About the Author
Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
The Steelers are no more than one-point home point favorites vs. Atlanta in Week One at Nevada sportsbooks whose lines are monitored by VegasInsider.com, and the line is as low as pick 'em at some books.
There are several factors influencing this line, with the question of whom will be the Steelers' starting QB in Week One the biggest. Byron Leftwich looks like the most likely candidate to start in Ben Roethlisberger's absence, with Dennis Dixon the other candidate.
The other major force driving this line: the Falcons are well-regarded. They have posted winning records in back-to-back seasons, and they could be even better this season if their defense improves.
To me, making a call on this game depends primarily on your take on the Steelers' QB situation AND their defense. If you believe the Steelers won't fall apart without Roethlisberger and their defense will return to 2008 form with SS Troy Polamalu back in the lineup and the overall depth of the group appearing to be improved after free agency and the draft, then Pittsburgh is very tempting at that price.
This is the second time in four years that Roethlisberger will miss the season opener. In 2006, he missed Week One after undergoing an emergency appendectomy four days before a game vs. Miami. The Steelers won, 28-17, covering the 1½-point spread.
The Steelers and Falcons don't play often, but their last two meetings have been memorable. The Falcons, thanks in part to four Michael Vick TD passes, defeated visiting Pittsburgh 41-38 in OT in 2006. Four years earlier, the two teams played to a 34-34 draw in Pittsburgh. (My goodness, look how many yards Tommy Maddox threw for in that game.)
In case you were wondering, the Over-Under for Falcons-Steelers ranges from 40 to 40½, according to VegasInsider.com.