Romilly Evans thinks Pittsburgh are deserved favourites despite being the road team in this Sky-televised match-up
"When all's said and done, then, the Steelers could not be facing the Ravens at a better time. And while a system of backing road favourites is a road to the poor house, tonight's game should prove a noteworthy exception."
Steelers have the edge against flapping Ravens in the AFC North
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
Start-time: Sunday, 18:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
The AFC North typically provides a fiercely quarrelling quartet of competitors. None more so than those involved in this Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry, which neatly embodies the hostilities of two teams who are battling for perennial postseason contention.
While it should again make for a firecracker first act, I think the spark could fall out of this match quickly, with the Steelers relentlessly eroding the confidence of some flapping Ravens, who are coming off a humiliating transatlantic trip to Wembley where Jacksonville outperformed them all over the park. It was a defeat which undermined a brace of big wins this term, and even called into account the merits of their notoriously stingy D.
A week to rest their aching bodies and shake the jetlag will prove insufficient here, in spite of Baltiore's returning home comforts. For, on the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh's holy trinity of playmakers are gradually grinding through the gears towards peak performance.
Ben Roethlisberger is back in rude health (although the way Big Ben scrambles, it may never be for long) and pulls the reins on perhaps the most potent offense in the game. Antonio Brown, of course, leads those wideouts and was unplayable at times last year. Then we have the peerless Le'Veon Bell, who has admittedly been a shadow of his customary self thus far. Bell has amassed 4,045 yards (86.1 per game) on the ground and 2,005 (42.7 per game) as a receiver in a mere 47 games. However, in 2017, the stud TB is only averaging 60 YPG rushing and 18.7 YPG receiving. Bell admits it's high time he stepped up if he's to be rewarded as the team's number-one running back and number-two receiver, and where better to start than by bossing a divisional opponent.
So, with the Steelers' three-wheeled wagon set to prove a little more reliable than a Reliant Robin, what can the Ravens find in response? Ten turnovers over their opening two games spoke to a Baltimore defense majoring in avarice. Yet this lone stat looked more like an erroneous point based on luck than a dependable metric. After all, they had more than twice the turnovers of their nearest rival!
The Jags accordingly turned the Ravens on their heads last weekend, when their four-man rush under Tyus Bower was left cruelly exposed. It's simply not as effective against the run as the pass (cue Pittsburgh offloading the ball to Bell), and are struggling on without key nose tackle Brandon Williams. On the offensive side, Joe Flacco clearly still hasn't fully recovered from his back injury, while his dodgy left knee again looks short of top elasticity.
When all's said and done, then, the Steelers could not be facing the Ravens at a better time. And while a system of backing road favourites is a road to the poor house, tonight's game should prove a noteworthy exception.
Back Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) to win on the Match Points Spread @ 1.9720/21 or better
Back Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) to win on the First Half Handicap @ 2.56/4 or better
Back L. Bell to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 8.07/1 / 1.9420/21 or better