- Pittsburgh finished 9-6-1 in 2018
- The Steelers had posted four straight seasons with at least 10 wins prior last year
- The Indianapolis Colts’ futures have tumbled upon the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement
All sorts of NFL betting lines were impacted by Andrew Luck’s retirement. That includes the AFC Championship odds, where the Pittsburgh Steelers have replaced Indy in the top five.
After a relatively quiet training camp for the Steelers, are they ready to be a contender in the AFC again?
2019 AFC Championship Odds
|New England Patriots||+325|
|Kansas City Chiefs||+400|
|Los Angeles Chargers||+700|
|New York Jets||+3300|
*Odds taken 08/26/19.
Steelers’ Odds Improve for a Number Of Reasons
The Steelers have seen their AFC Championship odds shorten from +1200 down to +920 for a number of reasons. Of course, Luck retiring and removing the Colts – who were in the Top 5 – out of the picture helped. However, that’s not the only reason they’ve moved up.
One of the reasons bettors are bullish on the Steelers is because they appear to have looked right on a number of offseason decisions. They were criticized by some when they traded away Antonio Brown but watching him behave like a diva for the Oakland Raiders makes it look like Pittsburgh got out at the right time.
With the added draft capital from the Brown trade, the Steelers moved up to draft linebacker Devin Bush, who has looked like a star in the making in preseason play. He had 11 tackles in limited play in his first preseason game.
Beyond that, running backs James Conner and Jaylen Samuels have looked strong in the exhibition action too. A lot of people feel like the Steelers won’t lose that much after allowing Le’Veon Bell to walk in free agency.
Many people were down on the Steelers after they missed out on the playoffs last year, but a good offseason has renewed the faith in this franchise.
Browns AFC Odds Get Worse
There was a lot of hype around the Browns right after they made all of their offseason moves. Their odds shortened quite a bit but likely too much as the action on the Browns has cooled off. They’ve slipped a little bit from +680 to win the AFC down to +730.
Part of the problem is that while their roster is quite loaded, they have a clear-cut area of weakness that could really impact their season: the offensive line. Baker Mayfield was running for his life during the team’s third preseason game against Tampa Bay – a team with a modest pass rush – and that’s a concern.
If the Browns aren’t ready to step up as a serious contender, that benefits Pittsburgh as well.
What’s the Best Bet?
I’ve viewed the Steelers as a good value bet to win the AFC all along. Their defense could be the strongest unit they’ve had in years and I’m not too worried about the offense. We already know that Conner and Samuels are more than capable of replacing Bell.
At wide receiver, we’ve seen the Steelers lose tons of quality wideouts and not skip a beat. See: Santonio Holmes, Antwan Randle El, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace and Plaxico Burress, to name a few. They’ll be fine without Brown.
For the Steelers, it’s just a matter of discipline. If they’re sloppy like they were last season, they’ll be no better. However, at their best – and I think they’ll be quite focused – they’ll win this division and challenge in the AFC.
Remember, it’s not as if the Steelers fell off the map last season; they went 9-6-1. Prior to that, they had four straight double-digit win seasons. I’m just expecting them to get back in that range, which means they’re a good bet to go over on the regular season win total, win the division and worth taking a flier on to win the conference.