Kickoff: Sunday, November 19th @ 1:00 PM ET
Location: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
Betting Odds: CLV -4, 37 total via PFF.com
Writer: Matthew Cava (@cavaM_ on Twitter/X)
Kenny Pickett (Sit)
Somehow, some way, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to find ways to win this season despite underwhelming quarterback play from Kenny Pickett. The Steelers enter Week 11 with a 6-3 record, and Pickett only owns a 6:4 passing touchdown to interception ratio. Since Week 8, he’s only averaging 120 yards per game through the air. You can see where this is headed: Pickett can be left on the wire and out of fantasy lineups.
Najee Harris (Start, RB2), Jaylen Warren (Start, FLEX)
A backfield that has been so hit-or-miss much of the year now supports two viable options in Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Harris enters Week 11 with three touchdowns in the last four games; since Week 7, he is averaging 15.1 full-PPR points per game. He has yet to rush for over 100 yards this season, and the task won’t be much easier against a Cleveland Browns defense that ranks among the league’s five toughest in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. That said, Cleveland did just allow touchdowns to both Gus Edwards and Keaton Mitchell last week.
Warren has been the more explosive running back in Pittsburgh, and he gained 101 yards on the ground last week on just 15 carries against the Packers; he found the end zone in the process. If you stuck him all season, you’re starting to reap the rewards. Warren is firmly on the FLEX radar.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Diontae Johnson (Start, WR2), George Pickens (Sit, FLEX), Pat Freiermuth (Sit), Connor Heyward (Sit)
Diontae Johnson’s Week 10 target total of four was his lowest of the season, Overall, he laid a dud against the Packers. He had only one reception for 17 yards but should be called upon much more often this week against the Browns. Johnson has run 80 percent of his routes from the outside, meaning he’ll mostly draw Martin Emerson, Jr. and Denzel Ward in coverage. Ward ranks in the 43rd percentile (64th/113) as a cover corner this year, per PFF; Emerson finds himself in the 34th percentile (75th/113) by those same metrics. So while Cleveland held the Baltimore Ravens wide receiving corps in check last week, Johnson remains on the map as a low-end WR2 this week.
George Pickens remains a secondary option for Pickett in this middling Steelers pass attack, and he owns a lackluster 53 percent catch rate on the year, having hauled in 33 receptions on 62 targets. To be fair, this is due in part to the kinds of routes he’s been asked to run; he tends to run deeper, lower percentage routes than Johnson. That said, if you’re in a bind with the likes of Chris Olave, Michael Pittman Jr., and Demario Douglas on their bye weeks, Pickens could offer FLEX appeal. However, if you can avoid doing so, he’s better off sitting on fantasy benches this week.
At the time of writing, Pat Freiermuth is expected to play this week, but given that he wasn’t producing at a high level earlier this season when healthy, he’s not in the “start” conversation until he proves he can go a full game without aggravating his hamstring injury. Connor Heyward has seen some moderate volume in recent weeks while Freiermuth has been sidelined, but his production has left much to be desired. Sit him as well.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Sit)
It was announced on Wednesday morning that Deshaun Watson will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, news that seemingly came out of nowhere considering he was undergoing an MRI on Monday for an ankle injury suffered in Sunday’s thrilling win. To say the Watson era in Cleveland has been a rollercoaster so far is a severe understatement.
Many assumed P. J. Walker would be anointed the starter, but rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson was awarded the job this week. When we last saw DTR, he looked overwhelmed, but that could be largely because he found out gameday morning that he was set to start against the Baltimore Ravens. Either way, no one should be looking to start him this week.
Jerome Ford (Start, RB2), Kareem Hunt (Start, FLEX)
Jerome Ford ran for 107 yards on 17 carries last week, making him the second running back on the season to rush for over 100 yards against a tough Baltimore defense. Meanwhile, Kareem Hunt found the end zone for the fifth straight game against the Ravens. Since Week 6, Hunt has averaged 12 carries per game, compared to Ford’s 15; both are seeing significant work. All of this should bode well for both running backs against a Steelers defense that’s allowing the 11th most fantasy points to running backs so far this season. Look for Cleveland to lean on their run game as well to ease the burden on their Day 3 rookie quarterback.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Amari Cooper (Start, WR3), Elijah Moore (Sit), David Njoku (Sit, TE2)
Coming off a strong day against Baltimore, Amari Cooper now has 326 yards total over the last three weeks. He has only one touchdown in that span but is averaging 18.5 PPR points per game. He has been a steady WR2, but his stock takes a major hit now with DTR under center. On the bright side, the Steelers are allowing the fifth most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, so perhaps Cooper’s new quarterback will be tempted to lean on him more than he otherwise might.
Elijah Moore had his best game as a Brown last week, catching five of seven targets for 44 yards and one touchdown. However, Moore’s overall body of work this season has not been that of a receiver the Browns expected when they traded for him. While he was a coveted waiver wire addition for some earlier this week on the heels of a fairly productive Week 10, Moore isn’t a strong addition to fantasy lineups in Week 11.
Since Week 7, David Njoku has 22 receptions on 36 targets for 239 yards and two touchdowns. While he hasn’t been elite, he has been as consistent as they come in a weak tight end landscape and should remain on the TE2 trajectory as a potential safety blanket for DTR down the stretch. However, the Steelers are strong against tight ends this year: only three other teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to tight ends this season. While there are worse options than Njoku, the odds of finding a stronger one are high, especially when considering the uncertainty at quarterback.