Kickoff: Sunday, September 27th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Betting Odds: PIT -5, 47.5 total via Oddsshark
Deshaun Watson (Start, QB2)
The Texans Deshaun Watson is in a tough spot this week facing a Steelers team that is historically tough against quarterbacks. Pittsburgh surrendered just 14.0 fantasy points per game to the position last season, and while that number has been higher to open the year, fantasy managers should be cautious. Watson is a high QB2 because he’s Deshaun Watson, but he should not be in your daily lineups due to his low ceiling. This will be the first time Watson has faced Pittsburgh in his career.
David Johnson (Start, RB2)
If we just look at the box score David Johnson‘s Week 2 performance against the Ravens was disappointing. He carried the ball just 11 times for 34 yards and caught two of four targets for 16 yards. However, you dig a bit deeper and there are encouraging signs. Johnson took 95% of the team’s snaps, early signs are the Ravens rush defense will be a top unit. Watson also missed his on a wheel route that could have salvaged his day with a touchdown. As long as Duke Johnson is sidelined, David Johnson has no competition for playing time and will receive all of the work. Volume alone earns him an easy start in your lineups.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Brandin Cooks (Start, WR3), Will Fuller (Start, Flex), Randall Cobb (Sit), Jordan Akins (Sit)
It is difficult to recommended receivers against this strong Steelers defense but Houston does have a talented receiver group. That is when they are healthy. Brandin Cooks entered last week nursing a quad injury but he had a productive game. His lack of practice time seems to be precautionary. Cooks has always been hard to defend and will be a boom/bust WR3 this week. Will Fuller‘s status needs to be monitored. Fuller tweaked his hamstring and had a dud of an afternoon on Sunday. He may not appear on the injury report come Friday and that puts owners back in the same place they are used to with Fuller, uncertain. If you can afford to bench him, do so but if you are feeling brave set him in your flex and hope for a huge day.
Secondary receivers cannot be trusted this week against the Steelers, so bench Randall Cobb and Jordan Akins. If Cooks or Fuller are out then Cobb can be started as a desperation flex.
Ben Roethlisberger (Start, QB1)
It’s early but Ben Roethlisberger looks to be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. Ben has tossed five touchdowns and has attempted 73 passes, both numbers that make fantasy managers happy. The Pittsburgh offense is shaping up to be a high volume passing attack and while Big Ben’s numbers are not through the roof, they are solid enough to be a low-end QB1. Houston has been surprisingly stingy against QBs so far but they also have not faced a team that needs to throw the ball to win. Pittsburgh will come in this weekend and give them all they can handle. Roethlisberger is an easy start recommendation.
James Conner (Start, RB1), Benny Snell Jr. (Sit)
The Week 2 Steelers backfield looked like the backfield fantasy managers projected heading into the season, with a healthy James Conner leading the way. Conner earned 77% of the team’s snaps and his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. And although 59 of them came on a run late in the game, Conner looks like the same back when on the field. This week get gets the Texans, who have allowed two straight teams 160+ rushing yards and already three scores. Fire up Conner this week.
Benny Snell looks like a poor man’s Conner when in the lineup. However, barring injury, Snell is not likely to get enough volume to trust even as a flex.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Start, WR2), Diontae Johnson (Start, WR2), Chase Claypool (Sit, Deep Flex), Eric Ebron (Start, TE2)
Early in the season, this Steelers passing game appears to be back at pre-injury Ben Roethlisberger levels. The team has legitimate passing options at all levels of the field, field stretchers, and weapons in the red zone. It is just a matter of time before all of them start clicking. A leaky Texans pass defense could be a prime opportunity. JuJu Smith-Schuster is nursing a knee injury but it isn’t likely to keep him out of this game. JuJu has not seen the bulk of Ben’s targets but that shouldn’t matter when the team is throwing the ball more than 35 times a game. JuJu is a monster in the red zone and faces a Texans team that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns.
Diontae Johnson is slowly earning Big Ben’s trust, seeing more than a third of the team’s targets so far. Johnson seems to be open at will and this connection should continue to grow as the season wears on. Johnson should feast against this secondary, with a good chance to earn the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. Eric Ebron isn’t going anywhere and Ben’s connection to the tight end has always been positive, including in the red zone. Ebron is a sneaky play this week, should you be in a tough spot and looking for a streamer.
Rookie Chase Claypool has flashed early in his career, stretching the field and making spectacular grabs. He should be rostered in all formats but cannot be recommended with any confidence. As the season wears on, injuries pile up and the bye week gauntlet begins, Claypool will be valuable.
-Marc Salazar (@dingwog on Twitter)