What We Saw: Week 12

The What We Saw team recaps everything you missed from Week 12

Steelers @ Colts

Final Score: Steelers 24, Colts 17

Writer: Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter)


The Steelers stormed out to an early lead, making life miserable for the Colts’ offense in the process. Matthew Wright kicked three field goals and Najee Harris scored a touchdown in the first half for Pittsburgh, as Matt Ryan floundered to make plays when his first read was covered. The half ended with Harris limping to the sideline, and he would be ruled out with an abdominal injury shortly after. The Steelers took a 16-3 lead to the locker room after blocking a long Colts’ field goal attempt to end the half, and it looked like the rout was on.

The Colts came out of the locker room in the second half shot out of a cannon, however:



The momentum carried the Colts to a 14-0 third-quarter run where Ryan focused in on his tight ends to jump-start the offense. A botched handoff on first and goal cost the Colts a likely seven points, and despite taking the lead on the next drive the turnover would prove costly. Kenny Pickett played well in a conservative offense and made plays with his legs that separated him from his opponent, and the Colts would come up short on a fourth down inside Pittsburgh territory to end the game. The Colts fall to 4-7-1 and the Steelers rise to 4-7 to end a competitive Monday night showcase.


Pittsburgh Steelers




Kenny Pickett: 20/28, 174 Yards | 6 Carries, 32 Yards


Kenny Pickett turned in a mostly impressive performance against a stout Colts defense. He ran the offense well and played with poise in the pocket, and used his legs to rush for first downs and extend plays. His 32 yards rushing is a nice addition for fantasy managers and looks very sustainable, as he was calm and in control when on the move. He also received designed QB draws. This was especially evident on a late two-point conversion where he showed off his mobility and accuracy on the run.



Pickett did have his share of misfires, throwing high on an early 3rd and 2 that should have been an easy conversion. He just missed on a potential touchdown to an open receiver, short-hopped some throws, and was quick to check down for a stretch of the game as the offense stalled.

But Pickett made plays when it mattered and had some impressive throws down the stretch to help win the game. The Steelers actually seemed to go way too conservative on offense in the middle part of the game, despite relatively strong play from Pickett. The offense was run-heavy and took the game out of Pickett’s hands for stretches. It felt like an odd choice, as Pickett was playing well and the Colts were playing a primarily vanilla defense against him. He was barely blitzed in the first half, and while the Colts dialed up some more pressure in the second half, the coverages were still predictable.

Overall, Pickett does look like a player that can develop into a fantasy-relevant quarterback due to his mobility and connection with fellow rookie George Pickens. It appears to be time for the Steelers to take the training wheels off, but whether or not they do that is a different story.


Running Back


Najee Harris: 10 Carries, 35 Yards, TD | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 4 Yards

Benny Snell Jr.: 12 Carries, 62 Yards, TD | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards

Anthony McFarland Jr.: 6 Carries, 30 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 11 Yards


Najee Harris opened the game by bulldozing ahead for an eight-yard gain and looked healthy at the start. He had another run on the opening drive where he broke a tackle, and while he didn’t look elusive he was running strong. He did miss a chance to break a long run with open space ahead of him, as he allowed a cornerback to take him down as the first tackler he faced.

The injury issues began to pop up in the second quarter, however, as Harris limped off the field with what was assumed to be an issue with his previously injured foot. He rotated in and out of the game for a bit, including in the red zone. He was stuffed on a run, was replaced for one play, and then came back to score a touchdown, where he looked healthy while fighting for the goal line.



However, Harris would again jog off the field gingerly and went to the locker room early ahead of the second half. When we came back from the half, Harris was ruled out for the day with an abdominal injury. We will need to wait and see on the extent of the injury.

Anthony McFarland Jr. was actually in on the first drive of the game before the injury issues popped up, as the backup running back job appeared to be up for grabs with Jaylen Warren missing the game with a hamstring injury. He had a nice carry out of shotgun for 14 yards where he flashed his speed, and they rewarded him with a carry and a swing pass on the next two plays that were blown up immediately by the Colts’ defense. McFarland did have a red zone carry later on, and looked good on a screen for a 12-yard gain, but appeared to be surpassed as the game went on by another backup option. McFarland would still figure to be a part of the committee if Harris misses time with his injury.

That other option was Benny Snell Jr., who took advantage of the injury to potentially resuscitate his NFL career. Snell got his first carry of the year in the second quarter and had most of the series to himself, and looked better as the game went on. He had a nice 17-yard run on a cutback and broke another run against a stacked box. He converted a 3rd and goal for a touchdown and made the most of his opportunities. Snell did look a bit faster than the last time we saw him as a plodding rusher, and with Pickett playing well, he is a mildly intriguing waiver-wire option if Harris and Warren miss time.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


George Pickens: 6 Targets, 3 Receptions, 57 Yards, 2 Pt Conversion

Diontae Johnson: 8 Targets, 5 Receptions, 49 Yards

Pat Freiermuth: 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 39 Yards

Steven Sims: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 9 Yards


George Pickens looked like the best receiver on the field for the Steelers for yet another week, despite a mediocre stat line. He started things out with a short reception with some yards after the catch to convert a first down. Then he turned in his weekly highlight reel catch, hauling in a back-shoulder throw on the sidelines in what is becoming a signature type of play for him.



He later broke wide open for a would-be touchdown, but Pickett fired just too far and Pickens was unable to haul in a one-handed attempt. He had a hand on it and may have been able to find a way to use two hands, but he was open and an accurate throw would have been good for a score.

Pickens missed on another tough but catchable attempt over the middle on a 3rd and 2, where the pass was low but Pickens dropped it. He then was unable to haul in a sideline catch much like his previous highlight, a tough play but one that he can make. Pickens would rebound, however, catching a key 3rd and 9 for 13 yards and then making himself open in the corner of the endzone for a two-point conversion.

Pickens is showing the ability to get open and make plays, but his opportunities are primarily a high degree of difficulty in general. We will need the Steelers to manufacture some easier touches for him to truly break out for fantasy purposes.

Operating as the 1B to Pickens, Diontae Johnson had another mediocre performance. He had a catch on an RPO, and caught a few slants in traffic. One slant saw him work backward after the catch and lose yardage. He also dropped a would-be touchdown on an end zone fade — the defender certainly made it difficult on him but he should have hauled it in. Johnson will need to elevate his play if he wants to beat out the connection that is ongoing between Pickett and Pickens.

Pat Freiermuth was relatively quiet in this one. He lined up wide and caught an in-breaker early, and was the target of a risky goalline pass that fell incomplete. He had an excellent catch on an out route for a key third down and is still a big part of the offense. But he will certainly have weeks like this in an offense that is still growing with a rookie quarterback.

Steven Sims ran the third most routes at wide receiver and returned punts. He mostly caught check downs.


Indianapolis Colts




Matt Ryan: 22/34, 199 Yards, TD, INT | 4 Carries, 22 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost)


Matt Ryan had a disastrous start to the game, forcing a quick hitter on the first play that was nearly intercepted before climbing the pocket and throwing an interception on a short attempt on the second offensive play.



Ryan took a bad sack on the following drive on a 3rd and 3 and looked lost in the pocket when his first read was available. Ryan’s mobility was an issue and he was not able to make plays beyond the first read or two, and often seemed to sense pressure before it was there like a quarterback that has played behind a poor offensive line. He was slow on an out route to Michael Pittman Jr. that allowed the defender to get a hand on the pass, and the Colts went to halftime looking like a lost offense.

Ryan settled down in the second half and came alive, and the change happened when he began targeting his tight ends from the slot. Ryan converted 10 of his 12 attempts to tight ends on the day, compared to 12 of 22 on his other attempts, and led the Colts to a near comeback. He was finally able to hit some shots downfield and kept the chains moving in general.

Ultimately, Ryan still ended up struggling when he needed to make a play outside of structure, taking a hard hit while trying to buy time and getting stripped from behind on the final drive where the Colts were able to recover. He also often threw behind receivers, eliminating opportunities for yards after the catch. Ryan is a fantasy option with very little upside and did not show signs of a breakout in this one.


Running Back


Jonathan Taylor: 20 Carries, 86 Yards, TD | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 12 Yards


Jonathan Taylor isn’t the problem on this Colts offense, as he ran hard throughout. His first touch didn’t come until the 2nd drive, which occurred at the five-minute mark in the first quarter. He continually ran hard between the tackles, bowling over defenders and carrying them along with him at times. Taylor was able to find the endzone, making this a salvageable fantasy day despite the offensive struggles, and he played 59 of the 64 offensive snaps.



Taylor, however, had a costly fumble on a handoff on what appeared to be a touchdown. The credit for the fumble was actually given to Ryan, but it sure looked like Taylor dropped the ball here.



Despite the fumble, Taylor played well and continually churned out positive yardage. The line blocked well for the most part, though there were no gaping holes for Taylor to take advantage of, with a long of just 13 yards. Other than Taylor, Deon Jackson played 4 snaps and Zack Moss played one snap.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Michael Pittman Jr.: 11 Targets, 7 Receptions, 61 Yards, TD

Jelani Woods: 9 Targets, 8 Receptions, 98 Yards

Parris Campbell: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards

Alec Pierce: 2 Targets

Mo Alie-Cox: 3 Targets, 2 Receptions, 14 Yards


Michael Pittman Jr. scored his first touchdown since Week 1; please take a moment to celebrate this end zone fade for a score:



Pittman started a bit slow as the Steelers’ defenders sat on short routes and jumped Ryan’s slow passes. But Pittman was the primary option in the passing game in the first half and began to come alive in the second. Other than the touchdown, Pittman made some tough catches in traffic and showed strong hands on a nice catch downfield where Ryan threw it up or him in coverage. Pittman also converted a tricky 4th and 3 in traffic off a deflection, showing nice concentration. Pittman will be held back by Ryan’s lack of playmaking ability, but this was a step forward for the talented wide receiver.

With Kylen Granson out this week due to illness, the rookie tight end Jelani Woods stepped up. He actually had a bad drop on his first target at the end of the first half, only for Ryan to look his way on the next target. That opened the floodgates in the 3rd quarter, as Woods became the primary target as a big body out of the slot. He saw check-downs and downfield shots and had a goal line target where he drew pass interference. He hung on to a tough catch downfield and generally looked impressive. Even Mo Alie-Cox joined in on the action, catching two passes during this barrage of tight end receiving action. If this Colts’ tight end group wasn’t such a notorious rotation of options on a week-to-week basis, Woods might have put himself on the streaming radar after this one.

Parris Campbell was hardly involved in the offense, though his targets were eventful. He had an early reception wiped out by an illegal man downfield penalty and then caught his first pass as the second read in the red zone and he was tackled at the two. Campbell’s last target was a desperation heave into double-coverage on the game’s final fourth down for the Colts that fell incomplete. Campbell did play his full complement of snaps, but the tight ends muscled him out for targets in this one.

Alec Pierce saw a short target on the first play of the game that was nearly intercepted and then was thrown a dangerous pass into double coverage late in the fourth quarter. As the downfield threat in this Ryan-led offense, Pierce is going to struggle to find consistent production.

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