Baltimore at Pittsburgh -3 O/U 37
Inside-out knowledge of each other’s offensive playbooks and tendencies automatically make this a defensive minded game. Combine that with the non-wavering commitment of each head coach to continue force feeding their trademark identities in this rivalry and the struggle for points grows even stronger. Throw in a high stakes playoff atmosphere and you realize just how large a total of 37 will be to overcome on Saturday.
Although four of the last seven games between these teams have gone “over” the total, it’s important to note that only two of the seven have exceeded 37 points. The pair of meetings this season produced 23 and 31 points respectively. Rushing the football was nearly impossible in those contests (251 total rushing yards on 98 carries for 2.84 per attempt) and figures to be that way once again. It is very interesting to note that in the four games played between these teams over the last three years where 37 or more points have been scored, two factors have been very prominent. There has either been a team that rushed for over 100 yards or the game has seen a combined five turnovers. Neither of those occurred in the meetings during this regular season and each contest stayed “under”. Obviously it can be argued that one of this year’s games saw Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger which helped it stay “under” the total. However, the more important finding is that these combatants are now well aware of and able to execute the keys to holding one and other below 20 points.
The fact that Pittsburgh has the only real vertical home run threat in receiver Mike Wallace indicates those types of offensive plays figure to be near extinct here. The large chunks Baltimore got from their short to intermediate crossing routes against Kansas City last week won’t happen against this Steelers defense. The ball security exemplified in this season’s prior meetings can keep Baltimore’s Ed Reed and Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu from scoring defensively. Strong efforts from the sometimes leaky special teams’ coverage units will be a point of emphasis by the coaching staffs. Look for an intense, field position style of game to take place in this one with the total landing “under” 37.