The Pittsburgh Steelers have eight wins in eight games this season.
It's somewhat silly to poke holes in an undefeated football team, but the Steelers have truly squeaked by in their last three games. They outlasted Tennessee by three, needed four Lamar Jackson turnovers to beat Baltimore by four and scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to defeat Dallas by five.
"They look gassed," one professional bettor told NBC Sports. "They've been in a lot of tough, physical games lately. That definitely takes a toll on a football team, especially when you keep playing with fire the way they have."
Somebody somewhere has been paying attention to these recent tight tilts.
Respected money drove the Cowboys from +15 and +14.5 through +14 in last Sunday's matchup against Pittsburgh. And so far this week, the Bengals have been bet from +9 to +7.5 and even +7 at a few sportsbooks. PointsBet Sportsbook currently has the game off the board due to COVID contact tracing uncertainties with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Surely, some of the line movement revolves around the COVID news, but wise guys often bet good numbers more than good teams. That's why bookmakers can't inflate their lines on teams like the Steelers and Chiefs too high. There's always somebody ready to take a whack at a number if it's perceived to be too big.
"Sharp bettors will always push it the other way," PointsBet senior sports advisor Andrew Mannino told NBC Sports. "The market always corrects itself. You can't really protect yourself by floating [a bigger number] because smart money is going to see that inflation and bring it back to size. The market does a good job of regulating itself and stopping you from getting too carried away."
So are the Steelers just going through a tough slog? Are they the real deal?
"They've definitely exceeded my expectations on a week-to-week basis," Mannino said. "Sometimes when a team is on a run like that, you can see it start to weigh on them. But I have no concerns about Pittsburgh long term. I think they'll be back to form pretty soon."
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