Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1, 4-6 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4, 5-5), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Steelers Stats and Trends
Pittsburgh is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games.
The Steelers are 7-3 toward unders this season.
Najee Harris totaled just 59 scrimmage yards last week, which was his worst total since the season opener. He also had a concussion scare last week, but he still came through with five catches and a touchdown in a great matchup against the Chargers. Harris’ 19 targets against the Bengals back in Week 3 were the second-most ever for a running back behind only Alvin Kamara’s 20 targets in Week 3 of 2018.
Ben Roethlisberger reached 3+ passing TDs for the first time last week, and he finished with a season-best 22.9 FP against Los Angeles. It was his first performance with 18+ FP in his ninth game. Big Ben needed 58 attempts to get to 318/1 passing against the Bengals in Week 3.
Diontae Johnson finished with 7/101/1 receiving on 13 targets last week, which is the second time he’s reached 100+ yards and 20+ FP in a game this season. Diontae missed this matchup earlier this season, and the Bengals are giving up the 14th-fewest FPG (34.1) to the position. He posted a combined 14/190/2 receiving on 24 targets in two matchups against Cincinnati last season.
Chase Claypool returned to the lineup sooner than expected off of his toe injury suffered in Week 9, and he put together his best effort since JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder, IR) permanently left the lineup in Week 5. He finished with 5/93 receiving on an eight-week high nine targets (20% share) and he had a 91% snap share against the Chargers. His day could’ve been much better too, but Big Ben underthrew him on a walk-in 42-yard touchdown before he overthrew him three plays later on a goal-line fade. Claypool has found the end zone just once after scoring 11 times as a rookie. Claypool posted 9/96 receiving on 15 targets in this matchup back in Week 3 with Diontae out of the lineup.
Pat Freiermuth got back the end zone for the fourth time in four games last week, and he’s posted 11+ FP in four of his last five games since taking on a bigger role. He had just 11 receiving yards against the Chargers but he had four catches to give him 4+ catches in five straight games. He posted 3/22/1 receiving on five targets in this matchup earlier this season when he had a much smaller role. Eric Ebron could miss extended time with a knee injury, and Freiermuth saw his two highest snap shares (78%, 71%) when Ebron missed in Weeks 8-9 for a hamstring injury.
Brolley’s Bengals Stats and Trends
The Bengals beat the Steelers 24-10 in late September as 2.5-point road underdogs in a game totaled at 42 points.
Cincinnati is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games.
Cincinnati’s defense held the Raiders to just 47 plays and one touchdown last week, and Joe Mixon did the rest of the work, controlling the game with 30/123/2 rushing. He’s posted 24+ FP in three straight games and in four of his last five contests, and he’s scored in each of his last seven games with 10 TDs overall in that span. Mixon managed 18/90 rushing with a four-yard catch in this matchup back in Week 3.
Joe Burrow finished with a season-worst 148 yards last week, and he has just one passing TD in his last two games after hanging 2+ TD in eight straight contests. Burrow finished with 172/3 passing on just 18 attempts (9.6 YPA) against the Steelers in September.
Ja’Marr Chase has finished with fewer than 50 receiving yards in three straight games after starting his career with 50+ yards in each of his first seven games. He’s still found the end zone in two of his last three games to keep his production afloat, which gives him eight scores in 10 games. Chase hung 4/65/2 receiving on five targets against the Steelers in Week 3.
Tee Higgins had posted 13 FP in three straight games before their Week 10 bye, but he flopped with 2/15 receiving on three targets last week. He’s now failed to find in six straight games since he opened the year with TDs in each of the first two games.
Higgins missed this matchup with a shoulder injury earlier this season, and the Steelers are giving up the 11th-most FPG (37.2) to WRs this season.
Tyler Boyd had fallen below eight FP in four of his last five games before going for 12.3 FP with 6/49 receiving against the Raiders. Boyd had one of his better games against his hometown team in Week 3, finishing with 4/36/1 receiving against Pittsburgh. Keenan Allen went for 9/112 receiving in this matchup last week.
C.J. Uzomah cooled off with fewer than eight FP in three straight games after posting two TE1 weeks in a four-game span in Weeks 4-7. Uzomah didn’t catch a pass on his lone target against Pittsburgh in late September.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.3 (10th)
Plays per game: 70.0 (6th)
Pass: 60.0% (17th) | Run: 40.0% (16th)
Pace: 30.8 (31st)
Plays per game: 67.4 (13th)
Pass: 61.1% (15th) | Run: 38.9% (18th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Bengals came out of their bye and ran it 38 times compared to 29 passes as they cruised over the Raiders. However, last week’s pass | run splits in favor of the ground game have to be due in large part to the matchup as Vegas is far easier to run on than throw against. The larger sample points to the Bengals throwing more often – they’re sixth in pass rate in neutral situations (game within a score in the 1st-3rd quarter) over the last eight weeks.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are fairly balanced in their play-calling but have at least started playing a bit faster in recent weeks. If you’re looking to hang your hat on the over side of things, that’s a place to start. Still, the second round of divisional matchups typically skew lower scoring and the markets see this game as such.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The Bengals had stood as a considerable challenge on the ground to RBs early in the season. That’s changed over the last four weeks. They’ve handed them the eighth-most pure rushing FPG during that time (16.4). Najee Harris began his rookie season only averaging 46.3 rushing YPG through four games. He collected 92.2 YPG over the next five.
With the Chargers building a 24-10 lead at the 11:50 mark of the third quarter last week, the script prevented Harris from accumulating ground volume. But an opening in Cincinnati’s rushing defense makes this matchup for Harris all-the-more cherry. The Bengals are stocking the RB shelves with the third-most pure receiving FPG (14.6). On the off-chance that a reminder is necessary, Najee was fed with 19 targets the last times these teams met, which resulted in a 14/102/0 receiving line for 31.2 FPs.
Tee Higgins deserves some attention. Yes, we are talking about the same guy that hasn’t covered value in his last six games. Even with Joe Haden returning to practice in a limited fashion after missing Week 11 with a sprained foot, Higgins will still likely see some James Pierre on Sunday. Haden cast doubt on being able to return this week but, immediately after, HC Mike Tomlin stated that he expected Haden to return to the field. If Haden is being pushed before he’s ready — as it certainly seems, I want some stock in Higgins.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
I know they lost last week — the Steelers’ defense gave up more than 30 points for the first time in 40 games and the most yards they surrendered in eight years — but I think Ben Roethlisberger looked as sharp as he had in quite some time. And while Ben himself is not much of a fantasy option, if he can throw the ball the way he did last week, he’ll be able to support multiple fantasy receivers here.
And there are three who are pretty hard to bench. Diontae Johnson is Ben’s boy and has exactly 13 targets in five of his last seven games. Chase Claypool — somewhat surprisingly — returned after a one-week absence with a toe injury and was immediately a full-time player, running a route on 47 of 51 pass plays. TE Pat Freiermuth already has Ben’s trust in the red zone.
The Steelers’ narrow target tree is likely to be even more narrow this week, with WR Ray-Ray McCloud on the COVID list and TE Eric Ebron (knee) likely out for the season.
The Bengals are going to have to account for a healthier Steelers team than they did when they played them in Week 3.
In Week 3, the Steelers had a long streak of sacking the opposing QB snapped, coinciding with TJ Watt’s absence. Last week, they had a 40-game streak of not giving up 30 points snapped, coinciding with Watt (knee, hip) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (COVID) out. But both are anticipated back this week. The matchup gets tougher for WR Ja’Marr Chase, as CB Joe Haden (foot) could go as well.
The Bengals will also be stronger, as WR Tee Higgins didn’t play the first time these two teams tilted back in Week 3.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow: "We're establishing the run. That's the basis of every offense in the league."— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) November 24, 2021
All in all, these are two easy teams to break down, teams that concentrate their fantasy production on relatively few players. One guy I’m interested in Tyler Boyd, as the Steelers have given up 58% of their WR production out of the slot, a top-10 rate in the NFL. And Boyd led the Bengals in receiving last week.