Week 5 Game Hub: DEN-PIT


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Week 5 Game Hub: DEN-PIT

Denver Broncos (3-1, 3-1 ATS) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3, 1-3), 1 p.m.

Brolley’s Broncos Stats and Trends

  • The Steelers and Broncos are the only teams to play under the total in every game.

  • The Ravens snapped Denver’s three-game ATS win streak to open the season.

  • Denver’s hot start to the season took a turn for the worse with Teddy Bridgewater leaving their Week 4 matchup with a concussion. Bridgewater has an outside shot of playing this week, but the Broncos will likely have to start the erratic Drew Lock for at least the next week. As usual, Lock looked extremely shaky in relief against the Ravens, completing 12/21 passes for 113 yards (5.4 YPA) and one INT. The Steelers have given up multiple passing TDs in the last three weeks.

  • Courtland Sutton exploded for 9/159 receiving in Week 2 against a lowly Jaguars’ secondary, and he has just 9/98 receiving in his other three games combined. He’s also yet to score a touchdown this season, but the Steelers have given up five TDs to WRs the last two weeks.

  • Tim Patrick saw a season-high six targets last week but he turned in a season-low 6.9 FP in his second scoreless game in a row. Allen Lazard posted just 2/33 receiving on three targets in this matchup last week.

  • Noah Fant reached 12+ FP for the third time last season with 6/46/1 receiving on a season-best 10 targets, including a team-best six targets from Lock. The Steelers limited Robert Tonyan to 2/8 receiving on seven targets last week, and they’ve given up just one TD to the position in four games.

  • Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams continue to be locked into a dead-even split in this backfield. Melvin held a slight advantage as a runner (9/56 rushing to 7/48) last week, but Javonte held a slight edge in routes (17 to 15) and receptions (3 to 2) last week. The Steelers have yet to allow an individual RB to reach 12+ FP in a game this season, and they’re giving up the fifth-fewest FPG (16.1) to RBs this season.

Brolley’s Steelers Stats and Trends

  • The Steelers beat the Broncos 26-21 at Heinz Field last season, but Denver covered the six-point spread in a game totaled at 41 points.

  • Pittsburgh has failed to cover in six straight games as a favorite, and they’re 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.

  • Najee Harris saw a season-low 80% snap share, but he still turned in his third straight game with 19+ FP. He posted 15/62/1 rushing and 6/29 receiving on seven targets, which gives him 8+ FP as a receiver in the last three weeks after he had just a four-yard catch in Week 1. Denver is giving up a league-low 10.2 FPG to RBs, and Latavius Murray was the first back to reach double-digit FP against them with 18/59/1 rushing last week.

  • Ben Roethlisberger tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first drive last week before doing little else for the final 55 minutes in Week 4. He completed 26/40 passes for 232 yards (5.8 YPA), one TD, and one INT against the Packers. The Broncos are giving up the second-fewest FPG (13.8) to QBs this season, and they have multiple INTs in two of their four games.

  • Diontae Johnson showed no ill-effects from the knee injury he suffered on the final play of Week 2, which cost him a game against the Bengals. He scored on a 45-yard free play on the first drive, and Pittsburgh managed just 10 points and one red-zone trip the rest of the game. Diontae feasted, as usual, finishing with 9/92/1 receiving on 13 targets (33% share), which gives him double-digit targets in 10 of his last 11 games with Big Ben at quarterback (postseason included). Marquise Brown went for 4/91/1 receiving in this matchup last week, and the opponent's top WRs have posted 17+ FP in three of the four games against the Broncos.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster managed just 2/11 receiving on eight targets against the Packers with Big Ben overthrowing him for multiple big plays down the seam. He’s now fallen below double-digit FP three times and he’s yet to reach 55+ receiving yards in a game. The Broncos are middle of the pack with 13.8 catches per game allowed.

  • James Washington could be viable against the Broncos this week if Chase Claypool (hamstring) is forced to miss another game. He posted a solid 4/69 receiving on five targets in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Packers in Week 4. Claypool had a career-high 15 targets for 9/96 receiving the last time we saw him in Week 3 before he picked up a hamstring in practice last week. The Broncos have given up just three TDs to WRs through the first four weeks.

Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies


Pace (seconds in between plays): 33 (32nd)

Plays per game: 67.8 (16th)

Pass: 58.4% (20th) | Run: 41.6% (13th)


Pace: 28.7 (18th)

Plays per game: 65.3 (21st)

Pass: 74.6% (1st) | Run: 25.4% (32nd)

Pace Points

I’ll say this much: There have been better games this year than this one. Overall, this is the second-slowest matchup on the Week 5 slate and is tied with Texans-Patriots for the lowest total (39.5). Big Ben and the Steelers offense has completely fallen apart and put up just 17, 10, and 17 points in the last three contests and, as a result, their games have (unsurprisingly) played under in three-straight. Now up against a stout Broncos front-seven and a strong secondary, it’d be a shock to see the Steelers come out and fill the scoreboard with points. Denver playing so slow on offense combined with Pittsburgh problems means that this game is short on upside.

Huber’s Key Matchup Notes

Try to bear with me. If Teddy Bridgewater manages to clear the concussion protocol, we can all safely fade Denver’s passing game. If Drew Lock ends up making the start, it may not be the best idea to simply look the other way. For all of his flaws, Lock is actually top-five — in terms of metrics — against the Steelers’ predominant coverage shells, shells against which Bridgewater has typically struggled in his career. Lock starting would also be good news for TE Noah Fant.

Volume has been king for Steeler RB Najee Harris, but he’ll face a ton of resistance this week. After four games, no defense has placed RBs on lockdown with more ferocity than the Broncos. They are sanctioning the fifth-fewest pure rushing FPG to RBs (6.6), the fewest through the air (3.6), and also the fewest red zone touches/game (1.25). The longest run Denver has permitted is a 13-yarder from Ty Johnson in Week 3. Harris is having a tremendous first season, potenting landing him in the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation. But he will see far softer matchups than the one facing him in Week 5.

Oh, by the way, JuJu Smith-Schuster will be the next victim ghosted by Denver slot CB Bryce Callahan. He currently ranks third-best with 0.38 yards per coverage snap.

Dolan’s Vantage Points

Another bad game for Ben Roethlisberger, and yet another injury picked up. This time, it’s a hip, after a pectoral muscle was bothering him headed into Week 4.

Frankly, I don’t want to see Roethlisberger’s nether regions, injured or not, so I’ll pass on the picture. But injuries for a guy who isn’t playing well anyway really make investing in this passing game hard.

Per Next Gen Stats, Ben has completed just 26.4% of his deep passes since the beginning of 2020, the second-lowest in the NFL (ahead of only Joe Burrow), with 5 INTs on those throws, tied for the most. Ben is also throwing the ball in an average of 2.33 seconds this year, the lowest in the NFL… which is bad news against this Denver defense, which is allowing a league-low 71.1 QB rating on throws NGS defines as “quick.”

We know Najee Harris will likely struggle on the ground in this matchup, per Wes’ stats, but at least he’ll get targeted — Ben has thrown 25.3% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage, most in the league.

Ben’s lack of downfield juice has been evident, and that’s bad news for Chase Claypool, even though Claypool is back from a hamstring injury. As Wes pointed out, it’s also a rough matchup for JuJu Smith-Schuster. But the guy who doesn’t seem to be affected ever is WR Diontae Johnson. Here’s Graham Barfield from Week 5 Start/Sit:

“Some things never change. Diontae Johnson either gets 10 targets and scores over 15 fantasy points or he spends the afternoon in the medical tent / on the sideline with an injury. There is no in between. After missing Week 3 with a knee injury, Johnson immediately got back into his high-volume role, taking his 13 targets for 9/92/1 against the Packers on a season-high 92% of the snaps. Johnson now leads all receivers in targets per game (11.7) and is the WR8 in FPG (19.4). Denver has started strong on defense, but Sterling Shepard (24.3 FP), Marvin Jones (17.5) and Marquise Brown (19.1) have all found success against this secondary. Johnson is a high-end WR2 in PPR and carries a WR1 ceiling if the Steelers continue their streak of getting down early and having to throw a ton to catch up.”

While Teddy Bridgewater is a better QB than Drew Lock, I think it’s interesting that Wes believes this is a better stylistic matchup for Lock than Teddy. Neither guy is a fantasy option himself, but it may affect your lineups elsewhere. (Teddy returned to practice this week but is officially questionable.)

I tend to remember there being a narrative about Courtland Sutton having a good rapport with Lock, but I went back and looked at the numbers, and they were just OK. Lock connected with him for 22/280/2 on 40 targets over Lock’s five starts in 2019, a span over which Sutton ranked as the WR27 for fantasy. Meanwhile, Sutton had just 3/47 receiving on 8 targets in Week 4’s loss to the Ravens, meaning he’s now gone under 10 FP in three of four games this season, the lone exception being his 9/159 game on 12 targets in Week 2 against the lowly Jags. He’s a WR3 in this matchup, but was added to the injury report on Friday with an ankle problem. A midweek downgrade is never good.


#Broncos will be adding WR Courtland Sutton injury report after he rolled ankle in practice today. Will be listed as questionable and did limited work.

— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) October 8, 2021


Wes likes the draw for Noah Fant if Lock plays, but given Fant’s solid production, I doubt most fantasy players have the luxury of benching him.

Oh… look who might be back soon!

The dead-even split for Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams is bad news this week — the Steelers have yet to allow an individual RB to get to 12 fantasy points. Both are FLEX options, though Williams a stronger one given Gordon (lower leg) is questionable.