Kickoff: Sunday, November 22 at 1:00 PM ET
Location: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Betting Odds: PIT -10, 47 Total via Oddsshark
Ben Roethlisberger (Start, QB1)
As the calendar has turned to Fall, Ben Roethlisberger has started to really heat up with favorable matchups. Coming off two games with 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns, Big Ben is set up to put up a big line again this week against a cupcake Jacksonville defense. Yes, Mike Tomlin gave the, “We respect the hell out of the Jags,” coachspeak, but that won’t matter this week as Big Ben finds his wide receivers with ease. With arguably the best core of pass catchers that Big Ben has had in his career, he is starting to really flourish with chemistry to all four of them as we will see in the pass-catcher section below. Start Big Ben with confidence this week as he looks to continue his torrid pace from the previous two starts against similar defenses.
James Conner (Start, Flex)
James Conner has seen his production dip with the increase in the passing game and we could see more of the same this week. After scoring 14+ in PPR from Week 2 until Week 8, he has now gone for 4 and 6.8 points in the last two. Tomlin has seemed to find what is working best to win games right now, and that is relying on exploiting the main weaknesses of the opposing defense. While Jacksonville has a terrible run defense, their pass defense is worse. Conner definitely has RB1 upside if he sees more than the average of 11 carries he has seen over the last two weeks, but I don’t see it here, especially in 10/12 person leagues.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Start, WR2), Diontae Johnson (Start, WR2), Chase Claypool (Start, Flex), Eric Ebron (Start, TE1)
Often thought of as the forgotten piece to this exciting offense, JuJu Smith-Schuster has been the most consistent out of all of the Steelers offensive players in recent weeks. Seeing an average of about 10 targets since Week 7, JuJu has torched the previous two similarly bad defenses for 6/93/1 and 9/77/1, worthy of WR1 numbers. With more WR2 numbers on his stat sheet than WR1, however, he is best suited to be ranked as a WR2 for now, but if injuries were to occur and this production continues, we may have to revisit that discussion. After this week the defenses get a little more stout but enjoy one more cupcake before Marlon Humphrey and the Ravens come to town next week. When healthy, Diontae Johnson has actually been the favorite target of Big Ben, and arguably the most gifted at getting open. In every game that Johnson has been healthy (5 games), Johnson has racked up double digit targets. Assuming health in this one, the same can be expected. While dubbing Johnson a WR1 would be too bold given his injury risk, he will be in the conversation when it is all said and done this week if he can play the full game and see his usual 10-12 targets. The wide receiver with the widest range of outcomes is rookie Chase Claypool. He has seen double-digit targets in half of his games this year but has also seen the most bust weeks out of this group of wide receivers. While this may be the case, he still has lit up bad defenses the past two weeks in fantasy, topping 15 points in both, and he is helped by the team’s commitment to getting him involved on the ground on jet sweeps. A high upside Flex play, Claypool has become a staple for owners that took a chance on him. In a desolate wasteland of tight ends, Eric Ebron is a default TE1 due to his 6 target floor. You don’t get that from a lot of guys, and while you can expect some duds like we saw last week, there is a safe expectation of double-digit points, which is a welcome sight at the position.
Jake Luton (Sit)
Jake Luton put up a decent start his first game out for 304/1 with a rushing touchdown to boot. Last week, however, he only managed 169/1 against Green Bay and gets an even tougher test this week against the Steelers who are top three in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Luton severely limits other position players for the Jaguars as the offense will struggle to get into the red zone, so expectations should be tempered across the board as we will discuss below. He is an easy sit this week.
James Robinson (Start, RB2)
The fantasy bell cow for many players this year that came out of nowhere is James Robinson. He has seen 20+ carries in his last three games, which is something we don’t see from running backs these days. With that being said, the limitations that I talked about in the quarterback section begin to take their hold here. While Robinson is getting a ton of work, if there isn’t a touchdown or two attached to it then it is more of a flex/RB2 week than an RB1. Against the Steelers, we expect this to be magnified as they are great at exploiting weaknesses. Who knows, maybe Robinson suddenly becomes the recipient of a lot of dump-off passes, but we haven’t seen that up to now. You still get a safe floor with the amount of work JRob is getting, but we just can’t guarantee RB1 upside with him this week given the matchup and quarterback situation.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
DJ Chark (Start, Flex), Keelan Cole (Sit), Laviska Shenault (Sit, Questionable)
The temptation this week is to recommend literally no one from this group, but with the Jags to surely be playing from behind the only play I have for you this week is DJ Chark. Two weeks ago he was peppered with targets from Luton, as he went for 7/146/1. Last week he came back to Earth with 4/56, but he is the most talented of the healthy receivers. If Laviska Shenault does get healthy, then I think the entire group becomes a sit for me as the butter will be spread too thin, but I can’t recommend anyone else, solely based on the fact that this Steelers defense is so good. Keelan Cole did score twice last week, one receiving and one returning, so if you are in a league that grants return yardage then I like him as a flex play as the Steelers will be scoring a lot and kicking off a lot. Otherwise, he is left on your bench. Start Chark with marginal confidence.
-Matt Dean (@MattDeanQBList on Twitter, mdean8 on Reddit)