Week 4 – October 1, 2015
Location: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opponent: Baltimore Ravens
Week 3 of the 2015 season was a cruel reminder that the NFL is still a brutal sport. When #7 hit the turf in St. Louis in the 3rd quarter of last Sunday’s game, Steeler Nation’s collective heads dropped in what appeared to be a season ending injury for their Pro Bowl signal caller.
You could almost hear Steelers fans and fantasy owners alike saying: not Ben, anyone but Ben! The positive spin is that an MRI revealed that the injury to Roethlisberger was not a season ending ACL injury but rather a bone bruise and MCL sprain. Ben Roethlisberger is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, and with that comes a huge dent to the outlook of the entire Steelers offense.
The well-oiled machine that posted 43 points against the 49ers came to a screeching halt as Big Ben exited the stadium on a cart. With Michael Vick now under center for the Black and Gold, a whole new set of challenges faces the 2015 Steelers. From a fantasy perspective, it is obvious that Antonio Brown will suffer most from the injury to Roethlisberger. Brown was so in sync with Ben it was truly amazing to watch. Brown’s NFL record 5 reception and 50 yard streak is in danger with Vick under center.
It is obvious that Vick is well past his prime, but Steelers fans remember well, just a year ago Vick lead the hapless New York Jets to a victory over Pittsburgh. Vick has never had a group of talented offensive players around him like he does right now. The biggest issue for this week is only 4 days of preparation to get ready for a desperate 0-3 Baltimore Ravens team.
Vick is a good pickup for your season long fantasy team as he inherits a very lucrative position. If you are desperate at quarterback after the Roethlisberger injury, he is not the worst start of the week. Don’t get cute and start him on DraftKings or Fanduel, except for in large tournaments where you are trying to differentiate your lineup.
The Steelers have been here before. Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon have all performed very well against Baltimore in recent memory. What does Vick need to do to keep Pittsburgh in the game and produce a victory?
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has made it very clear that the Steelers will pare down the playbook and play to Vick’s strengths. His strengths are bootlegs, rollouts and a short passing game that can allow him to get into a rhythm. Vick must get rid of the ball quickly against this Ravens pass rush or it will be a long night.
Let’s be clear. This is not your Father’s Ravens team. Ngata and Suggs are gone from a Ravens defense that has allowed 291 passing yards per game (4th worst in the NFL). The Ravens are struggling to contain opposing offenses. The key for Vick is to guide the Steelers offense into the end zone. Settling for field goals this week will not get the job done against Joe Flacco and the Ravens.
The Ravens continue to be stout against the run and will be sure to load the box on Thursday night so that Le’Veon Bell cannot beat them in the run game. Baltimore ranks 7th in the league, allowing only 84 rushing yards per game. They are going to make Vick beat them. With the Ravens allowing 734 passing yards in the past two weeks, Vick has the opportunity to do just that and send them home with a 0-4 record.
Michael Vick Stat Projection – 21/35, 226 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
As mentioned in the open, Antonio Brown is going to take a hit to his fantasy production. How big of a hit will depend on how quickly he can get on the same page as Michael Vick.
Brown faces a Ravens secondary that allowed him to post 18 receptions, 234 yards and 1 TD in two matchups a season ago. With Vick under center, look for Todd Haley to get Brown the ball more on quick slants and screens. In PPR (point per reception) formats, Brown will still retain top 10 value, but my concern is that the touchdowns will not be there for him during this stretch.
Baltimore’s secondary is weak and has already allowed three 100 yard receivers this season. Continue to start Brown as you always would and hope that his run after the catch ability can spring him for a touchdown this week.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 85 yards
Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey lose any fantasy value that they did have before with Roethlisberger. With Vick under center, targets will not be consistent enough to even consider starting either player. Both are safe to cut to the waiver wire with Martavis Bryant returning next week.
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 28 yards
Darrius Heyward-Bey Stat Projection – 2 receptions, 34 yards
Heath Miller has been nearly nonexistent since his 8 reception performance in the opener. Miller has only 4 receptions for 32 yards over the past two weeks. As was mentioned here last week, with Le’Veon Bell back, Miller will continue to lose a few targets each week.
Miller has been relegated to blocking duty much more often and is not a good fantasy option this week against Baltimore. The Ravens are excellent at defending tight ends, allowing only 30 receiving yards combined over their first three games. Find another option at tight end this week. Guys like Charles Clay (BUF) and Richard Rodgers (GB) may be on your waiver wire. Both have good matchups this week.
Heath Miller Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 26 yards
The Steelers run game behind Le’Veon Bell will be the focal point of the Steelers offense on Thursday night. Veteran DeAngelo Williams will also see some work against a strong Ravens front seven.
Baltimore has allowed 84 rushing yards per contest (7th in the NFL) and 0.7 rushing touchdowns per game (tied for 3rd in the NFL). The offensive line must set the tone early and win in the trenches. Bell will likely see 28-30 touches in this game, allowing him to rack up fantasy points based on volume alone. Bell looked great in his return from suspension and will be fresh for Thursday night’s contest. Expect Bell to see a few more targets in the passing game as well from screens and dump offs from Vick.
Le’Veon Bell Stat Projection – 21 rushes, 82 yards, 1 TD / 6 receptions, 53 yards
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 8 rushes, 30 yards
Kicker Josh Scobee has settled into his role nicely after a shaky start to the season. Scobee made both of his field goal attempts in Week 3 and will be a critical part of the Steelers ability to win this game against Baltimore. The weather is calling for rain and wind so Scobee will get his first true Heinz Field kicking test. Scobee very well may have a game winning kick opportunity as 9 of the last 13 matchups between the two teams have been decided by 4 points or less. Scobee is a solid fantasy start this week.
Josh Scobee Stat Projection – 3/4 Field Goals, 2/2 Extra Points
The Steelers have proven in years past that they can play with Baltimore no matter who is under center. A home, primetime matchup always favors the home team in this rivalry. If the Steelers can win the turnover battle, they should be able to win this game behind Le’Veon Bell and the improving defensive unit.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 23, Ravens 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.