Week 1 – September 12, 2016
Location: FedEx Field – Landover, Maryland
Opponent: Washington Redskins
It feels like a long time since that Fitzgerald Toussaint fumble hit the turf in Denver early this calendar year. Meaningful football games are back, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have another opportunity to make a run at their 7th Super Bowl trophy.
I am excited to be back with you for the third straight season bringing you weekly fantasy content and analysis here at Steelers Depot.
If you were surprised that Toussaint was the first Steelers name mentioned this article, you shouldn’t be. The Steelers have suffered injuries and suspensions at an alarming rate over the past several seasons. You just never know who will be getting the football for the Steelers as the season rolls along, so stay sharp.
All season long, the theme will be: If the Steelers can stay healthy, this offense could be historic, even without Martavis Bryant for the entire season and Le’Veon Bell for the first three games.
As always, the offense will go as Big Ben goes. Roethlisberger enters his 13th season as the Steelers starting quarterback and is undoubtedly better than ever. As seen in the third preseason game, Ben looked sharp and healthy as he carved up the hapless New Orleans secondary for 148 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and did not get sacked in less than a half of work.
The questions that need to be answered early in the year include, where will Roethlisberger funnel his targets without Martavis Bryant on the field and with his security blanket Heath Miller now retired.
As for this week’s opponent, the Redskins pass defense averaged 258.0 net passing yards allowed per game last season (25th in the NFL). Washington surrendered 30 touchdowns through the air and had only 11 interceptions (also 25th in the NFL). On Monday night, Ben and AB will have to deal with newly acquired cornerback Josh Norman. Norman will certainly slow down Antonio Brown but not stop him. The matchup overall is very good for Ben and the passing offense.
The biggest red flag for me in this matchup is Ben’s home/road splits. Take a look at the RotoViz Game splits app below. This details Ben’s production over the past 4 seasons under Todd Haley. With this large sample size, Ben’s statistical production is significantly less on the road. He has posted nearly a touchdown less and .21 more interceptions per game. Take this into consideration if you are starting Ben this week.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 25/38, 295 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
The matchup of the week when the Steelers are on offense is no doubt, Antonio Brown against Josh Norman.
If AB is able to get the edge in this matchup (and keep a cool head as Ben has encouraged him to do), I believe the Steelers will score 30+ points in this game.
We have seen elite cornerbacks like Richard Sherman be able to slow down Brown in the recent past, so it is no lock that Brown gets the upper hand here. The reality is that there is no guarantee that Norman is a truly elite corner. Without a pass rush like he had in Carolina, Norman may just get toasted by Brown on Monday night.
Last season, Brown received 12.1 targets per game, the second highest mark in the league behind only Julio Jones. Brown, who finished the 2015 season with 84 receptions over the final 8 games is likely to be the best receiver in fantasy football again this season.
Washington was continually abused in the passing game a season ago by opposing wide receivers. The Redskins gave up the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing receivers. (11.6 receptions, 176.1 yards and 1.4 TD) With the warnings about Norman still considered, fire up AB with confidence on Monday night.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 8 receptions, 105 yards, 1 TD
Young receivers Sammie Coates and Eli Rodgers can help Ben to a monster year in the passing game if they can take some coverage away from Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton.
We would be foolish, however, to think that they are going to step in right away and blow away opposing defenses. There are going to be growing pains with this group of receivers and we may see some of that early in the season, including Monday night.
With Markus Wheaton not practicing on Thursday and Friday, the secondary receivers on this Steelers team cannot be trusted as reliable fantasy options this week. I could certainly see Coates breaking a long touchdown or Rodgers having 5-6 catches in a best case scenario, but we need to see it in game action first.
My fantasy advice across the board is to play your known commodities over the first couple games of the year. Don’t get cute!
I think all three guys catch a few passes but don’t make a big fantasy splash.
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 55 yards
Sammie Coates Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 40 yards
Eli Rodgers Stat Projection – 3 receptions, 35 yards
The changes on offense may take some time to completely come together but it sure did appear that Big Ben found a new starting tight end in second year pro Jesse James. In the always important preseason week 3, James saw nine targets for a 4 receptions, 25 yards and 1 touchdown stat line at New Orleans.
I think James is the sneaky play here among the Steelers pass catchers. Washington allowed 5.3 receptions, 59.9 yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game to opposing tight ends in 2015. With not much changed in their linebacker group, James could post a solid stat line here and maybe score a red zone touchdown.
Jesse James Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 35 yards, 1 TD
DeAngelo Williams is set up to have a huge game on Monday night. Obviously AB is the top fantasy play but Williams actually has a chance to outscore him if he gets into the end zone. (HINT: I think he will)
In 2015, the Redskins ranked 26th against the run, surrendering 4.8 yards per carry. Williams filled in for Le’Veon Bell extremely well a season ago, and there is no reason that a fresh DWill won’t carve up this Redskins defense.
Washington surrendered 18.07 standard fantasy points to opposing running backs last year. Williams has an excellent chance at 20+ fantasy points on Monday night. Williams is one of my favorite plays of the week, not just this game.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 21 rushes, 105 yards, 2 TD / 3 receptions, 25 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell has been incredibly consistent in his short stint with the Steelers. He is a great fantasy option on Monday night and should net you around 10 fantasy points.
Chris Boswell Stat Projection – 2/2 Field Goals, 4/4 Extra Points
The Steelers are certainly the more talented team in this matchup with Washington. They are favored by 3 points on the road according to Las Vegas. An interesting note I saw this week: Washington is 2-14 on Monday night football over their past 16 contests. Look for the Steelers ability to run the football and to stop the run better than the Redskins to be the difference in this game. Steelers win fairly handily in the opener. I will be there in person with a large contingent of SteelerNation to make the Redskins have to go to a silent snap count like they did in 2008. Here we go!
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 34, Redskins 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.