Steelers @ Panthers: Fantasy Players to Watch


Aug 28, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) has a pass broken up by Carolina Panthers cornerback James Dockery (31) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Panthers won the game, 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The struggling Steelers head into the stadium of the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Here is a look at the fantasy impact of this week’s Football Night in America.

Carolina’s defense has produced seven sacks, fourteen passes defensed, three fumbles, and three interceptions. They’ve also allowed twenty-one total points in two games, holding a Detroit offense that scored thirty-five points in week one to just seven.

In the first two games of the season, the Steelers’ offense has thrown two interceptions, lost two fumbles, and allowed five sacks. Roethlisberger has had eight of his passes defensed. After a twenty-seven point first half in the opener against the Browns, the offense has mustered only nine points in the last six quarters of play.

It doesn’t look good for owners of the Steelers’ offensive players. Unless the Steelers are able to reproduce their first half dominance from week one, it could be an ugly game.

The Panthers haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season, but look for Le’Veon Bell to find a way to contribute. So far this season, he has been an asset through the air and on the ground, averaging one hundred fifty-two yards from scrimmage through two games.

Bell likely won’t be able to recreate his production against the Browns, but with enough carries and targets, the shifty runner should make an impact. The good news is that if the Steelers get behind it certainly shouldn’t take Bell out of the game plan.

The Panthers haven’t allowed a receiver to cross the century mark in either of their first two games. Last week, they held Calvin Johnson to just eighty-three yards on six catches. A stat line like that is certainly considered a win against Megatron.

Look for the Steelers to find creative ways to involve their wide receivers in the offense. Moving Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown around and giving each a few opportunities to carry the ball could be a good way to keep the stifling Carolina defense from keying on the speedsters. It will be rough going for the Steelers wide receivers.

Heath Miller could provide a consistent option for Roethlisberger, but the tight end’s play this season has been consistently underwhelming. Add that to the fact that the aging Miller has very little “yards after catch” potential against the swarming Panthers, and he does not have a good outlook. Against the Panthers, tight ends have totaled six catches for one hundred thirty-two yards and no touchdowns. That’s the total of five players in two games, with none of them reaching more than forty-one yards receiving.

After all that, this shouldn’t be a surprise: don’t expect much from the man under center. Per Scott Brown at ESPN, Ben said on his weekly radio show on Tuesday that he was still feeling the effects of the hit by Courtney Upshaw from the Thursday night game against the Ravens.

Ben should be healed by game time Sunday night, but this game might have some of the same violence as the Ravens game did. Ben hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the last hour and a half of football, and it won’t get easier against the Carolina Panthers.

Bell and Brown are solid fantasy starters, but this should be a down week for each. With the big play ability that these guys have and the dedication that Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley have to getting them the ball, keep them off the bench. Outside of that, you can stay away from Steeler players this week.

As far as the Panthers go, they’ll look to get their running game going against a dreadful Steelers front. Pittsburgh has been letting backs run all over them. This includes the likes of rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, as well as back ups Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett. Don’t expect anything to change on the road against DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Do consider that Williams missed practice Thursday and might be unavailable Sunday.

Once again, the Steelers will be challenged by an opposing tight end. Greg Olsen is coming off of a solid, but unspectacular game against the Lions and is a proven threat in the passing game. With Lawrence Timmons adjusting to a new role and Ryan Shazier adjusting to life in the NFL, look for opposing quarterbacks to target them in the seams.

Cam Newton enjoyed some success in his regular season debut against the Lions. The Steelers have yet to face a quarterback with his skill set this season. Look for Newton to take advantage of that.

It might be clear from the above, but the Carolina defense is a good start this week at home against a team that hasn’t scored a touchdown in six quarters. Look for them to get after the quarterback and the ball.

The Panther’s offense hasn’t been dominant against mediocre defenses, but it is still a stretch to play the Steelers’ defense on the road. Until the Steelers can consistently get after the quarterback and generate takeaways, there is a risk in starting them. Of course, the Steelers need to be more consistent for reasons other than fantasy.