What We Saw: Week 1

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots


Man, I picked some boring games to cover this week. First, it’s the foul-fest in Tampa where it felt like every other play saw a flag. Now it’s the Patriots defense shutting down the Steelers offense in the most predictable way possible. I mean, c’mon, the Steelers had to know the first thing the Patriots were going to do was try to take away JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner and yet it still worked. 


Pittsburgh Steelers




  • Ben Roethlisberger: 27/47, 277, 1 INT | 1 carry, 7 yards


Ben Roethlisberger had a tough night from the start. The Patriots defense had no trouble bringing the pressure and got so comfortable in the second half they started consistently blitzing an extra man. That meant “Big” Ben had to rely on quick, short passes, not to mention JuJu Smith-Schuster was largely taken out of the Steelers game-plan. It was difficult for Roethlisberger to get a consistent drive going and his stat line reflects his struggles. I wouldn’t stress too much about him just yet. The Steelers still have a good offense and they should bounce back next week. 


Running Backs


  • James Conner: 10 carries, 21 yards | 4 receptions, 44 yards, 4 targets
  • Jaylen Samuels: 2 carries, 4 yards | 1 reception, 2 yards, 2 targets


James Conner still has the lion’s share of touches in this backfield. This just wasn’t his night. If I haven’t made it clear yet, it wasn’t really anyone’s night among Steelers players. Conner was good in the passing game and should still provide solid upside in full-PPR leagues. Unfortunately, the Patriots pulled ahead early and the Steelers pretty much abandoned the run. I’m sure Conner will be back to RB1 production in no time. He was close to a touchdown but came up short. People wouldn’t be freaking out about him if he made it to the end zone. Jaylen Samuels was okay with his very limited work but he simply will not be fantasy relevant this year unless Conner goes down.


Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends


  • JuJu Smith-Schuster: 6 receptions, 78 yards, 8 targets
  • Donte Moncrief: 3 receptions, 7 yards, 10 targets
  • Diontae Johnson: 3 receptions, 25 yards, 5 targets
  • Ryan Switzer: 6 receptions, 29 yards, 6 targets
  • James Washington: 2 receptions, 51 yards, 6 targets
  • Vance McDonald: 2 receptions, 40 yards, 4 targets


In typical Patriots fashion, they went after their opponent’s best player so they could force everyone else to make plays. That meant shutting down JuJu Smith-Schuster and forcing the Steelers to make plays elsewhere. JuJu had a solid night but most of it came from garbage time which felt like it began sometime in the third quarter. Maybe they should have limited his snaps when they knew the game was over because JuJu limped off the field with about two minutes left in the game. James Washington had a great over-the-shoulder grab by the sideline for 45 yards but it was a bit perplexing to see him intentionally step out of bounds after his catch. He had plenty of separation and could have easily gained more yards or possibly taken it to the end zone. 

The Steelers messed up by not getting tight end Vance McDonald more involved in this game. Many people were expecting him to be a solid fantasy option this year but this week was not comforting. I would hold for now but you should be thinking about the worst-case scenario if they don’t start getting him involved. His two catches came at the very end of the game. I’m loving Ryan Switzer if this offense can start rolling. He’s a small scrappy guy but he seems like a reliable receiver. He came down with everything thrown his way. Donte Moncrief, on the other hand, had trouble coming down with his catches (what else is new?) whenever he had pressure on him. I’m personally not a big fan of Moncrief if only because he is the definition of boom-or-bust and is proving to be unreliable. Diontae Johnson had a good night but I doubt he becomes very fantasy relevant. 


New England Patriots




  • Tom Brady: 24/36, 341 yards, 3 TD


What can be said about Tom Brady that hasn’t been said before? The guy’s 42 years old and looks pretty much the same as he has the past few years. He’s incredibly consistent but also pretty boring fantasy-wise. Unless, of course, he throws for more than 350 yards and three or more touchdown passes. Brady was mostly his normal self. The Steelers had trouble putting pressure on him and he took the opportunity to pick them apart. That meant spreading the ball around well and not taking many chances outside the pocket. The young Steelers’ defense just couldn’t match up against Brady and his numerous weapons. 


Running Backs


  • James White: 4 carries, 26 yards | 5 receptions, 56 yards, 7 targets
  • Sony Michel: 15 carries, 14 yards
  • Brandon Bolden: 1 carry, 7 yards
  • Rex Burkhead: 8 carries, 44 yards | 5 receptions, 41 yards, 8 targets


The Patriots established the run and used plenty of guys to do it, as usual. There’s a reason some fantasy fans just don’t want the headache of owning a Patriots running back. Yes, there is plenty of talent in that backfield; but one running back could easily do better than another with half the carries. Heck, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, and Julian Edelman are getting carries on this team. The former had a great play where he beat a defender with a beautiful lateral movement. Burkhead continues to randomly put up great stats. The problem is knowing what weeks that may happen. James White and Sony Michel should both remain fantasy-relevant but I can’t help but feel like their ceilings are capped. 


Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends


  • Josh Gordon: 3 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD, 4 targets
  • Julian Edelman: 6 receptions, 83 yards, 11 targets
  • Phillip Dorsett: 4 receptions, 95 yards, 2 TDs, 4 targets


Antonio Brown wasn’t able to suit up for the Patriots just yet. He will be able to do so next week, but even then it’s possible the Patriots ease him in. They did the same thing last year with Josh Gordon. Speaking of Josh Gordon, it should be interesting to see how many targets AB takes away from him. Of course, the Patriots get another elite talent just when it seems like Gordon is the number-one outside receiver in New England. Gordon’s touchdown looked effortless, even though he broke a tackle to get to the end zone. He also had a great catch later in the game on a deep ball. He was triple covered and immediately drilled by the defenders but still came down with it. 

Phillip Dorsett was great on his first touchdown. He ran his route perfectly between two defenders to make the catch look easy. His second touchdown, Dorsett was wide open and walked into the end zone. Keep an eye on him, he could be a cheap waiver wire add this week even if he is boom-or-bust. Julian Edelman is just as awesome and reliable as always. He has a great floor in PPR leagues thanks to his volume. There is a lot of receiving talent on this team and it’s about to get even more crowded with AB coming to town. 


— Ryan Kruse



Michael Miklius

Mike is a lifelong Bears fan who is just about ready to give up on Mitch Trubisky for good... Twitter: @SIRL0INofBEEF


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