LAS VEGAS — If nothing changes between now and September, the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to get a big boost from a new and improved Ben Roethlisberger.
All reports are positive regarding Roethlisberger’s surgically repaired right elbow. He has said he’s feeling no pain when throwing and feels younger as a result. But he’s a 38-year-old quarterback coming back from a major injury, so it’s a tough trick to turn back the clock.
Still, in at least one way, the odds are in his favor. Before throwing a pass that counts in 2020, Roethlisberger is tied atop the list of the NFL’s most valuable quarterbacks in relation to the point spread, according to South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews.
When a starting quarterback goes down, as Roethlisberger did two games into last season, what is the oddsmakers’ adjustment? Andrews has assigned point values to the QB1 for all 32 teams, a task that emphasizes evaluation of the backups. In the Steelers’ case, the backup plan was and still is a big problem.
“I think the Pittsburgh defense is great, and getting to 8-8 last year was pretty good with two stiffs playing quarterback,” Andrews said. “You just look at Big Ben’s backup. Assuming Ben is 100 percent, it’s a steep drop to Mason Rudolph.”
Imagine filming a Western and being forced to replace John Wayne with Adam Sandler and Pauly Shore. The Steelers turned to Rudolph, who was benched for Devlin “Duck” Hodges. Andrews said if Pittsburgh must go from a full-strength Roethlisberger to Rudolph again this year, the dropoff is a seven-point adjustment to the betting line.
Andrews assigned seven-point values to Roethlisberger and two other quarterbacks for the 2020 season. Andrews rates the adjustment from the starter to the backup to be 3.5 points or fewer for 17 teams.
“These numbers are all as of right now, and for a one-game replacement,” Andrews said. “Obviously, the rookie quarterbacks on the roster could change things dramatically once the season starts, or even in the preseason. Any extended playing time for the backup changes things too. These numbers are not carved in granite. These are all just places to start.
“People have different opinions. That’s what makes betting.”
Roethlisberger is tied in Andrews’ rankings with Tom Brady, who rates seven points higher than Buccaneers backup Blaine Gabbert, and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, who is seven points more valuable than understudy Geno Smith.
“If Brady is anywhere near his old self, this number will be higher,” Andrews said. “If Wilson never played another down, he would be a Hall of Famer, and I have to think he still has some big years ahead of him. … The only reason the team around Wilson is so good is that Wilson makes it that good.”
According to Andrews, the Giants and Jets would be among the least affected by having to use their backup quarterback this season. The Giants would sink just two points in the spread if Daniel Jones were to give way to Colt McCoy.
“I actually like both of these guys — but not the rest of the team,” Andrews said.
And though the Jets have not won a game over the past two seasons when Sam Darnold did not start, the dropoff to new backup Joe Flacco is only one point.
“If Darnold learns to protect the ball, this could be a few points higher,” Andrews said.
Starting quarterback point-spread differentials
(Ratings by Chris Andrews, South Point)
Team: Starter vs. Backup
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger 7 over Mason Rudolph
Buccaneers: Tom Brady 7 over Blaine Gabbert
Seahawks: Russell Wilson 7 over Geno Smith
Cardinals: Kyler Murray 6 over Brett Hundley
Packers: Aaron Rodgers 6 over Jordan Love
Rams: Jared Goff 6 over John Wolford
Texans: Deshaun Watson 6 over A.J. McCarron
Titans: Ryan Tannehill 6 over Logan Woodside
Vikings: Kirk Cousins 6 over Sean Mannion
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes 5 over Chad Henne
Eagles: Carson Wentz 5 over Jalen Hurts
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo 5 over Nick Mullens
Saints: Drew Brees 4 over Jameis Winston
Falcons: Matt Ryan 3.5 over Matt Schaub
Ravens: Lamar Jackson 3.5 over Robert Griffin III
Bengals: Joe Burrow 3 over Ryan Finley
Bills: Josh Allen 3 over Matt Barkley
Browns: Baker Mayfield 3 over Case Keenum
Lions: Matthew Stafford 3 over Chase Daniel
Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater 3 over P.J. Walker
Giants: Daniel Jones 2 over Colt McCoy
Colts: Philip Rivers 2 over Jacoby Brissett
Cowboys: Dak Prescott 2 over Andy Dalton
Broncos: Drew Lock 2 over Jeff Driskel
Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick 2 over Tua Tagovailoa
Jaguars: Gardner Minshew 2 over Mike Glennon
Raiders: Derek Carr 2 over Marcus Mariota
Redskins: Dwayne Haskins 2 over Kyle Allen
Jets: Sam Darnold 1 over Joe Flacco
Chargers: Tyrod Taylor 1 over Justin Herbert
Patriots: Jarrett Stidham 1 over Brian Hoyer
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky even with Nick Foles