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ATS Pick: Oakland vs. Pittsburgh (Wk 13)

Oakland Raiders (3-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

Mitch Wilson

Mitch Wilson

NFL Football: Sunday December 6, 2009 1 PM EST
The Line: Pittsburgh Steelers – 13 1/2

The Pittsburgh Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives as they host the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.

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The Steelers are coming off a tough loss to division rival Baltimore in a game that in the end could mean that Pittsburgh won’t have a chance to defend the Super Bowl title they won a year ago. It’s been a tough season for the Steelers with everyone gunning to make their season by knocking off the Super Bowl champs. The Steelers have been hit hard by the injury bug and it hasn’t come in big numbers, just in big spots to the players who are considered their leaders. Ben Roethlisberger missed the last game with a head injury and even his back up Charlie Batch was out as well. Dennis Dixon filled in admirably and will probably be a player in the NFL someday. Defensively, the Steelers have gone at it most of the way without their heart and soul, Troy Palomolu who is out for the second stretch this year. Players like Palomolu contribute in a big way as they play with wreckless abandon and make big plays but the other side is they are susceptible to injuries. A pleasant surprise has been running back Rashard Mendenhall who looked like a potential bust just a year ago. Pittsburgh is going to just have to take it one game at a time at this point and hope for some help and some luck from others to make the playoffs.

The Raiders have three wins this season and two of them have been against two of the better teams, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Unfortunately, the losses that surround those wins have been hideous at times. Former first round and first overall pick Jamarcus Russell has been benched and Bruce Gradowski has taken over. Honestly, with Gradowski the Raiders are a better team but he doesn’t look like a long term solution.

Oakland has some young, very fast wide receivers who just don’t seem to come up with a lot of catches. The Raiders also have a nice stable of running backs but they seem to just be equally as ineffective. Zach Miller is emerging as one of the better tight ends in the NFL and a tough guy as well and is a good fit. He will be an integral part of the future as they develop their true QB whether it finally is Russell or someone else they acquire on way or another. The Raider defense really isn’t too bad and if it wasn’t for this unit, the team would even be worse off than they are. They have been compromised for the bulk of the season having to defend against a short field that turnovers have given the opposition or by other teams defensive touchdowns counting against their points totals.

Pittsburgh is 7-3 aginst the spread in their last 10 home games and 0-4 against the spread in theor last four against teams with a losing record. Oakland is 5-2 against the spread following a game which they didn’t cover and the underdog has covered five of the last six meetings between these two.

I would really like to take the Raiders and all of those points in this one but with Roethlisberger playing, I don’t see how I can justify it. The Steelers are going to be focused and are going to pound it on the ground. While the Steelers have given up a few back door covers this season, those were in games they dominated. I don’t think the Raiders are close enough to get that chance.

Mitch’s Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers – 13 1/2

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