Fantasy football has become a billion dollar industry with millions of leagues worldwide and daily fantasy games at the touch of your finger. Many have made nice careers out of attempting to predict the future by telling you what a player will do. They use statistics, trends, history and even intuition to come up with best guesses. Now it’s my turn. I’m going to take my 20+ years of fantasy football participation to give you my best guess each week for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Week 1 Opponent – Cincinnati Bengals
Location – Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Record vs Opponent (Last 10 meetings) – 9-1 (4-1 at home)
Last Meeting – 12/30/18 – Steelers 16 Bengals 13
No wins going into week 4 was something I don’t think anyone expected. Even with the changes and loss of players there was positivity coming into the season. The Steelers haven’t yet played up to their capabilities and once again we’re hoping to see that this week. I guess we can take some solace in the fact that they haven’t played well and had a chance to win the last two games.
The first division game comes this Monday night with the Cincinnati Bengals coming to Heinz Field. The Bengals are in a similar boat also being winless. Barring a tie, someone will move out of the AFC North basement.
Andy Dalton is still leading the Bengal offense and he comes in averaging 27 completions, 43 attempts and 326.3 yards per game. Dalton is on pace for 688 attempts which would be 102 more than his previous high. Tyler Boyd is the number one receiver with A.J. Green injured and has 24 receptions for 250 yards. WR John Ross already has a career high with 292 yards. Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah are the top tight ends and have a combined 13 receptions for 120 yards and 1 touchdown.
The Bengals running game has been just as bad as the Steelers with Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard combining for 119 yards rushing and 12 receptions for 107 yards with one total touchdown.
The defensive coordinator is new and it’s safe to say he hasn’t found his groove yet. They’ve only giving up 713 total yards through the air but have allowed 6 touchdowns. The passing numbers are low because the run defense numbers are high. They have allowed 506 yards rushing (168.7 per game) and 4 touchdowns. This game could be an elixir to what has ailed the Steelers running game.
Mason Rudolph gets start number two and while he started off slow last week a couple second half TD’s helped to give him solid numbers overall. I thought we’d see him more under center last week but alas they did not. It seemed that they didn’t make many scheme adjustments and just went with what they do.
Looking at Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers over his last 4 games against the Bengals and they are a bit lower than his norms. His passing yardage averages were less than 295 yards per game. Rudolph six quarter sample size gives us averages that you’d probably expect from a young QB just getting his feet wet.
|Player – Averages||Cmp||Att||Cmp%||Yds||TD||Int|
|Ben’s Last 4||25.25||38.75||65.16%||292.5||1.5||0.5|
|Mason’s Pro Rated||17.33||30.67||56.52%||190.67||2.67||1.33|
Prediction – I would expect a small bump in Rudolph’s overall numbers from last week as he gets more comfortable. He’ll have to rely more on his receivers and running backs because the tight end position is overwhelmed with injuries.
Rudolph – 18/31, 227 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 carries for 10 yards
This could be, this should be, the breakout game for this running game. The Bengals defense has been gutted by the opposing running games. The Buffalo Bills ran the ball 36 times. San Francisco ran it 42 times. There are yards to be had out there. Hopefully the coaching staff took notes on what previous teams have done. It hasn’t been one workhorse back doing the damage; it’s been a committee effort.
RB numbers vs the Bengals
|Position||Att||Yds||Rush TD||Tgt||Rec||Yds||Rec TD|
Prediction – Will the Steelers make use of Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell? They received a combined 3 touches in the last game. I think that all depends on if and when the running game can be effective. If they run the ball well early, they’ll likely stick to it to take pressure off of Rudolph. That is a big if however.
Conner – 15 carries for 62 yards, 2 reception for 13 yards
Samuels – 4 carries for 21 yards 2 receptions for 14 yards
Snell – 3 carries for 11 yards, 1 TD
The reception numbers by WR’s have been modest likely due to a couple of reasons. First of all, as stated, teams have been able to run against the Bengals. You don’t need to pass as often when you’re getting almost 5 yards a carry. And secondly, the WR groups they have faced I would consider between solid and good groups overall. At this time, I would put the Steelers WR group in that same territory with a solid ranking.
WR numbers vs the Bengals
Prediction – Randy Fichtner indicated that they missed some chances at throwing the deep ball last week. So it’s plausible they’ll take more shots downfield. Or was that information put out there to put that idea in the heads of the Bengals DB’s to soften the coverage? Either way this group needs to continue to improve. Diontae Johnson had a solid first start last week getting his first touchdown. James Washington needs to become more of a threat and not just on deep balls.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 5 receptions for 95, 1 TD
Johnson – 3 receptions for 40 yards, 1 rush for 8 yards
Washington – 3 receptions for 48 yards
Ryan Switzer – 2 receptions for 12 yards
Estimating what could happen here is difficult this week. Will Vance McDonald play? As of this writing he wasn’t practicing. Xavier Grimble went down with and injury and in part sent the Steelers shopping. In steps Nick Vannett who had 4 receptions with Seattle. He has worked out with Rudolph so they have some familiarity but how much will they put on his plate this week? The other option is rookie Zach Gentry he made his debut last week and ran some routes.
TE Number vs the Bengals
Prediction – Honesty, if McDonald is out, this group may not get any targets. If McDonald doesn’t practice on Saturday he is likely out. I’m not going to expect much from the others but I’ll give on one reception.
Gentry – 1 reception for 5 yards
Chris Boswell continued his good start adding 2 more field goals to make him 5 for 5 on the season and 2 more extra points to make him 4 for 4. Kickers against Cincinnati have been perfect on extra points going 9 for 9 and they have made 4 of 6 field goals.
Boswell – 2 of 2 on extra points, 2 of 3 on field goals
Score Prediction – I’ve picked them to win every week so far and they have lost every week. So I’m going reverse psychology here and hopefully get a win. I’d rather be wrong with my prediction and have them win.
Bengals 23 – Steelers 20