Kickoff: Sunday, November 15th at 4:25 PM ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting Odds: CIN +7.5, 47.5 total via Oddsshark
Joe Burrow (Sit, QB2)
Joe Burrow is QB8 over his last three games, making him useful for almost all fantasy managers who have rostered him up to this point. The number one overall pick hasn’t been the most impressive rookie QB this year, however, as that distinction goes to none other than Justin Herbert. Either way, Burrow’s performance in Week 8 against Tennesee’s terrible pass defense left a lot to be desired (18.86 fantasy points), but they didn’t need him to throw the ball 50 times and score a bunch of touchdowns. This week, against an undefeated Steelers team that excels on both sides of the ball, Burrow may be asked to do more to keep them in the game, though that may be difficult with Pittsburgh’s pass rush constantly breathing down his neck. Cincinnati’s offensive line has been porous at best, and Pro Football Focus has this as the single worst Offensive Line/Defensive Line matchup in Week 10. I’m worried about Burrow this week, and while he may put up good numbers based on volume alone, I’d rather look elsewhere at QB.
Joe Mixon (Start, RB2), Giovanni Bernard (Start, Flex)
Joe Mixon was day to day in Week 8 before missing the game with a foot injury, and after the bye, it could finally be Joe Mixon SZN again. Do you want to start him against the vaunted Steelers’ defense, the team who has allowed the fewest fantasy points allowed to RBs this season? I doubt it, but you may not have a choice. If Mixon is playing, his upside is likely capped at RB2 status and he’ll need to get into the end zone to return some value this week. The same goes for Giovanni Bernard if Mixon ends up missing the game, though his upside is likely capped as a Flex back and no more. He’s not worth starting if Mixon returns, so keep an eye on the news coming out of Cincinnati this week and adjust accordingly, but the matchup is not good regardless.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Tyler Boyd (Start, WR2), Tee Higgins (Start, Flex), A.J. Green (Sit, Flex)
Of these three receivers, Tyler Boyd has the best matchup against the vaunted Steelers secondary, and he’s the guy you want to be starting in this offense anyway. He’s averaging just over 20 fantasy points in their last three games and he’s the WR13 overall this season, showing the chemistry with Burrow that we all hoped for when we drafted Boyd in the 6th round of our drafts. He’s getting plenty of volume, plenty of red-zone looks (seven of ten WR targets the past three weeks), and he’s got the best matchup of the three receivers to boot. He should be a solid WR2 this week.
As for Tee Higgins and A.J. Green, their performances are largely dependent on volume this week. Their matchups are not as good, and they don’t convert enough of their targets into catches to have a high floor against a good defense. They’re Flex plays at best, and if I had to choose one of the two it would be Higgins.
Ben Roethlisberger (Sit, QB2)
Big Ben was placed on the Reserve/COVID list on Tuesday, a bad sign for his Week 10 outlook. He’s considered a high-risk contact and as of writing has not tested positive himself, but he will be in isolation for five days while he awaits the all-clear. We saw Matthew Stafford in a similar situation last week, and he looked atrocious on Sunday after missing a week of practice, so it’s entirely possible this could have a large impact on Sunday’s game. Granted, Roethlisberger has much better weapons than Stafford does, but the missing practice is no joke when you’re the quarterback of the team.
Let’s not also forget that Roethlisberger injured his knee in Week 9. Yes, he’s tough and has played through injuries before, but he’s no spring chicken anymore. It’s something to monitor throughout the week, though we likely won’t know his true status until he tries to suit up on Sunday since he won’t be at practice.
When it comes to the matchup itself, Cincinnati’s defense has been okay this season. Their 11 sacks are in the bottom half of league rankings, and they have allowed the 10th most yards per attempt on the season. Roethlisberger has thrown for either 300 yards or 3 touchdowns only once in the past five years against the Bengals, so the matchup doesn’t really present itself as something worthy of ignoring the current issues with his health. If you can stay away from Roethlisberger this week I would, otherwise, he’s nothing more than a QB2.
James Conner (Start, RB2), Benny Snell Jr. (Sit), Anthony McFarland Jr. (Sit)
James Conner must be a magician because the disappearing act he pulled in Week 9 had me completely fooled. The Steelers completely abandoned the run game in a “shootout” with the awful Cowboys. I put quotation marks around shootout because it wasn’t that high scoring, but the Steelers only ran the ball 15 times in the entire game, with Conner securing nine of those carries and three each for both Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr.
The Bengals have allowed the fifth-most rushing yards this season, so in a week where Big Ben may be limited, there’s a really good chance that we see a lot of James Conner. After last week’s dud, it’s clear that he’s not matchup proof, but he should return RB2 numbers in this one.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Start, WR2), Diontae Johnson (Start, Flex), Chase Claypool (Start, Flex), James Washington (Sit), Eric Ebron (Start, TE2)
As I said in the Roethlisberger writeup, he’s only thrown for 300 yards or 3 touchdowns against the Bengals once in the past five years. That’s a pretty good sample size, and if he’s not going to put up big numbers then you can’t count on any of his receiving options to do so either. In their last three games, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool have 29, 28, and 23 targets, respectively, JuJu has been the best of the three by far, catching 75.9% of his targets with nearly 250 receiving yards to boot. He also has a very favorable matchup against Cincinnati corner LeShaun Sims, who Pro Football Focus gives a terrible 48.9 ranking. Of the three receivers, JuJu is the one I would want to start and feel most comfortable with, so he’s a WR2 in my eyes. Johnson has seen plenty of targets himself, but he’s dealt with so many injuries this season it’s hard to fully trust him. Claypool has been boom or bust in recent weeks, but he’s still involved enough that he’s also a worthy Flex play.
Cincinnati has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to tight ends this season, making them a solid matchup for Eric Ebron. He’s not getting a ton of usage in this offense, averaging just over six targets and four catches each of the past three weeks, but he does have five red-zone targets in that same timeframe so he’s getting important looks. I like his chances for a solid day.
-Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)