For the second week in a row, I cannot believe the Steelers won a football game…after writing them off to start the 4th-quarter of each contest. Two great come from behind wins. Down 31-20 going into the 4th-quarter, and the Ravens having all the momentum, etc., and the Steelers just finding a way.
When the Patriots pull these kinds of wins/winning streaks it’s discussed glowingly as ‘the Patriot’s way’. When the Steelers do it…it’s luck, it’s some kind of a letdown because they shouldn’t put themselves in these positions. The football world locks in on a narrative and then never let’s go…which is why people are still wasting breath talking about ‘What’s wrong with Kareem Hunt (what is KC doing so wrong to stop this mythical creature)?’ The football world has decided it doesn’t like/respect the Steelers or Mike Tomlin, so everything they accomplish is excused or ‘a shock’ (outside of Pittsburgh).
The two best teams in football are about to play a game in Week 15, and if there is justice in the world they will play again in the playoffs for the right to go to the Super Bowl. I think the Steelers win this Week 15 game, but losing Ryan Shazier brings my previous confidence level down to a coin toss.
I hope the Steelers win because the Patriots already get enough credit for their greatness. I hope the Steelers win for Mike Tomlin’s sake…the low key one of the best head coaches in the NFL. Tomlin plays/coaches the game with more aggression and risk-taking than any other coach, and I love that. NFL analysts and fans are waiting behind every risk, waiting for the risk to fail so they can jump up and bash Tomlin. Every time Tomlin subtly defies ‘the way things are usually done’ and gets the victory…there’s nary a peep. When his gamble doesn’t pay off, which isn’t often, then the critics will kill him. He needs this win to punch back at the establishment. I think he’s going to get it but you never know…these are two great teams.
If the Steelers win, the #1 seed should all be but wrapped up. If the Steelers lose, then there is a risk they lose a bye completely to Jacksonville in the end. High stakes for the team. High stakes for Tomlin.
The NFL scheduling gods ‘did good’ this season.
Credit to Baltimore…they had this thing in their grasp. What could’ve been a big upset IN Pittsburgh…but they just are not as talented as the Steelers (or Patriots). The Ravens are still sitting very pretty for a wild card, they just cannot afford to stumble to 9-7 and get into a scrum of tie-breakers. CLE-IND-CIN should be a three-game win streak to get them to 10-6, but I just can’t see the Ravens winning three-in-a-row with everything on the line. They’ll stumble somewhere causing further wild card chaos. Win all three and the Ravens are pretty golden for a wild card.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- It looks like there is a sea change taking place with the Steelers offense, and it’s a 180 from what they did during their last season win streak last year.
Last season, the Steelers were fumbling around the .500 mark and then won seven in-a-row to race to the division title. They did so by switching to an ‘all-Le’Veon running the ball’ offense, and Bell carried the team with several stellar performances with heavy workloads. This season, Bell hasn’t been as great running the ball…so, the Steelers are going ‘all pass’. I love how the Steelers reinvent themselves…going with what works.
The Steelers go with WHAT WORKS.
Ben Roethlisberger (44-66 for 506 yards, 2 TD/0 INT) threw the ball 66 times in this game. Ben threw 12 TD passes in the first 10 games of this season…he has thrown 12 TD passes in the last 4 games since. It started to become common for Ben to be under 260 yards passing in games. The last four weeks he’s thrown for no less than 290 yards in any game…361.5 passing yards per game in that span.
Le’Veon Bell (13-48-2, 9-77-1/10) has underperformed as a runner this season – just 3.9 ypc season-to-date. So, what do the Steelers do? Just start throwing it to him – 8.8 receptions per game the past 4 games. Bell would be a top WR in fantasy just on his passing numbers alone the past 4 games.
Big Ben is using Bell and Antonio Brown (11-213-0/18) to their fullest. In a league where many teams have to come out in press conferences and say (give the excuse) “We have to get the ball to ___ more (and then they never do)”, everyone on the planet knows Brown and Bell are getting the ball…and teams are powerless to do anything about it. It’s mystifying to me that Tyreek Hill sees fewer targets in games than Le’Veon Bell…but, I guess that’s why the Steelers beat KC last season in the playoffs, and why they beat KC this season, and why KC will miss the playoffs this season and the Steelers might have the #1 seed.
One more thing to think about – You know how Brown and Bell and Ben are so awesome, as I just opined on something we all know? Remember that Jacksonville kicked their ass. Anyone who doesn’t think the Jags could get to the Super Bowl is sorely mistaken. It’s not all about the QB, as in “You can't win a Super Bowl with Blake Bortles (as everyone says)!” You can if your defense is total domination.
So, I guess to wrap this section of great football analysis up – Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and the Jaguars defense are all good things.
My real point is…the Steelers are back running and gunning through the air. Big Ben is a legit play/weapon this week for fantasy. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago he was on waivers.
-- To wrap up the Steelers’ talk…
Jesse James (10-97-0/12) had a monster game. Does this mean he gets a run as a TE1 ahead, with all the aerial attack increases? I don’t think so. Ben usually keeps it to Brown-Bell, and a random smattering of everyone else. James is possible for Week 15 but not likely.
Vance McDonald (4-52-0/6) is a big reason why I fear going with James this week. It was McDonald starting to break out in this game…and then he got hurt, and then James re-ignited. If VMD is declared out then I have a Week 15 interest in James as a flyer TE1 for the desperate.
-- Alex Collins (18-120-1, 2-46-0/2) looked like the greatest RB in the NFL in this game. Breaking tackles all over. He’s not the most athletic RB in the NFL, not even close, but he runs with such urgency and effort…it’s paying off right now.
Collins is having a nice run right now and I’m onboard, but I will caution – this was a big game against a Steelers defense down their all-world LB Ryan Shazier, and his backup Tyler Matakevich. Let’s not get too overboard and make him a new Kareem Hunt overhype story or anything.
-- Again, with the Steelers DST…you’ve probably ditched them per our instructions but for those that held them as a DST2 in reserve….OR for those looking ahead at a two-week title game (some have Weeks 16 + 17 for their title)…the Steelers have HOU-CLE Weeks 16-17. CHERRY matchups. However, the Steelers may not need to play starters v. CLE Week 17, so caution.
-- One last thing…
Justin Tucker (1/1 FG, 5/5 XPs)…I took some heat for advising you to draft him higher than any FF experts logic would have told you. Tucker started slowly the first 3-4 games this season, which is why some of us stumbled out to 1-3, 2-4 records. But since then Tucker has been the #1-2 scoring kicker in fantasy…corresponding with many of your late runs to make the playoffs for FFM’ers.
Let this be a lesson – don’t overlook the kicker (or DST) in the preseason draft planning. Having a ‘best in class’ kicker is worth its weight in gold. Kickers have random up and down seasons for scoring…except for Tucker. That’s why we valued him so highly. He’s simply the best kicker in the game.
He’s the best kicker I’ve ever seen.
Let Matthew Berry and friends draft Eddie Lacy or whatever 5th RB (likely to be cut by Week 2) in rounds 9-12 of a fantasy draft. Setting an earlier pick aside to nab Tucker has been a winning decision for those of you who got him (at whatever round you got him).
Tucker is the only kicker worth discussing as a keeper in leagues with 8-12 keepers. Maybe, Greg Zuerlein now too.
Snap Counts of Interest…
71 = Jesse James
35 = Vance McDonald
41 = Boyle
33 = Maxx Williams
33 = Watson
29 = Collins
24 = Woodhead
13 = Allen
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