Week 2 – September 20, 2015
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
At 0-1, the Pittsburgh Steelers are already at a pivotal point in their season. The home opener, on paper, looked like it would be one of the softer games on the schedule after the San Francisco 49ers tumultuous off-season. However, their performance on Monday night makes things a lot more interesting.
Carlos Hyde and the 49ers running game looked exceptional on Monday Night Football. They will certainly test the Steelers in a very different way than the Patriots did. The Vegas line on the game has the Steelers as a 6 point favorite with a 45 point over/under. The 49ers defense finished Week 1 as the 4th ranked defense in total yardage allowed. In saying that, we should anticipate Pittsburgh being much more efficient than the Minnesota Vikings were on Monday night.
As was mentioned before the New England Patriots game, win or lose, the Steelers are a team that you want to target this season in fantasy. Even without Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, the Steelers were the only team in the NFL to have a 300 yard passer, a 100 yard rusher, and a 100 yard receiver in Week 1.
Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger posted 351 passing yards in the opener; just 24 yards shy of our projection for him. The lack of production in the red zone led to a relatively weak fantasy performance in a situation that Ben typically excels for his fantasy owners.
This week, I expect more resistance from the San Francisco defense but Ben is in a great spot with the Steelers coming off a 10 day break and back at home. In 2014, the home and away splits were staggering for Roethlisberger. At home, Ben averaged 347.3 passing yards compared to 271.8 on the road. As for touchdown production, Ben threw 23 touchdowns at Heinz Field and only 9 in eight road games.
I don’t think Ben has a 6 touchdown performance in him this week like we saw on a few occasions last season but he should be a top 10 fantasy producer and be starting for your fantasy team.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 25/34, 285 yards, 2 TD
Antonio Brown ran his streak of 50 yard and 5 reception performances to 33 games in the season opener. AB is a machine. Steelers’ fans could be watching the best receiver in franchise history, and I do not say that lightly.
Brown is the most consistent wide receiver for fantasy production for nearly two years running. Even in a game where the Steelers struggled on offense, Brown found a way to reward his fantasy owners. The late touchdown had shades of Santonio Holmes, as Ben dropped a dime right over Malcolm Butler in the far corner of the endzone.
This week, Brown will face a similar situation as he did in New England. The 49ers have made drastic personnel changes in their secondary, including losing their best cover cornerback Chris Culliver in free agency.
As Dave pointed out in his Wednesday column, Brown needs just 71 yards to pass the great Lynn Swann for the 5th most receiving yards in Steelers franchise history. Look for Brown to dominate targets in the passing game once again and post 100+ yards in the home opener.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 8 receptions, 107 yards, 1 TD
Opposite Brown is Markus Wheaton, who struggled in Week 1. Wheaton has a prime opportunity to reward fantasy owners while Martavis Bryant is suspended, but many are losing patience. Wheaton did rack up 55 receiving yards on 3 receptions, but could have had a much better game. This week, Wheaton may rebound as the 49ers roll coverage toward Brown and Heath Miller but he is very hard to trust in fantasy. Only the deepest of fantasy rosters should be using Wheaton as a third receiver or deep flex.
Filling in for suspended Martavis Bryant, Darrius Heyward-Bey had an up and down performance last week. Heyward-Bey caught a beautiful deep ball from Roethlisberger down the right sideline but also missed what should have been an easy touchdown. From a fantasy perspective, DHB should not be on any active rosters this week against San Francisco, despite his 9 fantasy point performance last week.
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 53 yards
Darrius Heyward-Bey Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 34 yards
Roethlisberger’s security blanket Heath Miller dominated the middle of the field against the Patriots linebackers and safeties. Heath received 11 targets against New England, tied with Antonio Brown for the team lead. Miller posted 8 receptions for 84 yards, good enough for 16 PPR fantasy points.
One of the things that I love about Miller from a fantasy perspective is that he is always on the field. Miller is not a situational player; he played all 73 of the Steelers offensive snaps in Week 1.The 49ers give up 15.8 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Miller continues to be undervalued in fantasy circles and is a fine streaming option this week. Expect Heath to have another strong performance this weekend.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 6 receptions, 63 yards, 1 TD
The Steelers run game did not see any drop-off with Le’Veon Bell suspended. Veteran DeAngelo Williams made a huge impression in his first game as a Steeler. Williams gashed the Patriots strong front seven all night long on his way to 127 rushing yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
It will certainly be tougher sledding this week against San Francisco. The 49ers stonewalled Adrian Peterson, holding him to only 31 yards rushing. San Francisco limited the Vikings to 71 yards rushing as a team. On the flip side, the Steelers had the 6th highest team rushing total on kickoff weekend. The Steelers offensive line was fantastic all night long. DeAngelo makes a very strong RB2 candidate in Week 2. He will very likely see 20+ touches again this week. Start Williams with confidence for one last week with Bell returning in Week 3.
The most surprising part of the rushing attack in Week 1 was Will Johnson’s involvement on the goal line. Johnson did cash in one touchdown, but his failure to get the second score was part of the reason that the Steelers are 0-1. Johnson received 4 carries, converting those into only 7 yards. I won’t be surprised to see Will get a few carries again this week but it will be interesting to see which running back the Steelers will use on the goal line this week. Their red zone offense must improve if they expect to make a playoff run this year.
One thing that I was completely wrong about last week was Dri Archer’s involvement in the offense. I expected Dri to see about 7-8 touches against New England, but he was barely on the field and did not receive a single touch on only 3 snaps. It is amazing that this guy was a 3rd round pick. Until we see any consistent involvement in the offense, I am only going to assume that Dri sees extremely limited spot action and special teams duty. He is in no way useable for fantasy.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 19 rushes, 83 yards, 1 TD / 2 receptions, 17 yards
Will Johnson Stat Projection – 3 rushes, 14 yards
Dri Archer Stat Projection – 1 reception, 11 yards
Lastly is kicker Josh Scobee. Scobee started his career in Pittsburgh as poorly as possible. Two missed field goals really hurt the Steelers chances to win the season opener. However, Scobee bounced back late in the game, connecting on two field goals and each of his extra point attempts. Scobee is still a strong fantasy candidate in the Steelers high powered offense. Give him another shot this week.
Josh Scobee Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 3/3 Extra Points
The Steelers are in a great position to win their home opener with the 49ers having to turn around after a late Monday night game and come to the east coast for a 1 PM kickoff. While the Steelers will have to adjust to a strong run game compared to what they saw in New England with a heavy passing attack, look for Pittsburgh to do just enough to get by a physical 49ers team this weekend. Good luck to all of you in your Week 2 fantasy matchups.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 27, 49ers 23
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.