By Tony DelSignore Jr.
Week 3 – September 21, 2014
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Opponent: Carolina Panthers
The Pittsburgh Steelers came out of Week 2 with more questions than answers about who they are as a football team. Heading to Carolina for the Sunday Night matchup will be an excellent litmus test to find out the mental makeup of this football team.
Week 2 in Review:
Last week I projected Ben Roethlisberger stat line to be: 25/37, 280 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. His actual numbers in Baltimore: 22/37, 217 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. Well at least I nailed the number of passes Ben was going to throw, but no touchdown!
Le’Veon Bell’s workload was far less than it should have been in the matchup with the Ravens. Bell only saw only 11 carries due to being in comeback mode for much of the contest. I projected Bell for 23 carries as I anticipated this to be a close game, well I was not even close. My receiving projection for Bell was pretty close, on the other hand. I had Bell down for 5 receptions for 47 yards, and his receiving line was 5 receptions for 48 yards! Bell is an excellent receiver, catching 11 of his 12 targets through two games; he will continue to be heavily involved in the passing game.
In the passing game, Antonio Brown continued his amazing streak of 18 straight games with at least 5 catches and more than 50 yards. I had Brown projected for 6 receptions for 78 yards. He finished the night with 7 receptions for 90 yards. Brown is nearly matchup proof and you can start him with confidence each and every week. Thankfully for the Steelers and fantasy owners, Brown avoided a concussion as he was taken to the locker room after a hard hit.
Markus Wheaton had a solid performance but nothing special. My 5 reception projection for Wheaton was spot on, but his depth of target was not even close to what it was in Week 1. Wheaton finished with only 38 receiving yards. Heath Miller was quiet on Sunday and I am beginning to worry if we are starting to see the decline in production from the ultra-consistent Miller. 4 receptions for 35 yards are far less than what the Steelers need from the tight end position. Miller has to get more involved moving forward.
Week 3 Preview:
This week, the Steelers travel to Charlotte to take on the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers bring a ferocious defense that will remind Steelers fans of the Steel Curtain defenses far more than Pittsburgh’s own sieve of a defense.
Speaking of defense, where is the once vaunted Dick Lebeau defense? The Steelers have become a door mat for opposing offenses to rip through with ease. The Steelers currently rank 30th in the NFL in run defense, surrendering 174 yards per game. What a fall from grace.
The ineptitude on defense has forced the offense into bad situations when it comes to “game script”. No turnovers, no sacks, no splash plays. That has been the drum beat for three years now. Think it is time for some changes?
It is hard to stick to the game-plan when you are down 20-6 like they were last week in Baltimore. I don’t foresee this week being much different. The Panthers bring a stifling defense that ranks 5th in the NFL in total yards allowed. The Panthers typically suffocate opposing run games and force the opposing offense to beat them through the air. The Panthers are currently 6th in the NFL, allowing only 86 rushing yards per game. If the Steelers have any chance to win this game, Ben Roethlisberger is going to have to be near perfect.
Hopefully the Steelers will stay in the no-huddle more this week and keep the Panthers off balance. If Pittsburgh tries to run straight at them or dial back the tempo, look for Carolina to tee off on the Steelers offensive line. Ben needs to get the ball out of his hands quickly but also improve his accuracy from the 59% completion percentage we saw last week.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 22/38, 265 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Antonio Brown continues to produce no matter what the game situation. Last week Brown received 12 targets from Ben Roethlisberger. That type of volume is part of what makes Brown an elite wide receiver in PPR formats. He is the Steelers most talented offensive weapon and thankfully he avoided a concussion last week. I like Brown to have a nice game this week. Carolina is only surrendering 12 receptions per week to opposing wide receivers but they have yet to face anyone like AB.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD
Lance Moore appears to be on pace to return in this matchup. Justin Brown will likely head back to the bench after his ill-timed fumble last week. Moore may have been more of a factor in the Steelers offense than we anticipated. That being said, you can’t expect much from either Moore or Justin Brown this week. Markus Wheaton has been solid as expected. Wheaton has 11 catches on 15 targets through his first two games as a starter. I would move Wheaton to the bench until the Steelers passing game gets some better matchups.
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 58 yards
Lance Moore Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 26 yards
The connection between Roethlisberger and Heath Miller is just not clicking at this point. Miller needs to be left on the bench of your fantasy squad until further notice. The Panthers linebackers are fast and won’t likely allow Miller much room to operate in the middle of the field.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 36 yards
The Steelers have run the ball effectively thus far. Blount has not been the compliment to Bell as many expected but the team is averaging 4.8 yards per carry through two games, mostly due to Bell’s explosive runs. 11 carries for Bell is simply not enough to produce a win for this team, the Steelers need to feed the ball to Bell and ride him heavily in this matchup.
Le’Veon Bell Stat Projection – 18 rushes, 74 yards, 1 TD / 4 receptions, 50 yards
LeGarrette Blount Stat Projection – 4 rushes, 15 yards
Suisham was fantastic again against the Ravens, registering the only points of the night for the Steelers offense. Expect a few more points this week against the Panthers.
Shaun Suisham Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 2/2 Extra Points
Final Score Prediction – Panthers 23, Steelers 20
Tune in to @SteelersDepot all season long to find my fantasy projections and analysis and feel free to shoot me your lineup questions each week at @TonyD_12 on Twitter.