Kickoff: Sunday, January 9th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Betting Odds: PIT +5.5, 41.5 total via Oddsshark
Ben Roethlisberger (Sit, Low-end QB2)
The match-up is enticing for fantasy quarterbacks, but unfortunately, Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t inspire much hope. “Big Ben” was the overall fantasy QB21 in 2021 and is only averaging 8.3 fantasy points per game over his last three. If you’re still playing for a championship, Roethlisberger isn’t worth the headache.
Najee Harris (Start, RB1)
Najee Harris had a stellar rookie season, finishing as the overall RB3 in PPR formats. Harris will have his work cut out for him this week against the Ravens. Baltimore allowed the fewest ground yards this season. Still, the Steelers remain on the playoff bubble and will be playing for a potential spot in the postseason on Sunday. That should mean plenty of work for Najee, who just saw a career-high 28 carries just last week. Start with confidence.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Diontae Johnson (Sit), Chase Claypool (WR3), Ray-Ray McCloud (Flex), James Washington (Flex), Pat Freiermuth (Start-able, High-end TE2)
Diontae Johnson was a dependable fantasy option this year with one of the safest floors in the league. Unfortunately, Johnson landed on the COVID list and will not play this Sunday. It’s a huge blow to the Steelers and fantasy managers who still have a championship on the line.
With only one touchdown to his name this year, Chase Claypool has been a massive disappointment for fantasy managers. With Johnson inactive this week, Chase becomes the de-facto WR1 in Pittsburgh, but it’s still going to be incredibly difficult trusting him in the last week of the fantasy season. Claypool is averaging an abysmal 4.9 fantasy points per game over his past three. The Ravens conceded the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2021 and I’m still having trouble trusting Chase. Johnson’s absence means more potential targets for Claypool, but I wouldn’t feel confident with Chase in my starting lineup during a championship week.
People will inevitably be asking if Ray-Ray McCloud or James Washington is worth starting with Johnson inactive this week. The short answer is: No. I think it would be foolish to trust either of these guys in a fantasy championship, but I realize some managers may be desperate enough that they must at least consider it. For what it’s worth, I believe McCloud will likely see more targets than Washington. Ray-Ray mostly plays in the slot and is averaging nine targets over the last two games. Washington will line up outside more often than not. McCloud will probably have a safer floor, while Washington will have a higher ceiling.
Pat Freiermuth has slowed down a bit since his impressive streak of mid-season fantasy production, but unfortunately, that’s just the nature of the tight end position. Freiermuth is still a crucial part of the Pittsburgh passing game, but like most tight ends, he’s very touchdown-dependent. I wouldn’t blame fantasy managers if Pat is their best option this week, but they will be praying for a trip to the end zone.
Lamar Jackson (Start-able High-end QB2), Tyler Huntley (Sit)
Fantasy managers who still have something to play for will need to monitor Lamar Jackson’s practice status very closely this week. Lamar has missed the last three games with a sprained ankle and will likely need to log a full practice before the Ravens are comfortable putting him back on the field.
The thing is, Baltimore still has a shot at the playoffs and must win this week. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if head coach John Harbaugh does everything in his power to try and get his starting QB back for one of the most important games of the season. If he’s active, I believe Jackson should be capable of high-end QB2 numbers against a Steelers defense that’s been playing well lately.
Tyler Huntley isn’t worth much consideration if he gets the nod. Yes, he put up 35.9 points against Green Bay, but the Packers have a habit of making backup quarterbacks look like studs this year. Huntley only tallied 11.3 fantasy points last week against the Rams.
Devonta Freeman (Flex)
Although Devonta Freeman has been leading the backfield in Baltimore, he still isn’t getting enough work to justify much start consideration. Freeman’s volume has been inconsistent lately, making it even harder to trust the journeyman running back. Freeman had 14 carries last week and only six carries for two weeks in a row before that. His 7.3 fantasy points per game over his last three doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence either.
The Steelers have allowed the second-most ground yards this year, but their defensive front has been playing better lately. Either way, I wouldn’t want to trust Freeman if I still had something to fight for in fantasy leagues.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marquise Brown (Sit, High-end WR3), Rashod Bateman (Sit), Mark Andrews (Start, TE1)
Fantasy managers who are still in the championship will have a tough time trusting Marquise Brown this week. The young receiver has struggled without Lamar, averaging just 9.1 PPR points per game over Jackson’s absence. Brown’s projection may rise a bit if Lamar is active this week, but I’m not trusting him in fantasy championships either way. He’s been far too inconsistent to trust in such an important week.
I’m ranking Rashod Bateman outside Flex territory this week. He isn’t worth start consideration even in super deep leagues.
Mark Andrews seems to be the only Baltimore pass catcher that hasn’t been negatively affected by Lamar’s injury. Andrews is averaging an insane 25.6 points per game since Jackson sprained his ankle. It’s no surprise he’s the overall TE1 on the season with numbers like that. The Steelers have done well against tight ends this year, but that won’t be enough to bench the unstoppable “Man-drews” this week. Continue starting with confidence.
-Ryan Kruse (@ryanpkruse)