Seahawks-Steelers best bets: Can Seattle survive without Russ?
The Seattle Seahawks are in uncharted waters as they visit hostile Heinz Field. Russell Wilson, who'd previously started 165 consecutive contests, is set to miss the first game of his 10-year NFL career. Seattle last started someone other than Wilson under center on Jan. 1, 2012, when Tarvaris Jackson took the snaps.
C Jackson Cowart: Under 43
When I first saw this total, I was surprised it wasn't sub-40. Which team is going to push this one over - the one with the backup quarterback making his first start since 2017, or the one with the passer who's on the last leg of his NFL career?
Start with the Seahawks, who managed just 10 points in the second half after Wilson left last week's loss to the Los Angeles Rams with a finger injury. That puts the pressure on fill-in starter Geno Smith, whose teams have averaged 18.7 points in his 31 career starts. He's largely been the culprit for that low total, posting a career 30-37 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 57.9% completion percentage and a 73 passer rating.
Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been much better as of late, posting a passer rating below 90 in 10 of his last 12 starts. The under is 8-4 in those contests, with the Steelers scoring 17 or fewer points in half of them. This game will be lucky to break 40 points.
Alex Moretto: Steelers -5
We're about to see just how bad this Seahawks team can be without Wilson, and why it's wild he's never received an MVP vote. The defense is flat-out bad, the offensive line is weak, and there's no depth at the skill positions. Wilson masks a lot of issues on what is a shallow roster lacking talent all over the field. It doesn't help that the game also seems to have passed Pete Carroll by.
Defensively, the Seahawks rank 31st in success rate and 27th in EPA per play. They're miserable against the run, having been gashed by Darrell Henderson, Trey Sermon, and Alexander Mattison in the last three weeks. Now they must face Najee Harris, who, like Derrick Henry, is getting stronger as the season wears on.
Harris will rumble here and take the pressure off Roethlisberger, who'll make enough plays to Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool down the field to pull away from a Seahawks offense missing Wilson and Chris Carson. Smith looked good in relief last week, but playing in mop-up duty against a Rams defense in prevent is a lot different than facing a ferocious Steelers front with T.J. Watt back in full force. The former New York Jets passer has historically struggled under pressure, and he's going to see a lot of it Sunday night. This could get ugly.
Matt Russell: Geno Smith over 19.5 completions
This number is just too low for Smith, who's being priced as if he isn't even a professional quarterback.
With not much of a run game to speak of, Smith should get safer throws schemed up for him. Backup quarterbacks are more likely to take the checkdowns given to them, and I expect that to be the case Sunday night. While he might not crack 200 yards, Smith should be able to get to 20 completions, especially if he finds himself trailing late.