Despite coming off a 35-7 thumping at the hands of their AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens, our partners at Odds Shark shows that the Pittsburgh Steelers will be heavy favorites over the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field on Sunday. An opening line of Pittsburgh -12.5 has swelled to over two touchdowns.
The Seahawks are also coming off a double-digit road loss to a division rival, losing 33-17 to the San Francisco 49ers. Seattle had spotted the 49ers a 16-0 halftime lead before storming back in the second half to pull within two points at 19-17 after rookie wide receiver Doug Baldwin scored his first NFL touchdown. 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and, after a three-and-out by Seattle's offense, brought a punt back 55 yards for a touchdown to seal the win.
Seattle's special teams breakdowns were pinned primarily on losing Byron Maxwell and Michael Robinson to ankle injuries earlier in the game. Robinson is the Seahawks' special teams captain, while Maxwell's injury forced some shuffling that led to assignment breakdowns on the coverage units. Neither are expected to play against the Steelers, nor are left guard Robert Gallery and wide receiver Sidney Rice, two of Seattle's high-priced free agent additions this offseason.
The Steelers turned the ball over seven times in their loss to the Baltimore Ravens, an event that is unlikely to repeat itself at home against an inferior opponent. Running back Rashard Mendenhall may have a hard time getting going against Seattle's solid front seven, but the Seahawks do not have a very good pass rush, which should give Ben Roethlisberger ample time to make downfield throws to speedy receivers Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown.
Sunday will be the second rematch between the two Super Bowl XL participants, with both games played in Pittsburgh due to a change in the NFL's schedule rotation (east coast teams no longer travel to San Francisco and Seattle, or Oakland and San Diego, in the same season). While the Steelers have 16 players remaining from the team that won that Super Bowl, the Seahawks has just two players (linebacker Leroy Hill, cornerback Marcus Trufant) remaining from their team that season, which is the same number of holdovers this week's officiating crew will have.
Bill Leavy, the referee from Super Bowl who has admitted that his crew "kicked a few calls" during the game, will be working this week's Steelers-Seahawks game. Line judge Mark Perlman remains a member of Leavy's crew.