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One year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were amidst a quarterback competition between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. Today, the team’s first preseason game is still home to a quarterback competition. Only this time, that battle is happening on the other side of the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Baker Mayfield is set to make his Bucs debut as he looks to fend off 2021 second-round quarterback Kyle Trask. That will certainly be one of the top stories to watch throughout the preseason, kicking off down in Tampa Bay under the Friday night lights.
Mayfield enjoyed a small revival with the Los Angeles Rams in 2022, going 2-3 down the stretch with no Cooper Kupp and a myriad of injuries hampering the entire squad. His quarterback rating of 86.4 was his highest since 2020, albeit in a small five-game sample size.
Trask has attempted just nine passes in the regular season since being drafted and failed to win the backup job behind Tom Brady for much of his NFL days thus far. Trask was a Heisman candidate with the Florida Gators, and the organization surely wants to see its second-round prospect take the reins this season.
Mayfield will start Friday's game, with ESPN reporting that Trask will get the same opportunity next week.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have their quarterback. The wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends are essentially set. The fiercest battle on the offensive side of the ball is set in the trenches at offensive tackle between 2022 starter Dan Moore and first-round rookie Broderick Jones.
Pittsburgh is hoping for a sizeable jump from Pickett in his second season, with a solid group of weapons helping him do just that. Mike Tomlin shared his belief in playing starters in the preseason this week, with Pickett likely among the bunch.
Now it’s time to take a sizeable leap in your sportsbook’s accounts, starting with a breakdown of the spread.
Vegas is making Pittsburgh a 2.5-point favorite on the road. The Steelers boast an amazing 9-2 preseason record since 2019. To go even further, Pittsburgh hasn’t lost its Week 1 preseason game since 2016.
Players change teams, but Tomlin’s emphasis on preseason play never will. With the roster largely unchanged from last season when Pittsburgh went undefeated, there’s no reason to expect the streak to end this week.
It helps to boast one of the deeper quarterback rooms in the NFL. Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph may not be starters, but both are respectable backups in a pinch who are much better than Tampa Bay’s John Wolford and, dare I say, even Trask.
The Steelers have a deeper offensive line — a statement that would’ve sounded crazy this time last year — and Tomlin’s track record in the preseason has been stellar. Meanwhile, the Bucs went 0-3 under Todd Bowles in last year’s preseason, as well as 0-3 ATS. Getting the Steelers for less than a field goal is a steal of a pick.
The line is set at 39 points across most major sportsbooks as of publication, with some going up to 39.5. Both teams should have strong enough quarterback play against bottom-tier secondaries to hit the over on this one.
Pittsburgh scored no fewer than 16 points in its three preseason games last year with an eerily similar roster that now has greater depth along the offensive line. With Pickett no longer a rookie and the team far more established this year there shouldn’t be too much issue in putting up points.
That goes both ways, as the Steelers’ secondary could very well do a better impression of Swiss cheese than an actual NFL defense. Damontee Kazee and Keanu Neal will also likely not play with minor injuries, and Minkah Fitzpatrick shouldn’t play more than a single series at best. Both teams should move the ball well as the game progresses, making the over an attractive pick even at a higher line for a preseason game.
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Michael Sicoli has been writing about fantasy football and betting within the NFL space since 2020. He works as a writer and content creator with ClubFantasyFFL and runs an NFL defensive (IDP) newsletter with The IDP Guys. A graduate from Quinnipiac University, Michael is a long-time NFL fan with a love for soccer and the NBA.More info on Michael Sicoli
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