Kickoff: Monday, December 21st, at 8:15 PM EST
Location: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
Betting Odds: PIT -13, 40.5 total via Oddsshark
Ben Roethlisberger (Start, QB2)
Losers of two straight after winning their first 11, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are in a get-right spot this week against the lowly Bengals. Roethlisberger’s been a bit of a turnover liability as of late, throwing five interceptions since Week 11. Even with that, he should not have an issue posting a solid return against a Cincinnati defense that is allowing the 16th most fantasy points to the quarterback position this year.
James Conner (Start if you must, RB2), Benny Snell Jr. (Sit)
James Conner was extremely ineffective last week returning off the Covid-19 list, carrying the ball 10 times for just 18 yards. This Pittsburgh offense is pass-first, and it’s shown for Conner most of the season. Now it’s being reported that he is dealing with a quad injury. If you can afford to, I’d actually leave him on the bench this week, but if you must start him, you can’t expect a great return. Benny Snell Jr. is worth rostering as you monitor Conner’s status the rest of the week leading up to Monday night, but even then, I wouldn’t trust starting him either. It’s worth mentioning that Cincy has given up the 12th fewest fantasy points to RB’s on the season.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Diontae Johnson (Start, WR3), JuJu Smith-Schuster (Start, FLEX), Chase Claypool (Start, FLEX), Eric Ebron (Start, TE2)
Diontae Johnson has had a case of the dropsies of late, and it’s a major concern heading into the fantasy Semifinals. Last week against the Bills, he caught four of seven targets for just 40 yards; with two drops early on in the game that had him sent to the sidelines for a bit. This late in the game, you’re going to continue to start him, but you may not get the return you were receiving in the middle of the season. Chase Claypool is still a worthy start as well, but he’s been quiet in recent weeks. He has just 11 receptions total in the last three games with zero touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster has seen his target share increase as of late, with 26 total since Week 12. He has reliable hands when thrown to, and is worthy of a FLEX start against a Bengals defense allowing the 17th most fantasy points to wide receivers on the year.
Eric Ebron remains a TE2 and can be considered slightly more than a TD-dependent option at his position. Week 14 was a downer, as he saw only five targets, but in Week 12 and 13 he caught seven of 11 targets in each game. Cincinnati has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends to date.
Brandon Allen (Sit)
Nothing to see here. Brandon Allen was thrust into the starting role this year and hasn’t led Cincy to any wins in that span. It’s hard to pass much judgment on him, but he’s certainly not a fantasy-relevant quarterback to consider.
Giovani Bernard (Sit), Samaje Perine (Sit)
Boy does it feel long ago from when Giovani Bernard was a viable RB2 filling in for Joe Mixon. Since Week 10 (off a Week 9 BYE), Bernard has only rushed for 118 yards on 40 carries. We’re in Week 15 and it’s clear that Bernard is off the fantasy radar, as is his backup Samaje Perine.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Tyler Boyd (Sit), Tee Higgins (Sit), Drew Sample (Sit)
If you were still starting Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, even without Joe Burrow under center, you’re a bit of a daredevil. Allen has a hard time moving the ball, and it will probably not be much different this week. Pittsburgh has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year, and with that Boyd and Higgins have been weekly casualties. The Steelers shouldn’t have difficulty shutting down the two, as well as tight end Drew Sample, as they have given up the fifteen fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, and the second-fewest to tight ends on the year.
-Matthew Cava (@cavaM_ Twitter & Reddit)