Bengals @ Steelers
Final Score: Bengals 37, Steelers 30
The two teams each traded punts on their first possessions, and the game looked headed for an ugly defensive battle. But the AFC North rivals then combined to finish the half with seven of eight drives resulting in points, with the only blemish in there an interception by Joe Burrow. Both Joe Mixon and Jaylen Warren were injured early, meaning Samaje Perine and Najee Harris both earned large workloads and it paid off for anyone who rosters them in fantasy. Tee Higgins feasted on the Steelers’ weak passing defense, and George Pickens had one of his better games as a pro. In the end, Burrow was too much for the Steelers, even without his best friend and playmaker Ja’Marr Chase.
Joe Burrow: 24/39, 355 Yards, 4 TD, 2 INT | 4 Carries, 5 Yards
Joe Burrow played one of his best games as a Bengal in a must-win matchup. On the road, in the cold, and on a sloppy Pittsburgh field, Burrow diced up a Steelers defense at full force with a healthy T.J. Watt. Burrow did a great job of checking the ball down when needed as he continues to adapt to the two-high safety looks that he regularly faces. Burrow continually made tight window throws to Tee Higgins, and checked the ball down early and often to his running backs in the red zone. The one blemish on Burrow’s day were the two interceptions, both passes that defensive linemen got their hands on. Other than numerous targets batted down at the line by the pass rush, Burrow played a near-flawless game. Burrow is playing excellent football right now, even without his best playmaker.
The biggest drive of this game was executed to perfection. Burrow went 4-4 for 80 yards and a TD. You love to see it! Don’t ever doubt Joe Burrow! #Bengals #WhoDey #RuleTheJungle pic.twitter.com/BkMdJAEQMP
— GameOn513 (@gameonjmoney) November 21, 2022
Samaje Perine: 11 Carries, 30 Yards | 4 Targets, 4 Receptions, 52 Yards, 3 TD
Joe Mixon: 7 Carries, 20 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 42 Yards
Trayveon Williams: 2 Carries, 7 Yards | 1 Target
This matchup was ripe for exploitation, and it’s unfortunate that virtually nobody was able to capitalize on it thanks to an injury to Joe Mixon and the resulting three-touchdown day by Samaje Perine. Mixon had a couple of nice catch and runs early in the game, and it looked like he was going to feast. He even caught a ball downfield over the middle like a receiver for a gain of 24. Unfortunately, Mixon left at some point with a concussion, though we were never shown a replay. He was ruled out, and his status will be in question for the upcoming week.
Samaje Perine was already taking advantage before Mixon was injured, scoring two touchdowns early in the passing game. Perine is a backup that the coaches trust, and he was given the full bell-cow workload with Mixon out. The Bengals typically are not a run-heavy team at this point, so Perine’s ground work was modest, but he ran hard between the tackles and picked up the yards that were there for him. Perine was most impressive in the passing game, a place where he is especially trusted. Perine took a screen for 29 yards and a touchdown and caught two swing passes in the red zone that Burrow went his way on immediately. He’s a solid backup that will be trusted if needed with a full workload.
— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) November 20, 2022
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Tee Higgins: 13 Targets, 9 Receptions, 148 Yards
Trenton Irwin: 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 42 Yards, TD
Tyler Boyd: 7 Targets, 2 Receptions, 42 Yards
Hayden Hurst: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 28 Yards
Trent Taylor: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 1 Yard
Mike Thomas: 1 Target
Tee Higgins played an awesome game in a big win, making physical catches all over the field. He had a great leaping catch where he landed hard and missed a few plays, it was a play that very few receivers could have made. He made strong catches with his hands repeatedly and was able to take the ball out of the air before defenders could get their hands on it. He caught passes on the sideline, over the middle, and downfield, with very few easy short passes. He truly earned his pay in this one, and while he doesn’t have the deep speed and big play ability that Chase has, he’s the most consistent pass-catch on this offense when it comes to the tough catches in traffic.
.@teehiggins5 is putting on a show tonight in Pittsburgh‼️
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) November 20, 2022
Tyler Boyd disappeared for much of the game, only to spring to life late with two catches on a much-needed touchdown drive. He was credited with 7 targets, but I suspect most of those targets were batted at the line of scrimmage. This was the big issue today for the offense and Boyd, as Burrow repeatedly had balls tipped at the line when trying to throw over the middle, which led to two turnovers. When the Bengals started getting him the ball on the outside, Boyd made plays, but the interior offensive line play was an issue in getting him the ball over the middle this Sunday.
Hayden Hurst made the plays needed when called upon, but he’s still going to be behind the more explosive receivers in almost all matchups. Trenton Irwin played well today as a well-liked player off the practice squad and scored a touchdown after narrowly missing one weeks ago. The team was happy to see him score, but he’s an afterthought as long as Chase returns soon.
Kenny Pickett: 25/42, 265 Yards, TD | 2 Carries, 14 Yards
Kenny Pickett is a hard evaluation. He moves well in the pocket for the most part and is very mobile. He seems to have a good grasp of the offense and leading the team in general. Pickett made some nice downfield throws to George Pickens in this one, adding a downfield element to this offense that has been sorely missing. Pickett hung in the pocket and completed passes while taking shots from defenders. But he also has some inexplicable throws that are nowhere near their target with poor accuracy. Pickett doesn’t jump off the screen with his arm talent, and when the accuracy goes in the tank, it can look ugly. Pickett took advantage of a Bengals secondary that was missing its best cornerback, and the Steelers moved the ball well throughout. They eventually stalled out in the second half, however, and while Pickett has some things in his game to improve upon, there does seem to be a decent enough base here to work with.
Kenny Pickett takes a SHOT and still connects with George Pickens for the TD 👀🔥 pic.twitter.com/r1vZJHFISj
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) November 20, 2022
Najee Harris: 20 Carries, 90 Yards, 2 TD | 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 26 Yards
Jaylen Warren: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 9 Yards
Jaylen Warren exited early in the game with a hamstring injury after catching his lone target, which meant Najee Harris actually earned the bulk of the work at RB this week and he delivered. Harris looked good for the most part, he isn’t explosive but in the cold and with the poor Pittsburgh playing surface he was able to use his strength more effectively. He had a long run of 19 yards and continually ran strong between the tackles. He had a highlight reel touchdown where he hurdled Jessie Bates, and caught passes to chip in for PPR leagues.
NAJEE HARRIS HURDLES FOR THE TD 🔥pic.twitter.com/v1TFzSsBle
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 20, 2022
I didn’t even see another running back after Warren exited the game, though Bennie Snell Jr. was credited with three snaps. Najee is back to his bell-cow status for as long as Warren is injured.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Diontae Johnson: 1 Carry, 1 Yard | 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 21 Yards
Steven Sims: 1 Carry, -3 Yards | 2 Targets | 1 Fumble (Recovered)
George Pickens: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 83 Yards, TD
Pat Freiermuth: 12 Targets, 8 Receptions, 79 Yards
Gunner Olszewski: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 39 Yards
Zach Gentry: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 8 Yards
If this was the only Steelers game you watched this year, you would come to the conclusion that George Pickens is the Steelers’ number one wide receiver. Pickens’ long touchdown was a play that was schemed open by the coordinator, though Pickens did show off his speed in beating the defender to the corner. But Pickens had an excellent, highlight-worthy catch on the sideline, and was the Steelers’ best downfield threat all day.
George Pickens vs Eli Apple pic.twitter.com/NBgi7uDxjN
— Overtime (@overtime) November 21, 2022
Pickens drew a bunch of Eli Apple in coverage, the Bengals’ best outside cornerback without Chidobe Awuzie. Mike Hilton is good in the slot so this was the better matchup to target, and Pickens took advantage. Pittsburgh probably needs to draw up some easier touches for Pickens for his fantasy stock to increase, as most of his targets were high-difficulty looks. Pickens did drop what would have been a 50-yard touchdown, and had a foolish and unnecessary personal foul, getting ejected on the onside kick at the end for taking a headshot on Tyler Boyd. But Pickens’ stock remains up long term.
Diontae Johnson was an afterthought in this one. He took an end around for a short first down conversion on a third down but otherwise was seldom seen. He doesn’t have the connection with Pickett that he once had with Ben Roethlisberger, and targets are finding their way elsewhere.
Pat Freiermuth likely vacuumed up much of the work that Johnson would have seen in the past, leading the team in catches and targets. He did rack up three catches for 27 yards on check-downs on the final drive of the game as the Bengals played prevent, but this was still an excellent game regardless. He’s not a dynamic playmaker necessarily, but Freiermuth made tough catches throughout and is one of the six or seven most dependable fantasy tight ends going forward due to his excellent volume.