What We Saw: Browns at Steelers

Najee Harris shined on an otherwise ugly night of football

Browns @ Steelers

Final Score: Steelers 26, Browns 14

Writer: Corey Saucier (@Deputy_Commish on Twitter, /u/Lights_Kamara_Action on Reddit)

 

There was no bigger story on Monday night than Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger playing his final home game in Pittsburgh – trust me, ESPN wouldn’t allow it. But on a night where many fantasy league championships hung in the balance, we had at least one star performance that may have been just enough to take home your trophy. The brightest star of all was clearly Steelers’ RB Najee Harris. Harris tallied a career-high 188 rushing yards while finding the end-zone (in garbage time) for the first time since Week 14 against the Vikings. On a game where Roethlisberger could only muster 123 passing yards on 46 attempts, luckily Harris was capable of shouldering the load.

On the other side of the ball, the Browns were absolutely terrible. The game felt nowhere near the 12-point final score at any time throughout. Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield had 11 straight incompletions at one point during the second half. While the Browns were close enough to strike on the scoreboard for most of the contest, they decided to abandon RB Nick Chubb and the run game. And while Harris and Chubb’s RB battle wasn’t at all close in the stat sheet, I’ll let you decide who won their battle of the stiff arm. All in all, for most of us out there, this game represents the end of our 2021 fantasy season. Did your team have what it took to bring home a championship? Were you lucky enough to have Steelers’ K Chris Boswell and his 6 made kicks in your starting lineup? Let’s dive into what we saw:

 

Cleveland Browns

 

Quarterbacks

 

Baker Mayfield: 16/38, 185 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT | 2 carries, 16 yards

 

Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield hasn’t been on anyone’s fantasy radar much this season and Monday night was a reminder why. Mayfield was sacked 9 times on the night and had several other passes batted at the line of scrimmage. To be fair, Mayfield has been playing with one arm and otherwise banged up throughout the season, but his knack for turning the ball over really is uncanny. Mayfield did pad his stats with a couple of meaningless TDs, including this nicely-placed 3-yard strike to TE David Njoku:

 

 

Mayfield struck again late once the game was out of hand with this 1-yard TD to TE Harrison Bryant:

 

 

Running Backs

 

Nick Chubb: 12 carries, 58 yards | 1 target

D’Ernest Johnson: 5 carries, 13 yards | 3 targets, 1 reception, 1 yard

 

It was mostly a quiet night from the Browns’ RB group. RB Kareem Hunt was sidelined with a lingering ankle injury, but strangely RB Nick Chubb was given only 12 carries in a game that was within striking distance for most of the night. Chubb had a big 32-yard run in the first quarter but was otherwise quiet for the most part. RB D’Ernest Johnson filled in for Hunt to take on backup duties and couldn’t get anything going either. Hopefully, nobody out there needed a huge night from Chubb to win their championship matchup (other than me, that is). While Chubb didn’t really deliver much from a fantasy standpoint, he did deliver us this submission into the battle of the stiff-arm:

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Donovan Peoples-Jones: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 76 yards

Jarvis Landry: 10 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards

David Njoku: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 28 yards, TD

Harrison Bryant: 1 target, 1 reception, 1 yard, TD

 

With Baker Mayfield struggling to move the ball through the air, the Browns’ pass-catching group failed to add much fantasy output. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones had the biggest play of the night for Cleveland with a 39-yard bomb down the right sideline to set up 1st and goal for the Browns’ first TD of the night. Other than TEs David Njoku and Harrison Bryant both hauling in short TD grabs, this was not a great night for Cleveland’s WRs. That being said, if you are still in your league and actually playing for a championship this week, it isn’t very likely that any of these guys are anywhere near your starting lineups.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Quarterback

 

Ben Roethlisberger: 24/46, 123 yards, TD, INT | 1 carry, -1 yards

 

In a ceremonial way in the very least, Monday night’s game was all about Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger hasn’t been much of a fantasy asset over the past couple of seasons, but you still have to admire the guy for sticking in the league for so long, winning a couple of Super Bowl rings, and more than likely compiling himself a Canton-worthy resume along the way. Sure he’s had a troublesome past regarding some off-the-field incidents, but ultimately Big Ben has been a fixture in the NFL for nearly two decades and the league will miss him – to some extent. As an extra special sendoff to commemorate Roethlisberger’s final home game as a Steeler, here is his first-quarter TD pass to WR Diontae Johnson:

 

 

Running Backs

 

Najee Harris: 28 carries, 188 yards, TD | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 18 yards

 

As far as fantasy production is concerned, Monday night was all about RB Najee Harris. Harris got off to a solid start and kept it rolling all night against Cleveland. Just take a look at this stiff-arm that started the battle:

 

 

Harris’ 188 rushing yards were a career-high, but so were his 28 carries – and Harris even passed Colts’ RB Jonathan Taylor for most touches in the NFL this season. After the game was put away and Pittsburgh needed to run the ball to burn the rest of the clock, this happened:

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Diontae Johnson: 15 targets, 8 receptions, 31 yards, TD

Ray-Ray McCloud: 10 targets, 4 receptions, 35 yards

Chase Claypool: 9 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards

 

With Ben Roethlisberger only accounting for 123 passing yards on the night, you can imagine that the Steelers’ pass-catching group suffered as a whole. WR Diontae Johnson got off to a slow start with two drops in the first half, but his short TD grab from Roethlisberger made up for it. Speaking of Johnson, I have to admit that I can’t ever recall a stat line that yielded just 31 receiving yards on 15 targets. WR Chase Claypool started out hot with two catches on the Steelers’ opening possession but would go on to finish with just one additional catch for the remainder of the game.

 

Photos by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire and All-Pro Reels (https://www.flickr.com/people/joeglo/) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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