Thursday Night Football turned out to be quite a bit more prolific than we had thought. The Browns took down the Steelers, 29-17, moving the Browns to 2-1 and Pittsburgh to 1-2. We have a lot to dissect from that game, so let’s dive in to figure out what we should & shouldn’t overreact to from the week two contest!
Were We Stupid to Doubt David Njoku?
Well, yes and no. Njoku finished the night with ten targets for nine receptions, 89 yards, and a touchdown. He finished with more yards than he’d had in his last five games combined (78), and he did it on his first double-digit target effort since 2018. All-in-all, he finished with the second-highest yardage total in a game, on the most catches he’d ever had in a game, on the second-most targets he’d ever had in a game. This came on the heels of two games wherein he had six targets on just 50 routes run (18th among tight ends).
Njoku was also playing a Steelers team that allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends. While it stings to see him blow up on your bench or the waiver wire, it does give us a new upside to shoot for with Njoku. So, we probably were a bit too hasty to drop Njoku, but this was a perfect storm of getting things wrong: no targets and a defense that stops tight ends that led to a career game. These things happen in fantasy.
Should the Steelers Turn the Quarterback Position over to Kenny Pickett?
Look, I’m not saying that the Steelers should bench Mitchell Trubisky for Kenny Pickett. But, I’m also not not saying it. Trubisky finished the night at 20/32, with 207 passing yards, 7 rushing yards (and a rushing touchdown), and with zero passing touchdowns. But hey, no interceptions, either? The Steelers struggled to move the ball tonight, running just 55 plays in 23:51 of possession. That is probably because they converted just 1-of-9 third downs. So, the Steelers struggled mightily to move the ball, and that all goes back to the quarterback. Coming into the game, the Steelers had the worst yards per attempt in the NFL, at 5.1 passing yards per throw. The terrible 32 attempt, 207 passing yard game from Trubisky was enough to move them into 31st place. Look out, Arizona. Through three games, Trubisky now has two passing touchdowns and an interception.
So, no, it’s not that absurd. The Steelers passing game literally can’t get worse (well it can, just one slot worse, actually). The defense was the true story of what went wrong tonight, but they’ll get T.J. Watt back and that ship will right itself. The Steelers need to move on from the Trubisky Show if they have any chance of making the playoffs. If they do it now, the kid has ten days to prepare for the Jets, so this is pretty much a best-case scenario game for him to walk into. And hey, if Pickett sucks, there’s always Mason Rudolph, right?
Has Amari Cooper Reached Must-Start Status?
For the second, straight game, Amari Cooper has exactly 101 receiving yards and a touchdown. Last week, he did it on 11 targets, this week, he did it on 10. No matter how you slice it, it’s two admirable performances with Jacoby Brissett as his quarterback, after a week one where he had just six targets, but he still ranks inside the top-fifteen in target share, as he soaked up 28% of Jacoby Brissett’s targets prior to getting 35% of them tonight. The players around him are all must-start players (Deebo Samuel, Michael Pittman, Ja’Marr Chase & Jaylen Waddle), so it stands to reason that Cooper is, as well. He’s getting the targets and cashing them in. Jacoby Brissett has, miraculously, revived Amari Cooper’s fantasy value after the Browns traded for Cooper this offseason. Put him in your lineup and forget about it, at least for week four versus Atlanta. Things get iffy in week five against the Chargers, but he has cushy matchups against the Patriots and Ravens in weeks six and seven. So, while he isn’t a must-start player, I will be starting him in three out of the next four weeks, and that’s pretty close to being the same thing.
Is Jacoby Brissett a Fantasy-Relevant Quarterback?
Prior to this game, I said that you could get away with starting Jacoby Brissett in 2QB leagues; I even did it! He rewarded my faith, finishing with 220 passing yards, two touchdowns, and no picks while kicking in 11 rushing yards. He finished with 17.9 fantasy points in four-point-per-touchdown leagues, which is a top-twelve performance this season. Joe Burrow, QB12, averages 17.4 fantasy points per game, which makes Brissett a dark horse candidate to finish week three as a top-twelve option on the week. But, I don’t foresee this being the norm with Brissett. Prior to tonight, Brissett averaged 188 yards per game, with one touchdown per contest. He rushed for 43 yards in week two, but his weekly output will be closer to his weeks one (10 yards) and three (11 yards) than that.
This had a lot to do with the Steelers completely failing to stop both David Njoku and Amari Cooper, and while the Steelers are middle-of-the-pack against tight ends, they are dreadful at stopping wide receivers, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the position so far in the season. So, this was as a perfect storm to get Jacoby Brissett into the top twelve. While I doubt he makes it a regular finish, he has a chance to return to the top-twelve next week as the Browns take on the Falcons and their bottom-five defense.
Is George Pickens a Sneaky Buy-Low?
Through two games, Pickens had more air yards than Chase Claypool, though Claypool had more targets. I, and many others, insisted that Pickens needed some more time to cook up before he became the #2 receiver in Pittsburgh. Well, that change seems to have happened tonight. For the first time this year, Pickens had more targets than Claypool (though it was just 7 to 6), even though Pickens came down with just three of them for 39 yards (and one of those catches was a complete doozy).
This is a fun one because if someone in your league has him, you can play the fool and act like you’re just taking a flier on him because of the cool catch. Definitely don’t tell the current George Pickens manager that Pickens is on a fast track to getting a ton of downfield targets soon, as he currently leads the Steelers in average depth of target and is about to end up second on the team in targets.