As good as the Pittsburgh Steelers looked in a Week 1 upset of the Bills in Buffalo is about as bad as they looked in their home-opening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2. For this Sunday's home game vs. Cincinnati, the Steelers could be without both quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and arguably the NFL's best defensive player in linebacker TJ Watt, among others. Pittsburgh opened -4 on the NFL odds at Caesars Sportsbook but that is hugely subject to change. CBS has the 1 p.m. ET telecast.
In Tuesday's press conference, coach Mike Tomlin said the 39-year-old Roethlisberger is being hit too much in the first two games and that the future Hall of Famer has a pectoral injury. Tomlin says it will affect his preparation ability and "we'd better be ready to be adjustable." Roethlisberger has been sacked twice in each of the first two games (hit 10 times by the Raiders), the first time he has been sacked multiple times in consecutive games since Weeks 15 and 16 of 2018.
Big Ben has been around long enough to miss practice all week and still play Sunday. If not, Mason Rudolph won the backup job over Dwayne Haskins in camp/preseason. Rudolph has played 15 games in his Steelers career and started nine, going 5-4. His lone start last year was a meaningless Week 17 matchup in Cleveland, which Pittsburgh lost 24-22.
The Pittsburgh defense is in even potentially worse shape. Starting linebacker Devin Bush (groin) and cornerback Joe Haden (groin) were ruled out prior to the Raiders game, and end Tyson Alualu suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter and was placed on injured reserve. With Alualu out, the team promoted defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
Watt, who got a monster contract extension on the eve of the season, left with a groin injury in the second quarter. The injury is not considered serious and Watt has a "chance" to play Sunday as of now. The first injury report of the week will be out Wednesday. He already has three sacks and two forced fumbles despite only playing a game-and-a-half.
To win NFL Defensive Player of the Year after finishing second in 2020, Watt is a +1000 third-favorite. He's a +800 second-favorite to lead in sacks for a second year in a row. Arizona's Chandler Jones (+650 on sacks prop) currently is on top with five.
All four teams in the AFC North are 1-1 – the only division where everyone is .500. Pittsburgh has won five regular-season games in a row at home (4-1 ATS) over Cincinnati.
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