The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be without one of their top offensive weapons when they go to action against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card game on Saturday (8:15 PM ET). But because it is only ONE of their great offensive weapons, this team may have the wherewithal to be able to get by without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. NFL betting action will take place at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with the Steelers earning a home game by winning the AFC North with a 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend.
This is a team that has had a trio of weapons – a “Big Three,” if you will – to rival anything in NFL history. Ben Roethlisberger came up just short of 5000 yards passing this year, and he threw six touchdowns in a game in back-to-back weeks, including a sizzling performance against this Baltimore team in a 43-23 victory. After that game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was upset enough with his secondary to get rid of a couple of defensive backs.
There is indeed a challenge in replacing Bell, who not only had 1361 yards rushing to rank second in the league, but also caught 83 passes from Roethlisberger. They will start things off with Josh Harris, who joined the team during training camp and was undrafted out of Wake Forest. The Steelers are going into this game with low expectations of Harris, so expect that the entire offense will be centered around the passing game.
Roethlisberger is probably one of those quarterbacks who can put the running game on the shelf anyway. Pittsburgh threw the ball 60% of the time this season, and the main target, of course, was Antonio Brown, who caught 129 passes, the second-most ever in a regular-season. In that most recent encounter with Baltimore, Brown had 11 catches for 144 yards.
But he is by no means the only outlet Roethlisberger has to throw to. Complementary weapons exist in the persons of Markus Wheaton (644 yards), Martavis Bryant, who averaged 21 yards a catch and scored eight touchdowns, and tight end Heath Miller, who had 66 receptions. And advanced statistics put forth by the website Pro Football Focus rated Pittsburgh’s offensive line as third-best in the league in protecting their quarterback. They need to be on their game, as the Ravens had 49 sacks this season. And if they know that Big Ben is going to throw it, they can pin their years back and concentrate on that.