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This postseason, the Steelers are the lovable loser favorites...if that makes sense

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Welcome to the 2018 postseason, where your Pittsburgh Steelers are…America’s beloved underdog. It doesn’t seem right, does it? How could the 13-3 AFC North champs possibly wear the collar, even before a potential rematch with New England?

Surely, it has been on every fans mind still.  You all carry it with you like that no-good clown driving that 2003 Bonneville, who cut you off in the Squirrel Hill tunnels heading home last week.  It takes little stabs at the root of your brain like the futile battle finding a parking spot in Bloomfield for Little Italy days.

The 27-24 loss to New England on Dec. 17 was truly a killer. 

Thoughts of that game takes nibbles at you, and it’s the Jesse James “surviving the ground” incompletion that eats you whole like the plastic chair blocking the only parking space left, and a spades-friendly geriatric party overlooking that makeshift barrier, watching menacingly, just daring you to move it.

The pain should be subsiding just a little bit now.  You are in the playoffs, and for all intents and purposes, the slate has been wiped clean.  Oh, and while you and the rest of Steelers nation buckle up for this postseason redemption ride, do you think you could give the consensus betting public a lift?

“There is a wonderful thing in the betting industry that we see quite regularly, and it’s that people love gallant losers,” said Mike Langley, a widely-respected bookmaker for a Caribbean-based online sports betting service.

“We love gallant losers," he continued.   "If a guy plays his guts out and still gets beat, he still comes out a hero.  The guy that wins the event, he comes out of it as the evil-doer, you know, the bad guy so to speak.”

Langley, who has set lines—particularly involving the NFL—for the last 36 years has seen plenty of those gallant losers along the way, and the steel city certainly fits the bill for that title this year.

“When you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s the ‘Jesse James factor,’” continued the bookmaker.  “Everybody’s thinking, you know, how could that game be decided by the officials?  Why is that not a catch?  Surviving the ground?  It’s pretty painful stuff.  But should the Steelers advance and play New England in Foxboro, we will see a lot of money on the [Steelers,] and not just to win the game, but for Jesse James to score the last touchdown, which will be a prop bet offered.”

That sympathy factor has already translated into heavy green for the black and gold this weekend.

According to several offshore sportsbooks, the Steelers have already been taking more action than any other postseason team for its Divisional Round matchup with Jacksonville at Heinz Field Sunday afternoon, with the fluctuating point spread (opened at seven points) now up to 7.5.

It’s evident that the betting world wants to see Pittsburgh win.  In the regular season, the Steelers went 7-9 against the spread, taking 51% or more of the action for every game except New England, according to those sportsbooks.  That means in 15 games, your Steelers have been the public’s choice for gridiron glory, both straight up and with the spread.

Now is where the lovable losers narrative takes a backseat to the driver that we’re more familiar with.

The sexy team

Vegas has been put in one compromising position this postseason with the Steelers.  Not only have they pushed themselves into the lovable losers’ party, but they also hold reservations for the sexy team soirée, a shindig where Pittsburgh already carries high gravitas at on a consistent basis.

“They are a sexy team,” said Langley of the Steelers.  “Like New England, they are a team that you expect to see money on, and quite often.”

What makes a sexy team is quite the unequivocal confluence of events.  You must have a staunch, nationwide fanbase, carry recent defending champion or consistent success credentials, have an illustrious history and boast household names.

Being the premier bet in the public bettor’s eye means a higher than normal point spread, and that is naturally symptomatic with the Steelers giving Jacksonville 7.5-points despite a 30-9 week five loss to the Jaguars this season.

“If we got sexy teams, we want to inflate numbers to make sure that if we got square players playing, we want to make sure that we’re on the right side of the number,” explained Langley, who noted that the Steelers won 10 of their last 11 games since the Jacksonville loss.  “Vegas is telling us one story, but we have a pretty square customer base, so we want to enable them to play on sexy teams.”

A “square” player is a recreational, public player, as opposed to a “sharp” player, who is considered a professional.  With swaths of square players outnumbering the pros, it can be seen in the point spreads set for the Steelers this year, where 14 times they came in as favorites (three games at double-digits.)  Only the New England game and week four against Kansas City did Pittsburgh come in getting points.  The Patriots have been the point spread favorites in all 16 games this year.

According to Bookmaker.eu, the odds to win the AFC championship have the Steelers at a 2-1 underdog to New England, who stands at -169.  The Steelers are the third choice to win the Super Bowl at just under 5-1 odds, while Minnesota stands at 3.5-1 odds and New England just under 2-1.

“We’re looking too far ahead to things with a New England and Pittsburgh rematch,” Langley concluded.  “People will want to see Pittsburgh win this game."

Like it or not, Steelers nation, the betting world is with you this postseason.  Even if it comes down to that fateful rematch in Foxboro, the odds are, a consensus will be playing the odds on your black and gold. 

And if fans in Pittsburgh have it their way, this could be one brutal year for Las Vegas casino revenue. 


Current lines and totals for Divisional Round

Pittsburgh -7.5 vs. Jacksonville (41)- Sunday, Jan. 14 1:05 PM

Atlanta -3 at Philadelphia (41)- Saturday, Jan 13 4:35 PM 

New England -13 vs. Tennessee (47)- Saturday, Jan 13 8:15 PM

Minnesota -4 vs. New Orleans (45.5)- Sunday, Jan. 14 4:40 PM

Lines provided by Bookmaker.eu

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