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  • After a tie against the Browns and a defensive implosion against the Chiefs—not to mention a good deal of locker-room turmoil—the Steelers are still one-point favorites on Monday night in Tampa Bay.
By Scott Gramling
September 20, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1)

Mon. 9/24, 8:15 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay:

1. Although there’s been nothing more surprising in the NFL so far this season than the Buccaneers’ 2-0 start—especially when considering that their two wins have come against a pair of NFC teams that entered the season with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations in the Saints and Eagles—the winless Steelers should be able to move the ball with relative ease on Monday night. Only Kansas City has allowed more passing yards through two games than the 753 Tampa Bay has surrendered to opposing offenses, which is due at least in part to the fact that the secondary has been ravaged by injuries. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was placed on injured reserve after suffering a torn labrum in the season opener at New Orleans while fellow cornerback Brent Grimes is questionable for Monday after having missed each of the season’s first two games with a groin injury. The status of safety Chris Conte is also up in the air after he left last week's game with a knee injury.

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2. Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick deserves a lot of credit for the job he’s done as the team’s starter with Jameis Winston serving a three-game suspension to start the season. Only Kansas City has scored more points than the 75 Tampa has posted through two games, as Fitzpatrick has completed 79% of his passes for 819 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception. It’s hard to imagine such numbers being sustained for much longer, as the last time Fitzpatrick started more than three games in a season, he went 3-8 as a starter with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the 2016 Jets. Expect Pittsburgh’s defense, which ranks tied for third in the NFL with eight sacks through two 2018 games and last season led the league with 56 sacks, to be able to slow Tampa Bay’s passing game because of its ability to put pressure on the quarterback.

3. The Steelers have gone 11-1-1 straight up over their past 13 road games in the regular season, with Roethlisberger throwing for an average of more than 250 yards over those 13 contests. Although Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has come under fire in recent days, both for his team’s 0-1-1 start as well as for the fact that some believe he’s starting to lose his players between the holdout of running back Le’Veon Bell and recent outbursts from star wideout Antonio Brown, there’s no denying that Tomlin is a far more experienced and accomplished head coach than the Buccaneers’ Dirk Koetter. Tomlin has coached nearly six times as many games (185) as Koetter has with Tampa Bay (33). While Koetter is 1-1 on Monday Night Football, Tomlin boasts an impressive 13-2 record when his team wraps up the football weekend. Consider also that Tampa is 2-6 straight up and 2-5-1 against the spread under Koetter when coming off back-to-back games in which the team allowed at least 375 total yards. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 23-5 straight up and 18-9-1 against the spread in that same scenario. Pittsburgh is also 27-11 straight up (24-14 against the spread) under Tomlin when coming off an upset loss as a favorite, which includes a 13-4 straight-up record (12-5 against the spread) when that upset loss had occurred at home like it did last week.

Pick: Pittsburgh -1

Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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