By Tony DelSignore Jr.
Week 14 – December 7, 2014
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
It has been a pleasure to provide these weekly previews for you on Steelers Depot. Hopefully you are reading this week because we have helped throughout the year and you are starting the first week of your fantasy playoffs. If not, you can still use this information in your daily leagues.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are beginning the month of December following a disappointing home loss to previously 4-7 New Orleans. Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals is crucial for the Steelers playoff hopes. If they drop this game, Pittsburgh will fall 2.5 games behind the Bengals with only three games to play. They will very likely miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
The Bengals enter the game with a three game winning streak and know that a win on Sunday will give them a huge edge in the division. In my research, I found an interesting stat, going back to 2010, when the Steelers have scored 23 or more points against the Bengals, they have beat them every time.
The Bengals defense has been stifling in recent weeks, so the question is: Can the Steelers offense play 4 quarters of effective football?
Week 14 Preview:
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been less than stellar since his hot streak in mid-October. Last week, much of his production came in garbage time, which is fine for fantasy, but equally as hard to depend on.
Digging into the stats shows that Roethlisberger has a fairly ugly track record against the Bengals. Cincinnati has consistently been able to hold him down. In fact, Ben hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns in five straight meetings with Cincinnati, and he’s only had multiple touchdown passes in one of his last 10 games against the Bengals.
History isn’t a sole predictor of the game on Sunday but the numbers certainly don’t lie. Going beyond his history with the Bengals, this season, Ben is averaging on one touchdown and 120 yards less per game away from Heinz Field.
The Bengals are the 5th best defense in terms of allowing fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks at just fewer than 15 points per game. Leave Roethlisberger on the bench this week if you have a better option.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 26/39 294 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
The Bengals secondary is second only to Seattle in slowing down opposing receivers. Cincy has excellent cornerbacks and their scheme has given Pittsburgh trouble in the past.
Antonio Brown has been unguardable this season and will continue to get his catches but I don’t see a monster game this week. Continue to roll out AB as your WR1 but know that Cincinnati is only surrendering 16.1 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, second best in the league.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection –7 receptions, 80 yards
Martavis Bryant’s run as a top tier fantasy option has come to a screeching halt. Over the past two games, Bryant has only 3 receptions for 34 yards. Rookie growing pains as well as Roethlisberger’s somewhat erratic play have prevented Bryant from being a reliable weekly option.
I would keep Bryant on the bench again this week against a tough Bengals secondary. Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore continue to be purely backup options and neither should be considered except in the deepest of PPR leagues.
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 25 yards
Lance Moore Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 20 yards
Martavis Bryant Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 50 yards
Heath Miller had a great game last week with much of his production coming in garbage time. One of the only noticeable weaknesses for the Cincinnati defense is their ability to cover tight ends. Injuries to Vontaze Burfict and others on defense have hurt their ability to slow down the tight end position.
The Bengals are giving up 5 receptions and 63 yards per game to opposing tight ends. I think Miller will get close to this average and have a great chance at cracking into the end zone.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD
Le’Veon Bell has been absolutely fantastic over the past two games. Bell has been a true workhorse with 476 yards from scrimmage against the Saints and Titans. The Bengals have struggled to slow down opposing running backs and now rank in the bottom five in the league in that category.
Cincinnati ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. They are surrendering 21.8 fantasy points per week to opposing backs. I love Bell in this matchup and think he will be the main reason the Steelers keep this game close until the end.
Fire up Bell as the top running back option of the week and expect him to carry your fantasy team in the first week of the playoffs.
Le’Veon Bell Stat Projection – 22 rushes, 126 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 64 yards
Josh Harris Stat Projection – 3 rushes, 12 yards
Shaun Suisham will likely get a few opportunities to put points on the board in this divisional matchup. Roll him out if you own him in your seasonal leagues.
Shaun Suisham Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 2/2 Extra Points
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 20, Bengals 24
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.