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*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
This game was painted as a bit of a do-or-die for both teams -- even though that was overselling it, but it was a big game for two teams that have been more disappointing than not. The winner getting some momentum and the loser being in real trouble after 5 weeks.
There was a lot more on the Falcons than the Steelers, but important for both – and the Falcons did not show up. They got beat up early and then pounded into submission in the second half. I know the Falcons have a lot of defensive injuries, but they have become, maybe, the best defense for your opposing offensive players to face. It’s almost like they’re between lost with the backups and just ‘given up’.
It was a needed win, but not a wholly impressive win for the Steelers because the Falcons were mostly a pushover.
Not a ton of breaking fantasy news in this one, but I do want to spend most of the time talking about the Conner-Bell situation.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Here’s all the options that Pittsburgh’s management has to decide what course/path to take, or what might fall in their lap…
*What won’t happen is: “Signs Le’Veon to a new deal.” It’s just not happening. Le’Veon wants to hit the open market because that’s where the money is at for him. He feels majorly disrespected by the Steelers, and he should to some degree (because others want to pay him), but Pittsburgh is very wise not to make the crucial mistake of investing a lot of money in a running back.
So, what do the Steelers do here?
1) Let Le’Veon walk back in Week 10 (or Week 7) and join the team like nothing happened. Use him like a disposable cup for the rest of the season.
It sounds great, but then there’s the fact that Le’Veon doesn’t want to be there AND he will be protecting his body from injury the entire time. He could care less about the Steelers winning…because he is looking out for himself (as he should) and not going to help a team who has slighted him.
Bell could come back and then claim ‘rust’ and be integrated back into things slowly…causing major FF chaos trying to figure out touch counts right away.
2) Trade Le’Veon.
Easier said than done.
If the Steelers just sit on Bell the rest of the season, they would get a 3rd-round compensation pick (the best allowed) when he signs in free agency next year.
So, in order for the Steelers to trade Bell, they’d need better than a 3rd-round pick and/or a player they need in exchange (like an ILB).
Who’s trading a 2nd-round pick for Le’Veon Bell for 6+ weeks of usage…when no one knows if Bell will work hard for any team he goes to?
If a contending team offered a somewhat legit player + a 3rd or 4th-round pick…the Steelers would be interested.
Out-of-contention teams cannot NFL-legally trade for Bell and then sign Le’Veon to a big, juicy deal…so he’s a rental, and teams out of contention don’t need rentals.
What’s more important to the Steelers -- trading Le’Veon just to be rid of him…or holding on and keeping as a spare/see how things go?
What would you do?
Unless Pittsburgh gets a decent offer, doing nothing doesn’t hurt the Steelers. They get a 3rd-round pick next year regardless.
If you were Minnesota or Miami or Green Bay or Detroit or Tennessee or Philly…how much would you pay for the rental of Bell from Week 10 on? Not knowing what Bell’s state of mind will be?
As I talk to more people, I get the sense the trade market just isn’t there and the Steelers are holding all the cards. If Bell comes back and is aloof, sluggish, tentative, etc., the Steelers’ management can just go ‘see, this is why we aren’t signing him long-term’ and they can just make him inactive the rest of the season if it got really bad…and they still get their 3rd-round compensation pick in 2019.
The most likely scenario now, baring a major RB injury to a contender, is Pittsburgh letting Bell comeback whenever and playing it by ear. If he’s there to work, he’s right back to ‘the guy’. If he’s a jerk, he splits with Conner and/or is put inactive.
The second most likely scenario these days is that the Steelers find a trade partner…but that looks fleeting at the moment. Every week that goes by is one less week a team has him for.
If Le’Veon comes back Week 7 (and I think it will be Week 10)…whatever week he comes back, he’ll likely need 1-2 weeks to get back in football shape and be in a split with James Conner – then we’ll have to see if Bell wants to play/is working to then know if he is ‘the guy’ or Conner stays ‘the guy’/relevant.
So, what do you do if you own James Conner?
If ESPN is right, you got one more week of him and then chaos is going to happen.
If I’m right, you got three more games until the chaos.
An NFL trade of Le’Veon has to happen by 10/30…basically in three more games/after Week 8.
Unless Bell is traded, or if he falls on his face upon return…chaos with figuring out Conner’s touches is 1-4 weeks away. Coming off a huge game here versus, arguably, the worst defense in the NFL right now…definitely the worst run defense – the time is more ‘now’ to move him if you fear the chaos ahead.
The Le’Veon owner is still the main target of a deal.
My priority if I own Conner (and I do a lot) would be, in redrafts…
1a) Trade for Le’Veon cheap as possible – then you have both options and you might get two RB1s if Bell is traded.
1b) Trade Conner now while he’s hot, trying to get strong RB2/WR1.5-2 out of him somehow. Assuming you get a good RB back or have nice RB depth.
3) If everyone jerks you around trying to get Conner cheap from you…why bother trading? Just use up the remaining weeks and hope for the best and allow whatever else on your team to get healthy. If Bell waltzes in and becomes a star and Conner disappears – hey, who thought we’d get 7-9 weeks out of him anyways?
In this case, doing nothing, getting all the weeks we did – it’s not a crime. There’s no special prize for dumping Conner for an RB2.5 today just to avoid chaos in Pittsburgh ahead.
Most of the masses think Bell is coming back Week 7 and that ‘old’ Le’Veon instantly appears and Conner is just a handcuff – so, you’re trade ability on Conner is very limited.
It’s not easy to predict what’s going to happen, so you’re likely going to get caught holding the bag Week 7 or Week 10. Just deal with it. You got way more out of him than expected. Make sure you have an RB backup plan if Conner goes up in smoke…enjoy him while it lasts but know it may not last much longer. BUT you may hit the jackpot if a Bell deal is announced because the Steelers want to ride with Conner and move on from Bell.
Trading Conner to someone straight up in fantasy is impossible to get value just about. Trading him in a multi-player deal is way better. The current Bell owner is desperate to own both pieces and probably desperate for held this week.
50% = Bell back to PITT Week 10
35% = Bell traded
15% = Bell back to PITT Week 7-8
-- Speaking of RBs…Devonta Freeman (8-32-0, 2-9-0/2) was back and had another yawner of a fantasy game. The Falcons O-Line is pretty bad in the run game right now. Freeman isn’t 100%. The Falcons defense is down and causing them to throw a lot…all not good for Freeman (or Coleman) ahead.
-- This feels like a typical Calvin Ridley (4-28-0/5) game right now, which is why I was hesitant to get too excited. All the TDs were great the past few weeks, but the underlying targeting and snaps played were lower…not befitting of a full, consistent breakout. He’s more WR2.5 than WR1.5 to me still.
-- T.J. Watt (8 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 4.5 TFLs) had quite a game. It was (a) the second time this season he’s had 3.0 sacks in a game, and (b) a sign of how bad the Falcons O-Line is right now. Watt is great, but those numbers are silly. 4.5 TFLs? How bad is Atlanta right now?
-- Vince Williams was out with injury, and Tyler Matakevich (6 tackles) got extra work and was very good. I was watching him play the run in this game…I do not know why he’s so looked down upon. His instincts and effort to the ball are great, always.
-- Damontae Kazee (6 tackles) picked off a pass for his second game in a row. 8.7 tackles per game, 0.67 INTs per game since taking over as starter last 3 games.
-- The Steelers-DST showed up, finally. They are getting sacks and turnovers but giving up too many points, but things are starting to turn a bit. Don’t write them off yet. Hey, they are #4 among all DSTs in PPG scoring YTD!!
Weeks 9-14 they might be ‘back on’ – BAL-CAR-JAC-DEN-LAC-OAK has some good and/or usable games in there with limited ‘issues’.
Snap Counts of Interest:
45 = Conner
12 = Ridley
02 = Samuels (FINALLLLLLYYYYY)
37 = McDonald
26 = James
28 = Freeman
27 = Coleman
12 = Ito Smith