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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Rams Seething at Betting Line

The first thing to remember is that it is just a price. “It’s a good price,” said Bob Martin, Las Vegas oddsmaker. “But I’m not trying to pick a winner.”

Martin is the oddsmaker who sets the national line on pro football and his decision to make the Steelers the heaviest Super Bowl favourites for ten years has caused quite a stir in pro football circles.

It has certainly stirred Ray Malavasi, the Rams coach, who resented the implication that the Steelers are making the trip to Pasadena simply to pick up the Lombardi trophy. Malavasi claims the people who think the Rams are such big underdogs do not know anything about football.

“I read in the Los Angeles paper that Malavasi is furious,” Martin said. “But the money makes it 10 points. It is what the public thinks. If some sports book tried to make the game even money, it would be 10 points before the day was over because the money makes it that.”

Martin opened the line with the Steelers a 10-point favourite. The early money was on the Steelers, pushing the odds to 10.5. “I don’t think it will go any higher than 11,” he said. “We’re starting to get some Ram money now.”

The last time a team was such a big favourite was in the fourth Super Bowl, when the Vikings were an 11-point choice over the Chiefs. The biggest favourite in Super Bowl history was the Colts, who were an 18-point choice over the Jets in Super Bowl III. The Vikings and Colts not only did not cover the big spreads but lost the games.

But Martin is not one of those observers who thinks the Steelers are going to blow the Rams out by 25 or 30 points.

“Malavasi’s right that his team matches up pretty well with the Steelers,” he said. “The offensive lines are about equal, and the Rams match up well on defense, especially now Jack Ham is out. But the Steelers have a far superior quarterback, a decided edge in wide receiver, and a slight edge in the kicking game.”

How are the Rams going to score?

Martin could not resist a gibe at Malavasi. “Why don’t you ask him how the Rams are going to score?” he asked.

Martin said it, “may be a low scoring game,” but added, “The one question in the minds of most people is whether the Rams can score.”

When he was asked why the line was not higher, he said, “The Steelers have lost all four on the road, they’re playing the Rams on grass and the Rams are the home team, so their home life won’t be disrupted, although the Steelers have been through all that before.”

Martin doesn’t really care whether a game is close to the spread. “It doesn’t have to hold true,” he says. But the one thing he hopes is that the game is not a replay of last year’s Super Bowl.
He opened the line with the Steelers favoured by three over Dallas and that may have been a bit low. “The first onslaught was Steeler money,” Martin says. The result is that the spread went up to 4.5. At that point, a lot of late money came in for the Cowboys.

When the Steelers led 35-17, with seven minutes left, it looked like they would cover with no problems. But then they went into their prevent defense and Dallas scored two late touchdowns to cut the margin to four points.

That was the worst thing that could happen to the Las Vegas sports books. They had to pay the people who gave the Steelers with three and the fans who took the Cowboys with 4.5. Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, many fans were giving 4.5 or five points and lost out.

But Martin figures Las Vegas was the real loser last year. “It was a disaster area for the sports books,” he says. “We were thinking of calling President Carter and asking him to declare this a disaster area,” he joked.

If the oddsmakers are right about their spread this year, it could be the Rams who are a disaster area when it is over.

Vito Stellino
Post-Gazette January 11




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The Steelers 1979 season updated May 8th 2021.

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The Pittsburgh Americans' 1936 season added June 2020.

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