25th in DVOA (28th passing and 17th rushing).
The Seahawks are middling in pressure rate at 25.2% (16th), and the Steelers’ offensive line has been better in pass protection (72.3 PFF grade, seventh) than run-blocking (49.8, 31st). Roethlisberger has a 96.3 rating with five touchdowns and one interception from a clean pocket, compared to a 31.1 rating with one TD and three interceptions under pressure.
The Steelers offense also looks to be trending upward, for a two reasons. The first is that they’ve played a tough schedule of defenses according to DVOA, facing the Bills (first), Bengals (seventh), Broncos (10th), Raiders (13th) and Packers (20th); the Seahawks, at 25th, are easily the worst defense they’ve faced.
The second reason the Steelers offense is trending up is due to a schematic shift. In Weeks 1-4, they favored a zone running scheme that produced dipterous results, especially in terms of yards before contact. But in Week 5, they switched to exclusively a man-blocking scheme, and the shift was massive.
- Weeks 1-4: 3.3 yards per carry, 0.95 yards before contact
- Week 5: 4.2 yards per carry, 1.70 yards before contact
The Steelers’ 35-carry, 147-yard performance against the Broncos last week was all the more impressive considering Denver entered that game allowing just 3.5 yards per carry and 70.0 yards per game.
Seattle’s Cover 3 scheme will allow it to keep eight defenders in the box more than the Broncos did in Vic Fangio’s two-deep scheme, but the Seahawks have been gashed for 145.2 yards per game (second-worst) and 4.5 yards per carry (ninth-worst). The Steelers will likely counter with more heavy personnel, which is another shift they implemented last week, with blocking tight end Zach Gentry and fullback Derek Watt seeing an increase in snaps.
When Roethlisberger takes to the air, he should find open receivers, even without JuJu Smith-Schuster (out-shoulder). Second-year wideout Chase Claypool is 10th in the NFL with 85.3 receiving yards per game, while third-year man Diontae Johnson is 17th at 76.3.
In this game, they may not even need much from their leading receivers if Seattle’s issues at left cornerback continue. Opening-day starter Tre Flowers was released after allowing an 87.5% completion rate, 208 yards, and a TD in his first three games, and Sidney Jones has been smoked for 270 yards and two TDs in two games since taking over as the starter. This sets up as a blowup spot for James Washington, who runs the majority of his routes at left corners and should find himself in single coverage downfield due to Seattle’s single-high scheme.
And if the run game isn’t working with Najee Harris, he can burn the Seahawks through the air, as he is averaging 5.6 catches per game and they’re 27th in DVOA on passes to running backs.
Steelers vs. Seahawks Pick
With Wilson out, the Steelers now have the edge on both sides of the ball. A lot of things are going to have to go right for Seattle to keep this game close, and I’d expect a repeat of last week, where Pittsburgh went up 24-6 on Denver before holding on for a 27-19 win.
The market agrees, as the Steelers have moved from -3.5 to -5 or -5.5 at most sportsbooks.
This is a good sign for the Steelers, as Roethlisberger has covered the spread over 70% of the time across a 32-game sample as a home favorite when the line has moved in the Steelers’ favor by at least one point (but no more than three), per our Action Labs data:
Pick: Steelers -5 (to -5.5)