Thursday Night Football last week gave us the opportunity to cheer for a Josh Palmer breakout game, as well as a continuance of Gerald Everett SZN. This week, we get to root for… George Pickens and Donovan Peoples-Jones? Hooray? The Steelers travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in what will prove to be the most impotent fight since that episode of South Park where Timmy and Jimmy have it out in the schoolyard. That’s right, a South Park reference! A 20-year-old South Park reference, but one nonetheless. This is a fight between two moribund offenses and two feisty defenses, which means that we are looking at a 13-12 slog in the Mistake by the Lake.
The Smash Starts:
These guys are studs and should not be leaving your lineup anytime soon.
Steelers: Najee Harris (RB), Diontae Johnson (WR), Pat Freiermuth (TE)
Browns: Nick Chubb & Kareem Hunt (RB)
Mitchell Trubisky (Week 2: 21/38, 168 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 rush, 7 yards)
Jacoby Brissett (Week 2: 22/27, 229 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 6 rush, 43 yards)
Every week, I do a detailed breakdown of the players, but I am going to make life easy for you: don’t do it. Trubisky might not make it through the game, as the Kenny Pickett clamoring has already started in Pittsburgh. So, even though he could benefit from his aggressive pass style against the Browns (Trubisky is among the league leaders in air yards per attempt, and the Browns are among the league leaders in yards per passing target allowed), he has to show it before he shows up in my lineup. Plus, if your quarterback hits the pine halfway through the second quarter, you’re in big trouble.
As for Brissett, he might have a spicy day, but there are a lot of better players with good matchups this week, that you shouldn’t need to stoop to starting Brissett. Brissett isn’t aggressive, but he’s used his legs just enough this season (53 rush yards in two games) to make him an intriguing streamer in deeper leagues (2QB or 16 teams or more) if your roster’s been decimated by Trey Lance, Dak Prescott and/or Justin Fields. Ultimately, however, you’re better off looking elsewhere than Brissett, even though he’s likely to finish with over 200 total yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Chase Claypool (Week 2: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 26 yards)
George Pickens (Week 2: 3 targets, 1 reception, 23 yards)
Chase Claypool is someone I just can’t seem to quit. He should be the #2 wide receiver on the Steelers, but through two games, his 12 targets have returned basically nothing: 8 catches for 44 yards (and 6 rushes for 36 yards). Claypool is WR59 by fantasy points scored. You probably don’t want to play any ancillary receivers on the Steelers at this point, but if you’re backed into a corner, you can go with Claypool. However, if you’re in a DFS slate and you want some upside, check out George Pickens.
While Pickens has fewer targets than Claypool, he has 129 air yards to Claypool’s 74, and given that Claypool has twice the target share, that tells you that Pickens has the higher average depth of target. These Cleveland Browns famously gave up a long touchdown to Robbie Anderson in week one that tricked us into thinking one of Baker Mayfield or Robbie Anderson might be good. That can happen with Pickens in week two, as he’s ninth in average depth of target among players with at least 30 snaps played this season.
Amari Cooper (Week 2: 10 targets, 9 receptions, 101 yards, 1 TD)
Donovan Peoples-Jones (Week 2: 1 target, 0 receptions, 0 yards)
David Bell (Week 2: 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards)
Amari Cooper is probably the reason you clicked on this article. After all, he finished last week as WR8 in PPR leagues, notching his first 100+ yard game since last Halloween. He’s ultimately a boom-bust WR3, who you can get into your lineup if you want to (he’s the second-best wide receiver to start in this game). Cooper was open a ton in week one, Brissett just didn’t look his way. That changed in week two, and that led to Cooper’s big game. You can start him over guys like Tyler Lockett, and Darnell Mooney (who you can probably cut), but I would prefer Garrett Wilson and even JuJu Smith-Schuster this week.
As for Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Bell… you can’t possibly feel good about starting either of them in a standard-sized league. David Bell has one target through two games and should make his way off of your roster. DPJ had 11 targets in week one, and one target last week, making him far too inconsistent through two games to slot him into your lineup. Like Pickens, DPJ is a boom-bust DFS play for now.
David Njoku (Week 2: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards)
In a position where mediocrity is the norm, Njoku stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the tight ends in his mediocrity. Through two games, he has six targets, four receptions, and 39 yards. He ranks outside the top-fifteen in every relevant stat: fantasy points (28th), targets (25th), receptions(28th), yards (29th), routes run (17th), yards per route run (47th), and air yards (43rd). Through two weeks, the Steelers have allowed six receptions for 48 yards, on 13 targets to tight ends. They’re a bad matchup, and Njoku isn’t getting enough opportunity to overcome the matchup. Sit David Njoku… on the waiver wire.