Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Steelers posted a 38-second clip of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger working out and throwing passes to teammates JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner. It was a big moment for Big Ben, marking the first time he has been able to throw passes since suffering a season-ending elbow injury back in September.
The Steelers enter 2020 with high hopes thanks in large part to the return of their 2-time Super Bowl champion winning quarterback. After losing Roethlisberger in Week 2 last season, Pittsburgh showed heart and battled their way to 8-8. They rebounded from a 1-4 start to go 7-4 the rest of the way, just barely missing out on the playoffs in the final week of the season. Pittsburgh was led by a stout defense and remained in contention despite starting Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges behind center for the bulk of the season.
Big Ben is neck-and-neck with Rob Gronkowski for Comeback Player of the Year. Roethlisberger is a + 250 favorite to win the award at FanDuel with Gronk the runner up at + 300. However, DraftKings has Big Ben at + 400 to win the award, with Gronk the favorite at + 300. This discrepancy is a perfect example of how critical it is to have multiple outs and shop for the best line. If you like Roethlisberger to win the award, you can get a much better payout at DraftKings compared to FanDuel.
In terms of personal stats, Roethlisberger's over/under for passing yards in 2020 is set at 4,000.5 at DraftKings. His passing touchdown over/under is 27.5.
With Roethlisberger back, how good can the Steelers be this season?
According to the oddsmakers, Pittsburgh is looking at roughy a 9-7 or 10-6 record for the 2020 campaign. The interesting thing is that their season win total is different at nearly every book.
At DraftKings, Pittsburgh's win total is 8.5 with heavy -125 juice to the over (the under is + 103). FanDuel is set at 9 with even -110 juice on both sides. Circa Sports has 9 with heavy -130 over juice (the under is + 110). And PointsBet is 9.5 with heavy -140 under juice (the over is + 115).
This is another perfect example of how critical shopping for the best line can be. Pittsburgh went 8-8 without Big Ben last season. So you would think his return is worth at least a 1-game improvement to 9-7. Despite paying the heavy price, betting the over 8.5 at DraftKings seems to be the top play. The over 9 is also key so that a 9-7 record pushes instead of losing if you bet over 9.5.
Another reason to like the over: the Steelers have the 2nd easiest strength of schedule this upcoming season. Their opponents had just a .457 win percentage last season. Only the division-rival Ravens have an easier schedule this season (.438).
Here is the Steelers' schedule. Can you count 10 wins? Playing the Bengals twice, the Redskins, Jaguars and Giants gets you halfway there
Week 1 at Giants
Week 2 vs Broncos
Week 3 vs Texans
Week 4 at Titans
Week 5 vs Eagles
Week 6 vs Browns
Week 7 at Ravens
Week 8 Bye
Week 9 at Cowboys
Week 10 vs Bengals
Week 11 at Jaguars
Week 12 vs Ravens
Week 13 vs Redskins
Week 14 at Bills
Week 15 at Bengals
Week 16 vs Colts
Week 17 at Browns
Pittsburgh is a -121 favorite to make the playoffs at DraftKings (+ 100 to miss the postseason). The Steelers are + 350 dogs to win the AFC North (Baltimore is the favorite at -200 with Cleveland + 500 and Cincinnati + 2000).
The Steelers are + 1400 to win the AFC, which is tied for the 4th best odds with the Bills, Colts and Titans. Only the Chiefs (+ 280), Ravens (+ 333) and Patriots (+ 1200) are higher.
Pittsburgh is + 2800 to win the Super Bowl.
In addition to welcoming back Big Ben, the Steelers also added to the offense weaponry this offseason, signing tight end Eric Ebron in free agency and drafting 6-4 Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool in the 2nd round.