Kickoff: Monday, September 18th, 8:15 PM ET
Location: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting Odds: PITT +2, 39 total via PFF.com
Writer: Callen Elslager (@callen_elslager on Twitter/X)
Deshaun Watson (Sit QB2)
I was impressed to see Deshaun Watson using his legs more often in the upset win over Cincinnati. With the loss of Cam Heyward for the Steelers, and the way this secondary looked, you’d think Watson would be an easy start this week. However, without his touchdown run, Watson would not have been a QB1 and would have remained one you were disappointed in this past week. I expect the Steelers with an extra day to prepare to come out strong and have a bounce-back performance this week, making Watson a sold QB2, but one whom I’d be looking elsewhere for in single QB leagues.
Nick Chubb, (Start RB1), Jerome Ford (Sit)
After seeing what Christian McCaffrey did last week against this defense, Nick Chubb is primed for another great performance this week and remains a very easy week-to-week RB1.
With how dominant Chubb should be it’s hard to start any other RB in this offense. 15 carries for Jerome Ford last week was more work than I expected, but I don’t see much more production than we saw last week (15 carries, 36 yards). I’d need to see a lot more before I trust Ford in my lineup, an easy sit this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Amari Cooper (Start WR2), Elijah Moore (Sit, Flex), David Njoku (Start, TE1)
After seeing what Brandon Aiyuk did last week against the Steelers, it’s very hard to fade Amari Cooper this week as the clear top target in this offense. As one of the more stable options week to week in fantasy, in this matchup and a struggling Steeler defense, Cooper should be a very stable play this week.
The Browns made it a point all offseason that they wanted to design some packages to feature Elijah Moore in the offense and they successfully did this last week, with seven targets going to Moore this past week. While the weather last week had some sort of effect on this, Moore caught three of these seven targets. While I do believe that Moore will become a featured part of this offense and a week-to-week flex option, I would like to see him do it again before I’m putting him in my lineup. He is a safe bet for 10 or so PPR points, but you should have some more exciting options on your roster to start over him.
Last season the Steelers finished middle of the pack in terms of points allowed to the tight end position, and I don’t expect that to change this week. While George Kittle didn’t light up the box score last week, he did see six targets and wasn’t 100% going into the week. I would expect a healthy David Njoku to put up a solid stat line this week against a hobbled Steeler defense, though it doesn’t take a lot to be a number-one tight end.
Kenny Pickett (Sit, QB2)
After what we saw last week in terms of how the Cleveland front seven put pressure on Joe Burrow and how Kenny Pickett performed under duress last week, he is not a trusted starter until we see steps forward from him. Add in the fact that the Steelers are down an offensive lineman and their top wide receiver in Deontae Johnson, and Kenny Pickett is not an option you want to start in fantasy against an impressive Browns’ defense.
Najee Harris (Start, RB2), Jaylen Warren (Sit, Flex)
After only six carries last week, and fewer targets than Jaylen Warren, I wouldn’t blame anyone for having concerns about Najee Harris and wanting to sit him this week. As the Steelers reset and especially with the loss of Johnson, I expect the Steelers to have a much heavier run offense this week, which will play in Harris’ favor. Based on volume alone, even with this matchup, Harris is a startle RB2 this week.
With the loss of Diontae Johnson, it is entirely possible the Steelers target the RBs more often, which would be a huge benefit to Jaylen Warren, who out-targeted Najee Harris 6-2. At this time however this remains solely speculation and until I see that actually happen, he will remain a stash on your bench as a possible Harris replacement, especially considering the matchup with Cleveland’s top-tier front seven.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
George Pickens (Start, Flex), Allen Robinson (Sit, Flex), Pat Freiermuth (Start, TE1)
With the loss of Diontae Johnson, George Pickens becomes the default number one option in the Steelers passing attack. As we’ve seen the report that Pickett has with him, I would expect Pickens to be littered with targets and a more productive flex option for the time being.
It’s 2023, and I didn’t expect to be discussing Allen Robinson as a start/sit option. However, after Diontae Johnson left with an injury, Allen Robinson finished as the Steelers’ leading receiver with 8 targets. As discussed, this matchup with the Browns is a difficult one, and though he did lead last week in targets, this matchup should be a lot closer, leading to fewer targets in this Pittsburgh offense. I will need to see Allen Robinson do this again before I can feel comfortable recommending him as a start. For now, he remains a stash as the possible second option in this offense.
You will need to monitor the Pat Freiermuth situation closely as he left last week early with a chest injury and is expected to be limited in practice. With the loss of Johnson, however, as long as he is out there on Sunday, Freiermuth has as much upside as any tight end to catch a touchdown, making him a start in your fantasy lineups week in and week out. If it does appear this injury will limit him in any way, you may want to pivot to one of the streaming options for this coming week, especially considering this is the final game of the week.
-Callen Elslager (callen_elslager on Twitter)