Week 14 – December 13, 2015
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
The Steelers performance against the Colts was an absolute clinic in offensive football. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers wide receivers shredded the Indianapolis defense. As our own Jon Ledyard pointed out this week on Twitter, all four of the Steelers offensive touchdowns against the Colts came on third down. This is a critical improvement for this Steelers team and something that will come into play this week against Cincinnati.
The Steelers should already have a win against the Bengals this year but gave one away in Pittsburgh last month. Be sure that they have circled this game and will be looking to get revenge against their tough division rival.
The Steelers have only a glimmer of hope of winning the AFC North even if they win this game, but it is critical for them to win to keep pace with the Chiefs and the Jets in the AFC Wild Card hunt. The Bengals have plenty of motivation themselves, as they currently sit as the #1 see in the AFC.
This game is going to be extremely physical but Ben Roethlisberger has thrived in his career in Cincinnati and it appears that he is primed to beat the Bengals once again on their home turf. Ben has 16 wins in his 23 career starts against the Bengals, including an unbelievable 9-2 record against them in Cincinnati.
Ben doesn’t have the best statistical matchup against the Bengals, who rank 11th in pass defense. However, since Week 10, Ben has averaged a whopping 400 passing yards per game. That includes a visit to the Legion of Boom two weeks ago. Don’t let Roethlisberger’s poor performance against the Bengals in Week 8 scare you. He was returning from missing 4 games, and it is well documented that he has performed poorly in those situations. Sunday will be a different game than the first matchup against the Bengals, as cornerbacks Leon Hall and Pacman Jones may not play as well as safety George Iloka.
Fire up Big Ben as your fantasy quarterback and ride the hot streak during the first week of your fantasy playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 24/37, 330 yards, 2 TD
The Steelers wide receivers are absolutely the best group in the NFL. They continually win in single coverage and Antonio Brown is simply spectacular to watch. Ben Roethlisberger is hot right now and so goes the trio of receivers for your fantasy team. As was predicted here last week, all three receivers scored in the game against the Colts, with Brown notching 3 touchdowns.
This week they will face a stiff test in the Bengals defense but that defense could be somewhat limited due to injuries to 3 of their starting players in the secondary.
The Bengals are tough against opposing wide receivers, allowing only 12.6 receptions, 146.8 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game. They did a very good job against Pittsburgh the first time around and will try to create a similar game plan to take away Martavis Bryant from beating them deep. In looking at recent game logs for the Bengals, the game against the Cardinals jumps out as a data point that indicates that the Steelers could have major success this week. The Bengals allowed 317 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to Carson Palmer and the Cardinals, who run a very similar style of offense to the Steelers.
As mentioned above, Roethlisberger has impressive splits against the Bengals in Cincy, so I anticipate the Steelers offense to continue to produce at a league leading pace.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 8 receptions, 110 yards, 1 TD
Martavis Bryant Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 76 yards, 1 TD
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 48 yards
Heath Miller is not looking likely to play as of Thursday. He did not practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday as he is still dealing with a painful rib injury. The key beneficiary is Markus Wheaton who will absorb more targets in the middle of the field. Jesse James showed some reliable hands on Sunday night and will likely see 4-5 targets in the passing game if Heath cannot suit up.
Jesse James Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 28 yards
Coming off his third 100 yard rushing performance of the season, DeAngelo Williams continues to propel the Steelers running game. The 32 year old veteran running back has helped ease the loss of Le’Veon Bell. This week Williams will face off against the tough Bengals front seven that allows the 10th fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs (15.77 points per game).
In his first matchup with the Bengals, Williams racked up 110 total yards on only 13 touches in relief of the injured Le’Veon Bell. Williams should find plenty of success in this matchup as Roethlisberger loosens up the defense. Look for Williams to top 100 total yards once again this week.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 21 rushes, 92 yards, 1 TD / 5 receptions, 43 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell missed a field goal last week but still managed to add 13 points to the score board on Sunday Night Football. Pittsburgh may not be able to score quite as frequently against the Bengals so look for a good number of field goal attempts in this one. Boswell is a solid top 10 option at kicker this week.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 3/3 Field Goals, 2/2 Extra Points
The Steelers will come into this game focused and determined to get another AFC North win. Ben Roethlisberger has dominated the Bengals in his career against them in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh will not play nearly as poorly as they did in the first matchup. Look for the offense to stay hot and get another win.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 31, 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.