2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 17: Steelers 26, Browns 14 (By Ross Jacobs)
This game was exactly the tragic, godawful mess you would expect. Two of the worst, most dysfunctional offenses in the league battling it out to see who is worse.
In the end, an extremely injured Baker Mayfield with terrible play-calling, bad receivers, and bad pass blocking won out over the shell of Ben Roethlisberger for most inept offense. It's sad to see how far these two have fallen.
It sounds like Mayfield has played his last game in Cleveland through no fault of his own. The media is tearing him a new a-hole right now for the crime of trying to play through very painful injuries that needed surgery months ago and trying to will his team to the playoffs with absolutely no help.
He was sacked 9 times here, so don't try to tell me this was Baker's fault. He's been under siege all year with no help, and still somehow kept things somewhat afloat.
If you think Baker is what's wrong with this broken franchise then nothing I say is going to change your mind, and you have absolutely no idea what you're seeing when you watch these games. I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: Baker is NOT the problem here. Just like Goff wasn't the problem in LA. Just like Foles wasn't the problem in Philly.
The QB is the fall guy but only if the media decided his fate before he was drafted. You can always tell who they are against because every tiny thing that goes wrong against their team is deemed the QB's fault and every positive is just the coaching fixing them or the WR's are bailing them out etc etc. It's the same garbage ad hoc explaining every time. And they are ALWAYS wrong.
THEIR guys are protected, coddled, and have every excuse in the world made for them. Jameis. Darnold. Cam. Gabbert. Bortles. Manziel. Wentz. Fields. I could go on and on. I have no idea how the media is so bad at picking QB's, but I know it's a fact and I know they will defend them until the guy is out of the league. And the opposite goes for guys they are against.
So with that knowledge it was easy to see that Baker was doomed to fail in Cleveland. The situation there is the same as it's always been. It's the same franchise that won 3 total games over a three year period. They clawed out of it for a few seasons almost entirely BECAUSE of Mayfield. And now they are going to sink back into the muck when he's gone.
Baker has my sympathies for how he's being treated. But the good news is he can escape Cleveland with only 4 years gone from his career. There is plenty of time to build himself back up, and I hope he does. The deck is stacked against him because the media will always be out to get him, but if he plays his cards right and lands with the right team things might turn out ok.
If I was Baker I would be thinking hard about how to find my way to New Orleans. He was always compared to Drew Brees anyways and would be a fantastic QB to resurrect that team like Brees did so many years ago. Sean Payton took a talented Brees back when he was booted out of San Diego for his supposed struggles and injury and helped him develop into one of the greatest QB's of the past 20 years. Baker has all the talent in the world to do the same.
Of course, the parallels are too easy and the story works too perfectly, so there's no way that will happen in real life. Unless it does...
On the other side of the field Roethlisberger just played his last home game in Pittsburgh and everyone knows it. Hell, Ben practically announced it himself.
He thinks he's walking away, but the reality is the team doesn't want him back either. He's cooked. There's no football left in him. If he tries to play another year it's going to be a disaster of epic proportions. Better to just ride away into the sunset with a couple of Super Bowls, a hero of the only team you've ever played for, and a Hall of Famer (whether deserved or not).
Will he do that? I honestly don't know. I bet he kicks the tires on it for a few months, acts like he's debating it while seeing if there's any interest from other teams. When it becomes clear that nobody is paying him to be a starter in 2022, he'll act like he decided on his own to walk away.
Despite the win Pittsburgh has all but been eliminated from the playoffs. Technically they are still alive, but they would have to beat the Ravens, have the Colts lose to the Jaguars, and have the Raiders/Chargers game not end in a tie. Very unlikely to happen.
So what's the plan for 2022? Ben is gone. Tomlin appears to be coming back. The offensive line is still a problem. The offensive game plan will once again be built around Najee. Who the QB ultimately is will contribute to how the team does and how much we like/dislike the Steelers skill position players for fantasy.
My best guess is they are going to trot out Haskins and claim he's developed. If that happens then we bail on everything Pittsburgh related for fantasy. No Najee, no Diontae, no Claypool, no Freiermuth. Haskins will turn this team from an average group into one of the league's worst in a heartbeat.
If they somehow manage to find a decent QB (doubtful), then we can reconsider. But that could change the dynamic here massively. Diontae was Ben's boy. With Ben gone I don't think we can count on Diontae keeping up his scoring without the ridiculous volume he was being fed.
But perhaps it would be better for Claypool? If he gets a guy that can actually hit him accurately on these deep shots he might suddenly become a viable option again.
The safest bet right now though is to fade them all. I don't like Tomlin's personnel management, the game plans, any of it. This has disaster written all over it, and RC has seen it coming for the past 2-3 years. 2022 might be the final collapse of the Steelers for a while.
--Najee Harris (28-188-1) finally had himself a good game on the ground against a dying Cleveland defense and honestly this was the best he's looked all year.
Why? Because the Steelers finally were able to open up some holes and let him run downhill. When he can do that Harris is as good as any RB in the league. He's fast enough straight ahead and is a bully with a full head of steam. His issue most of the year was there were no holes to run through and he was trying to jump cut away from danger. He's just not agile enough to do that.
We know he's going to be the center of the offense again, and if the offensive line gets some help he might live up to his draft position in 2022. But there is still the looming question of who his QB will be. If it's Haskins I think you have to avoid Najee because the scoring opportunities will be few and far between and he won't get the same volume in the passing game.
Someone else and things might not be so bad. Think of the difference between 2020 James Robinson and 2021 James Robinson. The only thing that changed was a worse QB was brought in this year, and the offense went from bad to league worst. That's the fear with Pittsburgh next year.
Just because he splashed as a rookie does not mean he's a slam dunk every year forever. Just ask Saquon. Surroundings are just as important, or even more so, than talent.
--I have the same issues with Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool next year as we've already discussed. Will the volume be the same? Because that's the only thing holding them up right now, and Claypool has even fallen even/behind Ray-Ray McCloud in the offense for the moment.
He might work his way out of that role by 2022, but it's no guarantee. Love the talent, hate this situation.
--Ditto everything said above for Donovan Peoples-Jones. I see a #1 WR caliber talent with DPJ, but the only thing keeping him afloat was Baker. New QB means the targeting could change, and Cleveland is likely to bring in new receivers next year. Will DPJ remain the top guy with some hotshot rookie coming to town? Hard to bet on that. DPJ is worth a speculative stash cheaply, but I'm not expecting much to come of it.
--What to do with Nick Chubb? He's one of the best pure talents at RB in the entire league, but with a run-heavy head coach and one of the supposed best offensive lines in football, Chubb somehow was a disappointment this year. There's really nothing you can do but hold and pray for a bounce back. He's too talented not to.
--Grant Delpit has tallied 28 total tackles over his last three games after being elevated to playing basically every snap. He could be a big breakout at safety in 2022 fantasy. Wasn't super impressed with his play here, but you can't fault the stat trends.
Snap Counts of Interest
72 = Diontae
71 = Claypool
53 = McCloud
64 = DPJ
50 = Landry
41 = Higgins