Mon Sep 28 2:10pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes against the Houston Texans in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) tries to get past Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Devin Bush (55) on a scramble during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) stretches for the end zone to score as Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) tries to bring him down in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) stiff-arms Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) while trying to scramble for a first down in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers did not get the first down. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) dances with teammates in the end zone after catching a pass against the Houston Texans and running it in for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin calls it ''complementary'' football, the ability of one unit of the Pittsburgh Steelers to feed off the other.
The longtime Steelers coach insists it's not a one-way street either. The offense can feed the defense just as easily as the defense can feed the offense.
However Tomlin wants to describe it, it was on full display in Sunday's 28-21 comeback victory over Houston. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw passes to eight different players. Four running backs got at least one carry. Five different defenders were credited with at least a half sack. Fourteen defenders had at least one tackle.
''We just went out there and dominated,'' wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said.
At least in the second half, when the defense held the Texans to 51 yards while Roethlisberger led three drives that lasted 11 plays or more as the Steelers improved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade. Roethlisberger spread it around all game, including on the 79-yard go-ahead touchdown drive that ended with a 12-yard sprint by running back James Conner.
Six different skill position players touched the ball on the drive, a showcase of the depth Tomlin stressed will be necessary if the Steelers want to contend in the AFC.
''We're going utilize all our eligibles,'' Tomlin said. ''It's important that we have a balanced group, that we can run it, we can throw it. That we have a variety of people to throw to it. We like the versatility of the group, the specialization of the group, and it allows us to move the ball fluidly.''
Having a defense that makes quick work of opponents helps. The Texans had the ball four times in the second half. Three of the drives ended with three plays and a punt. The other in defensive back Mike Hilton's fifth career interception. Houston managed just 51 yards and two first downs over the final two quarters, a stark contrast from the first half when Pittsburgh looked tentative at times while Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson went to work.
''We gave up some possessions early,'' Tomlin said. ''Sometimes that can put a bad taste in your mouth, but they didn't allow it to spoil the day.''
Or the month. The previous time Pittsburgh started 3-0, it reached the Super Bowl. The competition, however, hasn't exactly been tough. The Steelers' three wins are over teams who are now a combined 0-9. A sterner test awaits in Tennessee next Sunday against the unbeaten Titans (3-0).
Still, being 3-0 beats the alternative, particularly for a team that has occasionally stubbed its toe against inferior clubs. Not so much in 2020.
''We're a four-quarter team,'' Conner said. ''Our defense allowed us to get back in. When the defense is making three-and-out stops, keep putting us back on offense, we've got to get it going eventually.''
Conner's season began with concerns about his ability to stay healthy after tweaking his left ankle early in a win over the Giants. He's responded with consecutive 100-yard performances, the 109-yard effort on Sunday, the first time he's topped the century mark in back-to-back games since Weeks 7 and 8 in 2018.
The Steelers picked up veteran punter Dustin Colquitt on the eve of the regular season because of his resume. So far, not so good. The 38-year-old is last in the league in net punting average (36.8 yards per kick).
Hilton picked a pretty good time to have a contract year. The undersized (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) defensive back's run of impact plays continued when he picked off Watson early in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for the go-ahead touchdown drive.
''He's just a tough little football player,'' Tomlin said. ''He's a football player first and (nickel back) second. He's good in the run game. He's solid in the passing game as well, and that provides a platform for him to be noticed in a variety of spaces.''
Tough call for an undefeated team. Left guard Matt Feiler didn't have the best day against the Texans, allowing a sack and failing to get a chip on Texans star J.J. Watt that turned a potentially big gain by Conner into just 2 yards. It's a nitpick at best and worth noting Feiler and the rest of the line dominated in the fourth quarter when the Steelers ran 23 plays to salt the game.
The Steelers have largely avoided the catastrophic injuries that have befallen other teams. Second-year wide receiver Diontae Johnson left in the second quarter on Sunday after being checked for a concussion and fullback Derek Watt tweaked a hamstring. There's depth behind Johnson on the outside, thanks in part to the rapid development of rookie Chase Claypool, who drew a key pass interference penalty on Sunday that led to a field goal.
.714 - Tomlin's winning percentage in the month of October (35-14). The Steelers have never posted a losing record during the month in Tomlin's 13 years on the job.
Trying to put together a complete game defensively on the road in Tennessee. Finding a way to jump on the Titans might help because it would limit the impact of All-Pro running back Derrick Henry.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 3
Washington Football Team DL Matt Ioannidis (biceps) was diagnosed with a biceps tear Monday, Sept. 28, and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Denver Broncos starting defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (biceps) suffered a torn biceps in the Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers and will miss the rest of the season. The Broncos traded for Casey this offseason, hoping that he'd be a key cog in the middle of the defensive line. Coupled with the season-ending injury to linebacker Von Miller right before the start of the season, Denver's defense is a shell of its former self at this point. Even with a mouthwatering matchup against the Jets this Thursday night upcoming, the Broncos Defense is, at best, a desperation streaming option in Week 4.
Seattle Seahawks S Jamal Adams (groin) was diagnosed with a first-degree groin strain Monday, Sept. 28. Although head coach Pete Carroll did not provide a timetable, the typical recovery for such an injury is usually one to two weeks.
Denver Broncos DT Jurrell Casey (biceps) was diagnosed with a biceps tear Monday, Sept. 28, and could miss the rest of the season, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
Free-agent PK Stephen Hauschka (Bills) reportedly agreed to terms on an undisclosed contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, Sept. 28.
The Denver Broncos Defense predictably had a tough time slowing Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady down in the 28-10 Week 3 loss. With a pair of rookie cornerbacks in Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey, Brady threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns on the day. Denver's D was unable to force any turnovers and sacked Brady just two times. Safety Justin Simmons once again led the unit with seven tackles (one assist). They'll have a much easier task this Thursday night against a Jets offense missing all of their best playmakers due to injury. Still, the Broncos defense might be nothing more than a sleeper as a defensive streaming unit in Week 4.
Free-agent DT Corey Liuget (Bills) reportedly agreed to terms on an undisclosed contract with the Houston Texans on Monday, Sept. 28.
Free-agent DT Ryan Glasgow was added to the practice squad of the Houston Texans on Monday, Sept. 28.
Washington Football Team defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis (biceps) suffered a torn biceps in the Week 3 loss to the Browns and will miss the rest of the 2020 season, according to a source. It's a blow to a defense that could also be missing first-round pass-rusher Chase Young (groin) in a tough Week 4 matchup against the Ravens and their high-powered offense. Ioannidis had a career-high 8.5 sacks and 64 combined tackles for Washington in 15 starts in 2019. You can safely ignore Washington's defense next week against Baltimore.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are signing former Seahawks kicker Stephen Hauschka on Monday, according to a source. Hauschka was released by the Bills at the end of training camp when he was beat out by sixth-round rookie Tyler Bass. The 35-year-old latches on with the Jaguars after the team placed Josh Lambo on Injured Reserve last week. He'll battle for the starting gig with rookie Brandon Wright, who missed one of his two extra-point attempts in last Thursday's loss to the Dolphins. Hauschka made 22 of his 28 field-goal tries (78.6 percent) with the Bills last year and is a 85.7 percent kicker in his career. On a Jacksonville team with a very mediocre offense, Hauschka can be ignored for fantasy purposes if he wins the job.
Chicago Bears QB Nick Foles was named the starting quarterback ahead of Mitch Trubisky for Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, Sept. 28.
Fantasy Spin: It seemed only a matter of time before this happened. Even though Trubisky wasn't all that bad in Week 3 and "led" the Bears to a 2-0 start, he just never did consistently enough to move the offense. Although Chicago did not score for the first 1 1/2 quarters Foles took over, he sparked the offense in the second half and threw for three touchdowns in the final 6:20 to rally the Bears past the Atlanta Falcons. He'll be a low-end fantasy QB2 in Week 4 against the suddenly stout Colts defense.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy announced on Monday that quarterback Nick Foles is now their starting quarterback after relieving Mitchell Trubisky in Week 3 and leading an improbable comeback over the Falcons. Foles pulled another rabbit out of his hat by going 16-for-29 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and an interception against Atlanta, and the Bears will stick with him after that performance. Foles will be a popular waiver-wire addition for fantasy managers in need of QB help this week, and Chicago's pass-catchers should benefit from the move to the former Super Bowl MVP. Foles will be more of a QB2 in superflex leagues in Week 4 against the Colts.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson's (knee) first-degree sprained knee is considered a one- to two-week injury, according to a source, but the team wants to see how he recovers this week before making a determination. Head coach Pete Carroll said that Carson could be back soon, but they "just have to see how that goes." Fantasy managers don't have to worry about Carson missing extended time, but he may be forced to rest in a great Week 4 matchup against Miami. If that's the case, expect some combination of Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer to split the backfield carries, making them worth a look on the waiver wire if you own Carson or are hurting at the position. Keep a close eye on Carson's practice status this week.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant was targeted a team-high 10 times in the Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers, but he was only able to reel in five catches for 46 yards. It was evident that backup quarterback Jeff Driskel is a clear step down from Drew Lock (shoulder) under center, which will negatively affect Fant's upside for as long as Lock remains sidelined. The good news is that Fant should continue to be targeted heavily in the passing game. He probably shouldn't be looked at as a strong TE1 option for however long Driskel is the starter, but Fant will have some TE2 sleeper appeal this Thursday night against a woeful Jets team.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus only attempted two kicks in the 28-10 Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers -- a successful 56-yard kick and an extra point. The 56-yarder was nice and might've awarded fantasy managers with bonus points, but the bottom line is that Denver's weakened offense just isn't providing the strong-legged kicker with enough opportunities to make him fantasy relevant. That could be a different story on Thursday night in Week 4 against the Jets, but even then, McManus makes for a desperation fantasy streamer in an offense led by backup quarterback Jeff Driskel.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy finished the 28-10 Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers with five catches on nine targets for a team-leading 55 yards. Jeudy has yet to find the end zone in his rookie season, but he was second on the team in targets and will continue to serve as the No. 1 receiver the rest of the season with Courtland Sutton (knee) out. The Alabama product is an exceptional talent with big-play ability, but his upside is limited with backup Jeff Driskel under center for now with Drew Lock (shoulder) hurt. Jeudy could find the end zone for the first time in his career against the Jets this Thursday, but he'll be a risky WR4/5 in deeper leagues.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick caught all four of his passes for 43 yards and the team's only touchdown in the Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday by a score of 28-10. The efficiency was nice, but both the ceiling and floor are incredibly low for Patrick in an offense currently led by backup quarterback Jeff Driskel. There will be more opportunities for the 26-year-old the rest of the season with Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the year, but Patrick should probably remain on the waiver wire in the majority of fantasy leagues. Don't expect another trip to paydirt when the Broncos face the 0-3 Jets on Thursday night in Week 4.
Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman tallied only four touches -- two carries for four yards and two catches for 31 yards -- in the 28-10 Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers. Even with Phillip Lindsay (toe) sidelined by turf toe, Freeman continues to be an afterthought in this offense behind Melvin Gordon III, and it didn't help that the Broncos were down by multiple scores throughout the day against Tampa. There might be more chances for Freeman to make some noise this Thursday night against a woeful Jets team, but fantasy managers shouldn't count on it. Freeman just isn't seeing enough snaps or touches to merit a roster spot on your fantasy squad.
Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel looked like a backup in the 28-10 Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers, completing just 17 of his 30 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked five times and has been sacked a whopping 11 times in the last two weeks after being forced into action because of Drew Lock's (shoulder) injury. It got so bad that Brett Rypien came into the contest in the fourth quarter. Even though Driskel is set to get another start this Thursday against the similarly 0-3 Jets, he should be avoided in fantasy leagues, even those that start two quarterbacks.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III carried the ball just eight times for 26 yards and caught four of his six targets for an additional 12 yards in the Week 3 loss to the Buccaneers. The Broncos weren't able to get anything going on offense under backup quarterback Jeff Driskel and were playing from behind all day, which led to single-digit carries for Gordon. He was more involved in the passing game, but Gordon still disappointed his fantasy managers in this tough matchup. Things will get a lot easier this Thursday against the winless Jets, but Denver's offense doesn't have much upside as long as Drew Lock (shoulder) remains sidelined.