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Big Ben should strike often in Steelers’ cover

A rock-solid quarterback in about every aspect, Ben Roethlisberger rarely is a threat to lead the NFL in passing yards. But he’s atop that chart now, and it’s an indicator of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ strange season.

The Steelers’ offense has been too one-dimensional with an unsteady rushing attack, their defense seldom slams the door on opponents and their kicker is an idiot.

Roethlisberger is being forced to pull the trigger frequently. He has completed 72.5 percent of his passes for 1,887 yards. Only Peyton Manning has been more accurate.

But Pittsburgh, 4-2 straight up and 1-5 against the spread, has not been closing deals, and betting on the Super Bowl champions has been a costly exercise in futility. Expect the Steelers, who are statistically sound, to reverse their ATS slide.

The Steelers opened as 4-point favorites over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Sharp money surfaced on Pittsburgh and inflated the line to 51/2, where the home favorite is still a worthwhile wager.

The Vikings, 6-0 straight up and 4-2 ATS, are riding a bit of a lucky run. Brett Favre pulled a rabbit out of his helmet against San Francisco, and he made enough plays to escape with a victory over Baltimore last week.

Adrian Peterson leads the league with 618 yards rushing, and Jared Allen has 71/2 of Minnesota’s 21 sacks.

The Vikings are not winning with smoke and mirrors, but they are due for a loss, and this situation sets up better for the Steelers.

In terms of league rankings, Pittsburgh is No. 3 in total defense and No. 5 in total offense. Minnesota is not in the top 10 in either category. With the exception of Peterson’s rushing numbers, the Steelers are better across the board.

Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, a needed weapon against Peterson, is mostly recovered from a left knee injury and plans to play.

Antoine Winfield, the Vikings’ Pro Bowl cornerback, is doubtful with a sprained right foot. When Winfield left the game last week, the Ravens ripped off several big plays.

Roethlisberger has been sacked 16 times and intercepted six times. If he gets time to throw, he should pick apart the Minnesota defense and produce a rare cover for the Steelers.

Four more plays for Week 7 (home team in CAPS):

Colts (-131/2) over RAMS: The talent gap in quarterbacks with these teams is as large as it gets. But it’s not all Manning, as the Indianapolis defense ranks No. 7 in the league. A good defense is required to protect a double-digit lead. Big favorites are covering this season, and everything points to the Colts in a blowout. St. Louis ranks No. 27 in offense and No. 30 in defense.

49ers (+3) over TEXANS: Off an embarrassing loss and a bye week, San Francisco coach Mike Singletary is a good bet. Singletary has covered his past five games as an underdog. Running back Frank Gore returns to boost the 49ers.

Jets (-6) over RAIDERS: Mark Sanchez threw five interceptions in the Jets’ third consecutive loss. Expect the Jets to run more and punish Oakland’s defense in a way Philadelphia neglected to last week. The Raiders’ offense remains a joke. The Jets come in as a desperate team sure to be focused.

GIANTS (-7) over Cardinals: Arizona is catching the Giants at a bad time. New York was humiliated last week, and its defensive line will bring the heat on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. The Arizona secondary is soft, and Eli Manning will cut it up.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 14-16

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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