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SNF - Bears at Steelers

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Pittsburgh hasn’t started 0-3 since the 2002 season, but it will need a win tonight at home against unbeaten Chicago to avoid that fate.

Most betting shops are listing the Bears as 2.5-point road favorites with a total of 40.5 for ‘over/under’ wagers. Gamblers can take Pittsburgh on the money line for a +115 return (risk $100 to win $115).

For first-half wagers, Chicago (2-0 straight up, 0-1-1 against the spread) is favored by one-half point with a total of 20.

Mike Tomlin’s team opened the season with a 16-9 home loss to Tennessee as a six-point favorite. In Week 2, Pittsburgh (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS) lost a 20-10 decision at Cincinnati as a seven-point underdog. The 30 combined points fell ‘under’ the 40-point total.

Obviously, Pittsburgh’s offense is stuck in neutral with just 19 points and 75 rushing yards through eight quarters. Antonio Brown, the team’s best wide receiver following the off-season loss of Mike Wallace to the Dolphins via free agency, is feuding with offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Not only did veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lose Wallace, but he has been playing without veteran tight end Heath Miller. But after missing the first two games recovering from a knee injury, Miller returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to start tonight.

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But four other offensive contributors remain out, including WR Plaxico Burress, OG Maurkice Pouncey, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling and RB Le’Veon Bell. Only Bell is expected to return this season, but the rookie won’t be back until late October at the earliest. Starting LB Larry Foote is also out for the season.

Roethlisberger has completed 41-of-70 passes (58.6%) for 442 yards with a 2/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His top targets have been Emmanuel Sanders (12 catches for 134 yards) and Brown (11 receptions for 125 yards).

Chicago is going on the road for the first time after winning a pair of nail-biter at Soldier Field. The Bears captured a 24-21 win over Cincinnati as three-point favorites in their opener. The 45 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 41.5-point total.

Jay Cutler threw for 242 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 19-yard scoring strike to Brandon Marshall that gave Chicago the lead for good with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. Marshall finished with eight receptions for 104 yards.

In Week 2, Marc Trestman’s team beat Minnesota 31-30 but failed to hook up its backers as a six-point home ‘chalk.’ The 61 combined points soared ‘over’ the 41-point tally.

Cutler found tight end Martellus Bennett for a 16-yard TD pass with only 10 seconds remaining. The veteran QB was intercepted twice, but he still threw for 292 yards and three TDs. Matt Forte ran for 88 yards on 20 carries and also made 11 catches for 71 yards.

Bennett finished with seven receptions for 76 yards and two TDs. Marshall hauled in seven receptions for 113 yards and one TD.

Cutler was sacked nine times in the first two games of the 2012 season. This year he’s only been sacked once through eight quarters. Cutler has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 534 yards with a 5/3 TD-INT ratio. He did lose a fumble that was returned or a score by the Vikings.

If there’s a silver lining and cause of optimism for Pittsburgh, it’s that the defense remains stout. This unit is giving up only 18 points per game and ranks 10th in the NFL in total yards.

These teams haven’t met since 2009 when Chicago won a 17-14 decision as a three-point home underdog.

Pittsburgh was a home underdog just once last year, losing 13-10 to Baltimore as a three-point ‘dog.

  
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