In-season, I’m pumping out content faster than editing can keep up with. I don’t want to hold the recaps for hours waiting on perfection. We will correct errors after the fact, but for now – forgive any of my gaffes. I dictate some of my notes, and the computer software or Siri interpretation can be comical. I try to correct them all before publishing it, but I miss it sometimes…in the 50,000+ words I pen each week during the season (not including all the emails). I’m moving fast, and want to get the product out there ASAP at 98% ‘good’…vs. big delays trying to get to 99.9% craftsmanship. So here you go…
The Steelers were so close to just blowing the Bills out of the building. They scored a TD on their first drive. The drove to the red zone on their second drive. They were crushing the Bills in the pouring snow. Ben Roethlisberger then made a poor throw/bad guess on a route (or the receiver went the wrong way) and Ben served a pick in the red zone, which completely breathed life into the Bills. It was a 20-20 game from that point on.
The Steelers always looked in control, like the better team, but Buffalo played with all the urgency and effort…Pittsburgh was just better, sloppy, but better in the end. The pattern of this game is new normal for the Steelers – a rapidly improving defense, get ahead and work the run game…i.e. ‘de-Ben’ the game.
Ben Roethlisberger is a great QB talent, but he looks sloppy as hell this season.
The Steelers are getting ahead of opponents and then running the heck out of Le’Veon Bell. It’s working, so they are rolling with it…it’s smart. It also takes Ben ‘doing something stupid’ out of the equation. I don’t know if Ben is overconfident or losing it or what, but he is just throwing some passes with reckless abandoned. When Jameis Winston does it, I mock him. When Ben does it, “Hey, it’s Big Ben. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a mad bomber!” I’m starting to wonder. He makes some amazing throws…he also makes very stupid ones this year. His best pass play of late is a dump pass to Le’Veon Bell.
Ben was throwing 40.5 times per game before this win streak. During the four-game win streak, he has thrown the ball 28.3 times per game. 1.4 TD/1.0 INT the last seven games. One 300+ yard game in the last seven games. Big Ben is being throttled back. It might be that MCL injury that held him out a few weeks too. Whatever it is – Ben is not ‘Ben’ anymore, for fantasy. It’s good for the team – great run game and solid defense, and Ben when needed. The lead punch is no longer ‘Ben’.
You wonder why our projections on him are fading…that’s why.
The Steelers look primed for a Super Bowl run because this is no longer all about the Ben and Antonio show. It’s Le’Veon first with the support of an emerging defense with an elite, experienced QB when you need it.
The Steelers control their own destiny, and we project they will win out and end up 11-5, but it won’t be easy facing division foes Cincy and Baltimore in the cold the next few weeks.
The Bills are not dead yet. A win this week hosting Cleveland pushes them to 7-7, and then they need Denver and Miami to lose and both fall to 8-6…which is very possible. Week 16, Buffalo faces Miami…the Bills win that and Buffalo jumps to 8-7, and then has to hope Denver loses at KC…which is not out of the question. Denver, Buffalo, and Miami could all enter Week 17 at 8-7…Denver playing Oakland. Miami faces the Patriots, and the Bills have the lowly Jets in Week 17. It’s improbable, but looking at the schedule and Miami with Matt Moore – it’s possible Buffalo wins out and steals the last wild card from Denver and Miami both losing out. I doubt Denver loses out, but they place three top record teams in the NFL to finish.
I say all that because Buffalo has a reason to play hard this week…which means you have to like/love their motivated DST at home versus RG3/the Browns.
— Le’Veon Bell (38-236-3, 4-62-0/5 targets) should now be a strong consideration for the league MVP. He is carrying the Steelers as half-RB, half-WR…half-man, half-amazing.
I have mentioned trading Bell in dynasty now…before the Steelers pass on him in free agency, and he lands in a bad spot next season. Only trading him in a deal to get David Johnson. I’d still do that dynasty deal, but now I’m not so sure Bell won’t be re-signed by Pittsburgh. He may be the most important player they have.
I’d still worry that once Le’Veon got paid, he’s one more drug issue away from a 4-game (next failed test) or 10+ game suspension (if drugs + driving, etc.).
— LeSean McCoy (12-27-1, 6-81-0/7 targets) is having a nice season as well. If you own him, you might be lamenting Mike Gillislee stealing TDs or this weak output 27 rushing yards game. What is flying a bit under the radar – Tyrod Taylor is throwing to him more on purpose. McCoy has 6.5 catches (7.0 targets) for 71.0 yards receiving the past two games.
— Sure, I want to get excited about Ladarius Green (2-25-0/6 targets), but just 28 snaps (37%) played in this game? His catch totals in games this season are 3-0-2-6-2. He had a great night against the Giants but was out of sorts in this game. I am hopeful for Green, but you can’t bet heavy on him just yet.
— It’s also hard to bet on Sammy Watkins (4-54-1-/6 targets). It feels like he might be about to pop a little, but this is such a low-volume passing team it’s hard to trust him. In his three games back he has 3-3-4 for catches in games.
— IDP rookie Sean Davis (7 tackles, 0.5 sacks) is starting to pop. Davis registered 3 QB hits in this game. On the very first play of the game, Davis was lined up as an edge rush OLB…and got a half a sack. He plays all over. He’s a fantastic talent that we graded as a top 5 overall player in the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s starting to come into his own.
5.6 tackles, 0.6 TFLs, 0.4 PDs over the past five games for Davis.
— Speaking of the Steelers defense…
This marks four games in a row holding opponents to 20 or fewer points. They’ve been pretty good matchups for them, but they are delivering nonetheless. In the Steelers 8 wins this season, they’ve held every opponent to 20 points or less…just 13.6 PPG allowed in their wins.
Their next three weeks: facing #23 PPG offense in the NFL Cincinnati, possibly without A.J. Green. They face #21 PPG offense Baltimore after that…and then #31 Cleveland to finish the season.