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Quarterback Kenny Pickett will play for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week despite a knee injury, which knocked him out of the game in a 30-6 loss against the Houston Texans in Week 4.
The Steelers (2-2) host the first-place Baltimore Ravens (3-1) in an AFC North divisional battle in Week 5.
The Steelers are tied with the Cleveland Browns (2-2) for second place in the division. The Cincinnati Bengals were the betting favorite to win the AFC North, but that was before quarterback Joe Burrow aggravated a calf injury. The Bengals began the season with a 1-3 record.
Pickett Nursing Bruised Knee
Pickett went down in the third quarter against the Texans. He banged his knee during a sack and exited the game while backup Mitch Trubisky finished the game. The Steelers’ lackluster offense put up just six points and struggled against the Texans, who won by 24 points thanks to a strong performance from rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud.
Pickett underwent testing on Monday, and the Steelers diagnosed him with a deep bone bruise. Pickett won’t miss any time with the injury and was spotted wearing a bulky knee brace in practice on Wednesday.
Feel good, and I’ll be ready to go by Sunday,” Pickett told reporters after practice.
Pickett completed 60.6% of his passes in four games this season for 803 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions.
In 17 total games with the Steelers, Pickett has thrown 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He completed 62.4% of his passing attempts for 3,207 yards.
Pickett is 9-7 in 16 starts with the Steelers. He went 7-5 last season, and he’s 2-2 this season.
If Pickett is slowed down by the brace or ineffective against the Ravens, head coach Mike Tomlin will turn to Trubisky to come off the bench. Trubisky has a career record of 31-24 as a starter, including 2-3 with the Steelers.
Pickett Small Hands Drama
The big knock against Pickett heading into the 2022 NFL Draft was the size of his hands at 8.5 inches. Many old-school scouts dismiss prospects if they lack a certain height or have small hands. Pickett has the smallest hands out of any starting quarterback in the NFL this season.
Pickett was a standout quarterback for the Pittsburgh Panthers. He threw 81 touchdowns and ran for another 20 while leading Pittsburgh to a 32-17 record as a starter.
After Ben Roethlisberger retired, the Steelers took a flier on Pickett with the #20 pick in the draft, and he was the first quarterback selected in a thin QB draft class.
Other quarterbacks selected in 2022 included Desmond Ridder (Atlanta Falcons), Malik Willis (Tennessee Titans), Matt Corral (Carolina Panthers), Bailey Zappe (New England Patriots), Sam Howell (Washington Commanders), Skylar Thompson (Miami Dolphins), and Brock Purdy (San Francisco 49ers).
Purdy was the steal of the draft, considering he has a 9-0 record as a starter with the 49ers over the last two seasons. Purdy’s consistency is one of the reasons why the 49ers are currently co-favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Steel Town Fans: No More Canada
Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has drawn the ire of their rabid fanbase. Canada employs a low-fi offense, but he’s become a predictable play-caller who doesn’t pose challenges to opposing defenses.
The Steelers average 15.5 points per game this season, and they’re tied for the fourth-lowest scoring offense in the NFL. The Steelers have already scored seven or fewer points twice this season, but they’re 2-0 when they score at least 23 points.
Canada’s unimaginative offense generates only 263 yards per game, the fourth-worst total offense in the NFL. The rushing attack is the fourth-lowest in the NFL, averaging 78.8 yards per game. The passing game is the eighth-lowest in the league, averaging 184.3 air yards per game.
If you crunch the advanced metrics, the Steelers have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. They’re ranked #30 in offensive DOVA and #31 in expected points added per play (EPA).
The Steelers last won a playoff game in 2016, and even if they make the postseason this year, they lack the offense to compete with the juggernauts in the AFC like the Miami Dolphins (37.5 ppg), Buffalo Bills (34.8 ppg), Los Angeles Chargers (27.5 ppg), and Kansas City Chiefs (25.3 ppg).
Tomlin said he has no intention of relieving Canada of his play-calling duties, but if it were up to the fans, they would have fired Canada last season.
Steelers Are Long Shots in the Futures Market
The Steelers are a +4 home underdog against the Ravens on Sunday. The Ravens have a 3-1 record against the point spread this season, and the Steelers are 2-2 ATS.
The Ravens have their fair share of injuries and have yet to find a reliable replacement for running back J.K. Dobbins, who tore his Achilles in Week 1. Through four games this season, quarterback Lamar Jackson leads the Ravens in rushing, and he’s ahead of Justice Hill and Gus Edwards.
In AFC North futures, the Ravens are the consensus favorite to win the division at -125 odds. The Browns are +275 odds ahead of the Steelers at +650 and the last-place Bengals at +700.
The Steelers are a long shot to win the Super Bowl at +7000 odds and are at +3500 odds to win the AFC Championship. The Steelers are +190 odds to make the playoffs and -235 odds to miss the playoffs, according to a prop bet from DraftKings.
The Steelers have never posted a losing season since Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007. Oddsmakers are skeptical about this year, however. The Steelers have a win total of 8.5 over/under. The over win total pays out +130 odds, and the under is -160.
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