The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off one of the worst losses any team has had in the 2016 NFL season, but they have reason to be optimistic. Le’Veon Bell will suit up for the team for the first time this year, giving Pittsburgh one of the NFL’s best offensive playmakers.
Having served a three-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Bell is eligible to return when the Steelers host the Kansas City Chiefs on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 4. He’s arguably the league’s top running back when healthy, and his impact should be felt immediately.
“His level of conditioning is not a concern to us,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the media on Tuesday. “He's a guy that's highly conditioned over a 12-month calendar. We've seen him every day, he’s been a part of this, he's been in the building, he's up to speed on what we're doing from a schematic standpoint, really in tune here. We’ll see how sharp he is physically once we get him out on the practice field and kind of go from there but rest assured, you’re going to see Le’Veon Bell and probably a lot of him on Sunday.”
Adding Bell in the backfield improves what has the potential to be an elite offense. DeAngelo Williams did a more than sufficient job in Bell’s absence, totaling 347 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. In 22 games since the start of the 2014 season, Bell is averaging over 132 total yards per game.
Pittsburgh’s offense has been a disappointment in the last two weeks. After scoring 24 points in a win against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers were held without a touchdown on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, getting blown out 34-3. Pittsburgh rushed for just 29 yards on 10 carries in their first loss of the season.
Improving their record to 2-1 on the season, Kansas City’s Week 3 performance was almost the polar opposite of Pittsburgh’s. They defeated the New York Jets 24-3 in a dominant victory. The Chiefs’ defense was outstanding, intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick six times.
With Pittsburgh returning home and Kansas City heading on the road, both teams should look very different in Week 4. The Steelers have won five straight games at Heinz Field, and they have too many weapons to have consecutive poor offensive performances. The Chiefs were held without a touchdown in their only road game of the season, and they won’t be able to capitalize off several interceptions like they did in Week 3.
The betting line was 5.5 points on Wednesday, but Pittsburgh has moved to 4.5-point favorites at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark. The Steelers could be in for a big offensive performance that will push the final score past the over/under of 47 points and give them a 3-1 record on the season.
Prediction: Pittsburgh over Kansas City, 28-20