The Steelers won 26-9 and it wasn't that close. As I suspected last week -- I believed that Pittsburgh would go to Baltimore and pull off a convincing win and thus drive a final stake through the heart of the Ravens…and boy, did they. I'm not sure the Ravens aren’t the single worst team in football. The Ravens, Browns, Giants, and Chargers are sick, really sick football teams.
The Ravens season is toast and at a minimum, the coaching staff is going to get turned over at the end of the season I'd bet. They've had a great run but it's over. You might see an O-C change in the next week or two…like the 20th O-C change in the past five years for them it feels like. There's no salvaging this train wreck. It's time to start all over from HC to QB to GM, quite frankly. Time has passed them all by.
The Steelers have a ton of issues. I'm shocked by the way the Steelers are falling apart in front of our eyes but the full decline is being hidden from our eyes on three fronts:
(1) The defense is becoming the lead story, and backstopping the fall.
(2) The Steelers haven't played anybody. They've beaten DeShone Kizer (barely), Case Keenum in his first (last second) shock start Week 2, and Joe Flacco…who may be the 3rd worst QB in football. The Steelers have a top defense, statistically…but they haven't played anybody – they lost to Mike Glennon. It's why we had the Steelers as the DST you wanted to start 2017 with…but I thought you might not want to finish with them.
(3) This division is the worst in football and BAL-CLE are two of the worst teams in football and Cincy isn't far off. It's six built-in wins and a free pass to the playoffs via a division title. The Steelers won't fall far, in overall record terms, because there is a win in the schedule every 2-3 games in the division.
The Antonio Brown temper tantrum is a problem more than being discussed outside Pittsburgh. The National Anthem debacle is weighing here. It's a boiling tea kettle that should overheat and spill over but all the easy division wins will cool it down every time the whistle blows…and then they'll get whacked in the playoffs and the season will end abruptly and hide/we'll forget the issues.
If the Steelers were a stock, I'd sell it right now. Problems now…problems for years to come it looks like.
Let's get into Ben-Antonio right off the bat because I think it has fantasy ramifications.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- OK, Antonio Brown (4-34-0/7) and the Gatorade bucket toss…
Let's review the backdrop leading up to this moment – for years all of us have seen Ben-to-Antonio and marveled "How the hell do they keep doing this when everyone knows it's coming?" Antonio has become a star with Ben…and Ben has fed the monster righteously. No using Antonio as a decoy…it's guns-a-blazin' to Antonio. When Ben has been out of action, Antonio becomes Clark Kent. It's been a great football relationship for years…maybe the best in football.
Now, Week 4 of a game the Steelers are leading 3-0…in a season where the Steelers are 3-1 and likely to win this game and division, so all is good…on a very innocent 'miss' read by Ben (not seeing Antonio open on his deep route) – Brown explodes in a rage. This would be like if your spouse was perfect for years – liked all the shows you liked, made your favorite food all the time and brought it to you to eat and then cleaned everything up without asking you to lift a finger, there was never ever an argument, always cute puppy love for all the years…and then one day this perfect spouse went to the store to get groceries and you wanted ice cream sandwiches and they forgot to get them and your response is to throw kick the TV over, pack your stuff and tell them you're leaving and want a divorce.
My scenario doesn’t make any sense, does it? Someone who has been perfect to you, who has 'made you' has one minor mistake and you totally lose it -- how does that happen? It happens if there isn't peace, love, and harmony on the team or between the two guys behind the scenes – or Antonio Brown has become a pure jackass with all his success. There is no other reason for that response in the 1st quarter of a Week 4 game in a season where things are going fine and getting angry at the guy who helped 'make you'.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
The National Anthem debacle that Ben has backtracked on publicly…maybe others haven't and are now pissed? Ben's comments about this Gatorade bucket toss in the media…Ben's veiled negative comments for 2-3 years now…it's all adding up. Colin Cowherd has been all over this for two years and I thought he was overplaying it…but now I'm thinking he wasn't loud enough – there are issues with the Steelers behind-the-scenes. Big time. Much like Oakland – once the inmates start realizing they run the asylum, things start falling apart. Le'Veon Bell shows up to camp when he wants. Antonio Brown is more concerned about expensive cars and image than the team, maybe? I might be too…I'm not faulting him, I'm just pointing it out. It's not good for continuity.
You think Mike Tomlin would bench Antonio after such an egregious act…to help get 'the kid' on the right track? Hell, no. Are you kidding me? The lack of swift response to this action is the final tear ripping the fabric of this team…a team ready to crumble for a while now. You see what's happening in New York with Odell Beckham running the show?
What do you think Bill Belichick would do if Brandin Cooks threw a Gatorade bucket and ripped him arm away from the offensive coordinator in the 1st-quarter of a game this week? What do you think Tom Brady would do?
The nonresponse by the coach shows a total lack of management and support for order over chaos. Don’t think Ben doesn’t realize it either.
I think three things are coming…
1) The Steelers take on the Jags this week and face maybe the best secondary in football. Antonio is prime for a 'down' game. If he is 'down' and the Steelers lose at home…all hell may break loose.
2) If Ben feels guilty or obliged to throw to Antonio versus the Jags, to 'make up'…that defense might make him pay big time.
3) If the Steelers lose. If Brown has a bad game. This is going to get worse and if it does…I think it seals the fate on something I've thought for a while – this is Ben's last year in the NFL. Ben is going to go into politician mode, and start laying the foundation for goodwill with the fans as he leaves. He has plenty of money. He came close to retiring in the offseason – something you only do when you hate where you work, considering all the money at stake. Ben came back to a place he doesn’t like to work at and it's become an even worse to work at. Ben will try to get a Super Bowl on the way out but more importantly – he'll want to play well, have a good public face, stay healthy (i.e. get rid of the ball vs. extending plays and taking hits). If Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are going to put themselves first, Ben's equivalent is staying healthy for his retirement and checking down more…thus the lack of 300+ yard games and Antonio Brown's output numbers starting to get erratic with Ben.
This situation is at a boiling point. Crushing the Jags could cure it for a while. Losing to the Jags, at Pittsburgh if Ben and Antonio struggle – that might be the final straw.
In this game, after Antonio had a fit, I noticed two things…
1) Ben stopped throwing as much to him. That pitch and catch relationship was gone (Brown had 4 catches on 9 targets…a 44% connection vs. a bad Ravens secondary). Ben forced some throws to him 2nd half. Brown dropped one. Brown played with less effort.
2) After Antonio pitched a fit, the Steelers scored (FG) on the next drive -- nine plays, one throw to Antonio. The following drive, a TD drive, 7 plays…no throws to Antonio. The next drive, nine plays and a TD…no throws to Antonio.
On the last score I just referenced, Juju Smith-Schuster scored a TD on a pass from Ben and various guys came over to celebrate and slap JSS in congratulations, etc. – but Antonio Brown, also in the end zone, somewhat nearby was not in the picture/celebration.
Pittsburgh…we have a problem.
If I owned Antonio Brown in dynasty, I am scared to death what's going to happen in Week 5. I'm also not excited by Week 6 at KC. As soon as AB gets 'right' with a big game…and everyone sweeps this story under the rug, I trade Antonio Brown at his peak for as much as I can get, like a mega-deal not a 'dump'. I don’t think Ben is coming back in 2018. I don’t think the relationship is good now. Ben's skills are fading.
Antonio has been a fantasy god with Big Ben. I think that we're nearing the end of the line.
Can I do some fuzzy math? Let's set aside that weird game last year where Andrew Luck was hurt and the Steelers dropped Indy on its head and Antonio scored 3 TDs in a blink. In his last 16 games (ignoring that Indy game, but including playoffs…just 7 TDs. In their last 10 regular-season games together – two 100+ yard games. Brown has had huge games versus Indy and Cleveland in the last 10 games and up and down otherwise. Swings from great to 'meh'. More and more 'meh' variation is happening.
The Steelers haven’t faced many great secondaries last season or this season.
The best secondaries AB has faced the past 1+ seasons…
2016 v. KC = 4-64-2/5
2016 v. NYG = 6-54-1/7
2016 playoff v. KC: 6-108-0/11
2017 v. MIN = 5-62-0/11
We're seeing more and more 4-6 catch, 50-70 yard games than the blowout great ones.
The Jags in Week 5 is the best secondary he will have faced in years. Let's see how he responds. Most of the rest of 2017 is favorable matchups, but this Jags one will be interesting for a number of reasons.
-- After all that…if there are 'issues' with Ben-Antonio – JuJu Smith-Schuster (3-47-1/4) may be the winner. He and Ben seem to have a natural chemistry, and JuJu looks good. His early numbers aren't bad at all. The past three games…
7.4 FF PPG, 10.1 PPR on 2.7 rec., 34.0 yards, 0.67 TDs per game
I can't see him much more than a WR3 on BYE weeks until we see more confirmation.
-- Look, I get Alex Collins (9-82-0) is starting so that seems like an opportunity, but the Ravens' offense stinks. Collins is a C-/D+ talent. It's not going to work for fantasy. I don’t know what RB is going to work for fantasy here. I guess Javorius Allen (2-7-0, 6-37-0/6) hoping for dump passes in blowouts?
Count me out unless an emergency on any of these guys.
-- Michael Campanaro (4-25-0/6) FINALLY got used like he should have been for years – as an Edelman/Amendola-type WR.
I don’t know if this is sustainable…whether Camp gets hurt, per usual, or Flacco just wanders off into the distance, but Campanaro is the perfect WR for him right now – an easy throw when he has no other options.
I'm hopeful, but I don’t trust it.
-- I don’t trust Campanaro because Joe Flacco (31-49 for 235 yards, 1 TD/2 INT) shouldn’t be an NFL starter anymore. 31 TDs/28 INTs in his last 24 regular-season games. 4 TDs/7 INTs in his last five regular-season games.
The old guard QBs are dying off in 2017, but it will probably be 2018+ before most of their teams do anything about it.
-- We have to start preparing for a fall from grace on the Steelers DST, those of us benefitting from it out of the gates.
Kizer-Keenum-Glennon-Flacco to start 2017 is a gift. Bortles this week is too. Week 6 at KC is going to be their first real test, and if there are locker room issues…sloppiness issues…on the road vs. a buttoned-up KC team at KC – it could be a mess that exposes the Steelers DST as 'good' not 'great'. From Week 6 on the schedule is a problem. Prepare a Plan B.
Buffalo has a BYE Week 6, which stinks for PIT DST holders -- and then they are a nice option from then on most weeks.
Washington with (if) Josh Norman back is a nice option…Week 6 v. SF.
I'm not saying it's going to happen. The Steelers D may be strong enough to overcome – but we need to see it. The Week 6 KC game will be the test to see whether to worry or not.
Snap Counts of Interest…
40 = Javorius Allen
17 = Alex Collins
11 = Terrance West
68 = Antonio Brown
54 = JuJu
48 = Martavis
58 = Jesse James
30 =Vance McDonald