steelers chargers player props
PHOTO CREDIT: CRAIG DUDEK

The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1), undefeated in five straight games, head west to play the Los Angeles Chargers (5-4). Los Angeles has dropped three of its last four, including two straight here at home. These teams currently occupy the final two Wild Card spots in the AFC, clearly making this game of paramount importance for each.

Let’s take a look at our favorite Steelers vs. Chargers player props picks, complete with betting analysis for this Sunday Night Football matchup.

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Top Steelers vs. Chargers Player Props

Najee Harris Anytime Touchdown Scorer

Much has been made this week about the workload rookie Najee Harris has undertaken for the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s bellcow back has rushed it 176 times already and caught 44 of 56 passes thrown his way. He is second to Derrick Henry in rushes and D’Andre Swift in receptions amongst running backs. In other words, this first year back is touching the ball as much or more than anyone in the league right now, meaning the most chances to stuff one across the goal line.

Harris has been a versatile scorer this season with four rushing and two receiving scores. He has also spread those six touchdowns out across six different games. He failed to reach paydirt against Detroit last week, but, encouragingly, has not suffered back-to-back games without scoring.

The Los Angeles Chargers seem easy prey for the young running back, too. LAC has allowed at least one score to an opposing back in five straight games and seven of the team’s last eight outings. Opposing backs scored 13 times in that stretch and are responsible for 10 of the 16 offensive touchdowns Los Angeles has allowed in its last five games.

The Chargers, don’t forget, allow the most yards per game on the ground this season and are also eighth worst in scoring defense. In an important game for the Steelers, expect them to lean once again on their first-round draft pick and most important offensive player.

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Austin Ekeler Over 13.5 Total Rushes

Detroit certainly seemed to get the memo and it almost got the Lions their first win last week against Pittsburgh. If you want to beat the Steelers, you had better pound the rock. In Pittsburgh’s five wins, opponents’ leading rushers averaged 13.8 rushes per game (interestingly still more than what we need for this prop). However, in their four non-wins, the average spiked to 19.8 rushes, led by Swift’s 33 carries last week in the tie.

Now, Austin Ekeler might not be a guy you think of when it comes to carrying the ball a ton of times in a game. He is a tremendous pass catcher and is viewed, rightfully so, as a dual threat back. However, the most important things to consider here are that Ekeler is pretty much the only show in town in the Chargers’ backfield and Brandon Staley is a very intelligent head coach.

Ekeler has 112 rushes thus far this season, good for 12.4 per game, but the next highest Los Angeles back has just 13 totes total on the year. As such, Ekeler’s rushing yardage total of 523, which is on pace to go over 1,000 yards on the season, is over 400 yards more than the team’s next closest running back. So, if the Chargers subscribe to the game plan of committing to the run against the Steelers, Ekeler is going to be the guy doing the heavy lifting.

And, they would be well-served doing so, as Pittsburgh’s defense is ninth best against the pass, but just 25th ranked against the run. As such, eight opposing rushers have had 13 or more carries against the Steelers already this season through nine games.

The Chargers, who are in desperate need of a win, have found success this season when Ekeler carries the ball more often. In their five wins, he averages 15 carries per game, reaching that number in four of the five outings. However, when Los Angeles loses, Ekeler averages just 9.25 rushes, failing to top 11 carries in any of those contests.

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Justin Herbert Over 1.5 Passing Touchdowns

As mentioned, Pittsburgh is a top ten passing yardage defense, allowing just 225.9 yards per game through the air. However, the Steelers have proven themselves susceptible to passing scores, especially by wide receivers. Twelve of the 18 offensive touchdowns Pittsburgh has allowed this season were scored via the pass, with wide receivers scoring 11 of those 18.

More relevantly for us here, those passing scores seem to come in bunches. Pittsburgh has seen opposing quarterbacks throw multiple touchdown passes against them in four of their last eight games in 2021.

While Los Angeles has struggled to get wins of late, they still possess the league’s seventh best passing attack, averaging 270.0 yards per game. Justin Herbert’s total of 19 passing touchdowns is tied for sixth most in the league and he has spread the wealth very well. Seven different guys have caught touchdowns with four going to running backs, six to tight ends, and nine to wideouts. And the Mike Williams-Keenan Allen combo at wide receiver is one that presents a level of danger this Pittsburgh defense, which has struggled against that position in the end zone, has not had to face yet.

Herbert has had at least one passing touchdown in all nine games this season, throwing for multiple scores in five of the team’s last seven outings. He might have that extra second to find the open man in this one, too, as Pittsburgh looks to be without T.J. Watt, arguably the game’s best pass rusher. Expect to see the second year quarterback post multiple touchdown passes once again here in a game totaled in the high 40s.

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