Week 2 – September 18, 2016
Location: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
The Pittsburgh Steelers started off the 2016 season with a bang! After a slow first quarter in Washington, the Steelers lit up the scoreboard with 38 points, posting highlight reel plays all night long.
The fans and the players need to forget about that game quickly and turn their attention to a vital Week 2 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. This game is going to be extremely physical as the Bengals seek revenge from their 2015 season ending loss to Pittsburgh. The Steelers own the Bengals in recent history as much as Cincinnati fans are delusional about it. Since 2010, the Steelers are 10-3 against the Bengals including that thrilling playoff win in Cincinnati just 9 months ago that we all remember so well.
Last week in Washington, Roethlisberger torched the Redskins. He threw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns but this week Ben doesn’t have the best statistical matchup against the Bengals, who rank 9th in pass defense after one week, allowing only 188 passing yards to the Jets.
Last year Ben struggled against the Bengals in two matchups. In those two contests, Ben threw the ball 84 times but only came away with 1 touchdown compared to 4 interceptions. The Bengals have a proven formula to slow down Big Ben and there is reason to think that it may be the same way on Sunday afternoon. Safety Reggie Nelson is now in Oakland, which should help the Steelers passing game but these two teams know each other so well.
From a fantasy perspective, proceed with caution if you are expecting a huge game from Ben on Sunday. If he is your fantasy quarterback you should certainly stick with him, but I would recommend tempering your expectations this week.
Ben Roethlisberger Stat Projection – 26/39, 280 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
The Steelers wide receivers continue to dazzle even without Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton last week. They continually win in single coverage and Antonio Brown is simply spectacular to watch. The connection between Ben and AB is unreal, and it was special to watch in person on Monday night at FedEx Field. Expect monster stat lines from AB every single week, but as was mentioned above with Big Ben, the Bengals have slowed down Brown in the past. Last year in two regular season matchups, AB totaled only 13 receptions, 134 yards and 1 TD.
This week the receiving corps will face a stiff test in the Bengals defense but that defense could be somewhat limited compared to what we saw from them last season. The criminal, Vontaze Burfict is suspended for this matchup and as was mentioned above, safety Reggie Nelson is no longer patrolling the backend of the Cincinnati defense.
The Bengals are tough against opposing wide receivers, but did allow 12 receptions, 123 yards and 2 touchdowns last week to New York Jets receivers. The Bengals typically try to take away the deep ball from Big Ben, so Sammie Coates may have a quiet game in this one, especially if Markus Wheaton returns from injury.
The two guys aside from AB that benefit most if the Steelers turn to a short passing attack is Eli Rodgers and tight end Jesse James. I was very impressed with Rodgers running out of the slot against the Redskins, as he continually won his one on one matchups. Look for Rodgers to continue his success this week. He looks to be a solid start in PPR formats moving forward.
Markus Wheaton returned to practice on Wednesday and ended the week as questionable for Sunday. Wheaton’s possible return will bring another trusted weapon into the fold for Roethlisberger. I would take a wait and see approach in starting Wheaton on your fantasy squad. He has the opportunity to put up solid numbers this year but has gone quiet in these spots before.
Antonio Brown Stat Projection – 7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD
Eli Rodgers Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 45 yards
Markus Wheaton Stat Projection – 4 receptions, 45 yards
Sammie Coates – 2 receptions, 35 yards
Jesse James showed some reliable hands on Monday night and will likely see 6-7 targets in the passing game. Last season, the Bengals allowed 6.3 receptions and 63.1 receiving yards per game to opposing tight ends. I like James to be a nice streaming option at tight end and even a sneaky daily fantasy start on DraftKings or Fanduel.
Jesse James Stat Projection – 5 receptions, 45 yards, 1 TD
Coming off his first 100 yard rushing performance of the season, DeAngelo Williams continues to propel the Steelers running game. The 33 year old veteran running back has helped ease the loss of Le’Veon Bell to start the season. Williams carried a big load against the soft Redskins run defense. This week Williams will face off against the tough Bengals front seven that allowed only 77.6 rushing yards per game last season and 16.7 fantasy points to opposing running backs.
In the second matchup with the Bengals last year in which he started for Bell, Williams averaged only 3.3 yards per rush but did score 2 touchdowns. Williams should find plenty of success in this matchup as the Steelers offensive line continues to improve with Pouncey back in the lineup. Look for Williams to top 100 total yards once again this week.
DeAngelo Williams Stat Projection – 21 rushes, 85 yards, 1 TD / 3 receptions, 25 yards
Kicker Chris Boswell was perfect in the opener, kicking only 1 field goal but did make 5 extra points. Pittsburgh may not be able to score touchdowns 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, 3/3 Extra Points
The Steelers will come into this game focused and determined to get their first AFC North win of the season in their home opener. Pittsburgh has beaten Cincinnati in 10 of their past 13 meetings dating back to 2010. Look for the Steelers to come out fast and hold that lead against the Bengals. This one will be much closer than Monday night against Washington but I like the Steelers to come out on top.
Final Score Prediction – Steelers 30, Bengals 26
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.