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Steelers sign WR Donte Moncrief, bring back WR Eli Rogers

Thu Mar 14 4:05pm ET
By The Associated Press

Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Andrew Luck, Blake Bortles, Jarvis Landry, Cody Kessler, Eli Rogers, Jacoby Brissett, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, JuJu Smith-Schuster

PITTSBURGH (AP) Donte Moncrief can do the math in his head. Yet the newest Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver has no plans to fill the void left by Antonio Brown.

''AB is one of the best if not the best ever,'' Moncrief said on Thursday hours after signing a two-year deal with Pittsburgh. ''You can't try to be what he was. You can only be what you are.''

What Moncrief has been during his five-year career is dependable if not always prolific. A third-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 NFL draft, Moncrief brings 200 career receptions for 2,543 yards and 21 touchdowns to Pittsburgh, where he suddenly finds himself as the most experienced receiver in the room.

The 25-year-old wideout has played in 69 games for Indianapolis and Jacksonville. The group Moncrief joins - rising star JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Eli Rogers (re-signed to a two-year deal on Thursday) - has played in 74 career games combined.

Now, the player who was mentored by longtime Colts star Reggie Wayne finds himself in position to do the mentoring in Pittsburgh. Moncrief said the Steelers have a ''great room,'' and if he can be ''the guy that pushes guy,'' it's a role he'll gladly accept.

Pittsburgh does provide Moncrief with something he hasn't enjoyed in recent seasons: stability at quarterback. In the last four years Moncrief has caught passes from Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck, Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler. Barring injury, there is no such uncertainty in Pittsburgh, where 37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger remains a part of the team's long-term plans. Roethlisberger is entering the final season of his contract but is expected to sign an extension in the very near future.

That's fine by Moncrief, who heard from Roethlisberger shortly after the deal was completed.

''He's ready to get going, get some chemistry, lock in,'' Moncrief said.

Moncrief's arrival also gives him common ground with his father, Spencer. The elder Moncrief is a lifelong Steelers fan and told his son a month ago he had a feeling he would end up in Pittsburgh.

''I'm a Steeler now, so I guess we're in the same boat,'' Moncrief said.

Moncrief can play on both the outside and the inside, though his 6-foot-2 frame would seem to make him a perfect complement to the 6-1 Smith-Schuster, with the 5-11 Washington and the 5-10 Rogers working primarily in the slot. Not that it ultimately matters. Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner showed in his first season that he will get creative with where his receivers line up in an effort to create the best matchup.

Moncrief has shown an ability to get downfield. He averaged 13.9 yards per catch playing for the Jaguars in 2018 and had a career-best 15.0 yards per reception during his final season with the Colts in 2017.

The numbers, however, don't exactly line up with Brown's historic production. The only player with six consecutive seasons of at least 100 catches is now playing in Oakland after a messy divorce that ended with Brown being shipped to the Raiders for a pair of draft picks.

Brown's highly public fallout with the team following his benching in Week 17 created headlines for weeks. Moncrief ignored them and said everyone he talked to before officially joining the Steelers talked about the way the organization treats its players.

Pittsburgh prefers to take care of its own, and it did that again when it re-signed Rogers shortly before Moncrief's deal became official. The 26-year-old Rogers made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Louisville. He spent most of 2018 recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee suffered in a playoff loss to Jacksonville 15 months ago. He returned to catch 12 passes for 79 yards in limited action.

Both Moncrief and Rogers will get a chance to face newly acquired cornerback Steven Nelson when the Steelers begin organized team activities in the spring. Nelson, who agreed to a three-year contract on Wednesday, picked off four passes for Kansas City in 2018, matching the total of Pittsburgh's entire secondary.

Nelson is aware creating takeaways was a problem for the Steelers last season. He hopes to be part of the solution.

''I know this year will be different,'' Nelson said Thursday. ''We're going to change that around this year.''

Nelson is also looking forward to the fall and lining up across from the retooled Cleveland Browns, whose receiving group includes Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., whom Cleveland landed in a stunning trade earlier this week.

''I welcome that challenge,'' Nelson said.

Player Notes
James Conner Dec 5 2:20pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) has been ruled out for Week 14 against the Cardinals despite getting in some limited practice this week. It will be his third straight missed game, and fantasy owners shouldn't be holding out much hope that he can help you the rest of the way if you've made the fantasy playoffs. A Pro Bowler in 2018, Conner has disappointed with 390 rushing yards and five missed games. Benny Snell Jr. should continue to carry the load on early downs in Conner's absence. He'll be an upside RB3 in the good matchup with Arizona, but Jaylen Samuels should continue to see more work in the passing game.

From RotoBaller

Dante Pettis Dec 5 2:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis (knee) was back at practice on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. Pettis is making progress, but he won't be back on the field for Week 14 against the Saints. The 24-year-old has been a second-year bust, catching only 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns in his 11 games in 2019. With several 49ers rookies possibly passing him on the depth chart in 2020, Pettis is no longer a must-hold in dynasty/keeper leagues either. He posted 27 catches for 467 yards and five scores in 12 games in his rookie season.

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Adam Vinatieri Dec 5 2:00pm ET

Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) is unlikely to play in Week 14 against the Buccaneers after the team claimed kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers on Wednesday. Vinatieri will turn 47 years old this month and has missed 14 total kicks this year, so McLaughlin could take over for him this weekend and finish out the year as the team's kicker. McLaughlin made seven of his eight kicks in his time for the 49ers filling in for Robbie Gould, and he could become a viable kicking streamer down the stretch in fantasy. Vinatieri, who has been a legendary kicker in his career, could be nearing the end.

From RotoBaller

Trey Quinn Dec 5 2:00pm ET

Washington Redskins wide receivers Paul Richardson (hamstring) and Trey Quinn (concussion) did not practice for the second straight day on Thursday. They're both unlikely to play in Week 14 against the Packers. Neither receiver has moved the fantasy needle in 2019 either, so they should both be firmly planted on the waiver wire in your league. Outside of rookie Terry McLaurin -- and he's a risky fantasy proposition these days as well -- no Washington receiver is worth your consideration for a lineup spot. If Richardson and Quinn are inactive this Sunday, rookies Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr. will be in three-wide sets. That means all of the Redskins pass-catchers will be rookies with a rookie quarterback throwing them passes. Look elsewhere.

From RotoBaller

Nelson Agholor Dec 5 1:50pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor (knee) did not take part in practice on Thursday. Agholor returned in the Week 13 loss to the Dolphins and had an underwhelming three catches for 41 yards in the embarrassing defeat. He's not a lock to play on Monday night against the Giants, and even if he does, he's a low-upside WR4/flex in deeper leagues. Agholor just hasn't proven to be much of a producer unless Alshon Jeffery misses time with injury. If Agholor can't go this week, rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who caught his first touchdown of his career last Sunday, would see an even bigger role in the passing game.

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Alvin Kamara Dec 5 1:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The 49ers rank first in the league in passing yards allowed per game but only 22nd in rushing yards allowed per contest. They've also been somewhat susceptible to big running plays, as they've allowed the ninth-most rushing plays of 20 yards or more. That bodes well for Kamara, who has been a fantasy bust despite garnering at least 20 touches in two of his last three games. Expect New Orleans to lean on the running game, giving Kamara another chance at 20 touches- and his first touchdown since Week 3. He'll have slightly more upside in PPR, though volume will allow him to put up low-end RB1 numbers this week.

From RotoBaller

Greg Olsen Dec 5 1:10pm ET

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (concussion) is out of practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday. All signs are pointing towards Olsen sitting Week 14 out against the Falcons after suffering a serious head injury in Week 13. If you've been relying on Olsen in your tight end spot, it's time to make other plans for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Ian Thomas should become the primary pass-catching tight end in Carolina if Olsen sits, and he'd have streaming TE2 appeal if that's the case.

From RotoBaller

Damien Williams Dec 5 1:10pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) remained out of practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Unless Williams gets in at least a limited practice on Friday, he's headed for his second straight missed game after getting injured in Week 11. With Darrel Williams (hamstring) on Injured Reserve, we could be looking at a committee approach with LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware in Week 14 against the Patriots. Even if Williams is able to play, he'd be an RB3/flex to fade in the fantasy playoffs. Thompson might have the most fantasy upside this weekend with the Chiefs limiting McCoy's touches down the stretch.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Dec 5 1:00pm ET

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is not practicing for the second straight day this week on Thursday. As of now, it's looking like Thielen can't be trusted to return in Week 14 against the Lions in a good matchup. Keep him locked to your bench unless something changes with his status on Friday. Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Olabisi Johnson should remain the top three passing targets if Thielen misses another contest. Diggs went for seven catches and 143 yards in the last matchup with Detroit, so he'll be a high-end WR2 regardless of whether Thielen plays. Rudolph has become a touchdown hog with Thielen out of the lineup.

From RotoBaller

San Francisco 49ers Dec 5 1:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will face an extremely tough test in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers. Here's where the 49ers Defense ranks in several key categories: 45 sacks, second in the league, 134.2 pass yards allowed per game, first in the league and 29.4 pass attempts allowed, second in the league. Brees will potentially have to take on this fearsome pass rush without his starting offensive tackles, Andrus Peat (forearm) and Terron Armstead (ankle). Even in the offensive-friendly Superdome, Brees isn't dropping back to pass 40 times against this defense. Expect a more run-oriented gameplan from New Orleans, making Brees more of a QB2 this week.

From RotoBaller

Golden Tate Dec 5 1:00pm ET

Updating a previous report, New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) is practicing in full on Thursday. Tate looks ready to return in Week 14 against the Eagles on Monday night after sitting out last week. With tight end Evan Engram (foot) also on track to make his return, Tate will be more of a PPR WR3 for fantasy owners with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton also being involved. Quarterback Eli Manning is also expected to get the start under center with rookie Daniel Jones (ankle) not expected to play.

From RotoBaller

Gerald Everett Dec 5 12:50pm ET

Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) did not practice on Wednesday. Everett missed the game last week and is in danger of sitting again in Week 14 against the Seahawks on Sunday night. If that is the case, Tyler Higbee, who caught seven of eight targets for 107 yards and a touchdown in Week 13, would be a low-end TE1 option again for fantasy owners struggling at the position in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Everett will need to at least get in a limited practice on Thursday or Friday to have a shot at returning to the field this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Adam Vinatieri Dec 5 12:50pm ET

Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) is on the injury report for Week 14 against the Buccaneers after his knee flared up in warmups this past Sunday. Vinatieri missed all three of his attempts from 55, 52 and 46 yards on Sunday, with two of them getting blocked. With Indy claiming kicker Chase McLaughlin off waivers on Wednesday, Vinatieri's status is very much up in the air for this Sunday. Vinatieri was limited in practice on Wednesday and isn't a good fantasy option, even if he's active this weekend. McLaughlin could become a worthy streaming consideration if he fills in at all for Vinatieri in the last four games.

From RotoBaller

Austin Ekeler Dec 5 12:50pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (knee) is going on season-ending Injured Reserve on Thursday, according to a source. It's a big blow to Jacksonville's already weak run defense, especially with Chargers running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler coming to town in Week 14. The 24-year-old Jack totaled 66 tackles, half a sack and one interception in his 11 games this year for Jacksonville. Fantasy owners shouldn't be using the Jaguars Defense in the first round of the fantasy playoffs despite facing a slumping Chargers offense.

From RotoBaller

Daniel Jones Dec 5 12:40pm ET

New York Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle) is not practicing on Thursday and is doing leg work in a boot with a trainer on the side. Dealing with a mild high ankle sprain, Jones is a long shot to suit up on Monday night against the Eagles and could also miss Week 15. It means that veteran Eli Manning will get another start in Week 14 against an old foe in the Eagles. Philly's secondary has plenty of concerns and was just roasted by the Dolphins. The G-Men could be getting both Evan Engram and Golden Tate back as well, but Manning remains a low-upside QB2 if he gets the start, as expected, on Monday.

From RotoBaller

Evan Engram Dec 5 12:40pm ET

New York Giants tight ends Evan Engram (foot) and Rhett Ellison (concussion) and wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) are all practicing on Thursday. All three players have a chance of returning on Monday night against the Eagles, but they'll be tough calls in fantasy if they carry questionable designations and are game-time calls. Engram has disappointed this year because of injury, but he'll immediately return to being a TE1 if he's active. Tate's return would be good news for quarterback Eli Manning, who will likely start for Daniel Jones (ankle), but it will hurt Sterling Shepard's upside as a WR2 in a great matchup. Ellison would only be fantasy relevant if he starts and Engram sits. Philly's defense won't be as great of a streamer if New York gets all their offensive weapons back.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Howard Dec 5 12:30pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) is still not cleared for contact on Thursday. It's looking like Howard is in line to miss his fourth straight game unless he can get in a full practice on Friday or Saturday. Rookie Miles Sanders had a season-high 22 touches in the Week 13 loss to the Dolphins and continues to be the primary ball-handler in the backfield with Howard sidelined. Although the Giants defensive front has been stingy to running backs of late, Sanders would have RB2 upside yet again this week if Howard misses another game. Making things even tougher for Howard owners is the fact that the game this week is on Monday night.

From RotoBaller

Tony Pollard Dec 5 12:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard (ankle) missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday and is questionable for Thursday night against the Bears. Pollard has just 58 carries for 264 yards and one touchdown on the season on the ground as the backup to Ezekiel Elliott, so he doesn't really have any standalone value to begin with. He has added 12 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown this year. Consider him a game-time decision against Chicago, but he should be nowhere near fantasy lineups to begin with.

From RotoBaller

Antwaun Woods Dec 5 12:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) missed practice all week and has been ruled out for Thursday night against the Bears. Also out are safety Jeff Heath (shoulder) and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (knee). Vander Esch is dealing with a pretty serious injury that could send him to Injured Reserve any day now. It's bad news for the interior of Dallas' defense, but Sean Lee is more than capable of picking up the slack if he can stay healthy himself. Vander Esch's absence is good news for the Bears ground game and running backs David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen on Thursday night.

From RotoBaller

Darrel Williams Dec 5 12:20pm ET

The Kansas City Chiefs placed running back Darrel Williams (hamstring) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Thursday. In corresponding moves, defensive back Alex Brown was added to the 53-man roster and wide receiver Gehrig Dieter was signed to the practice squad. With Williams done for the year and Damien Williams (ribs) questionable to play in Week 14 against the Patriots, the Chiefs backfield might be down to LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware this Sunday. The Chiefs have been limiting Shady's repetitions to keep him fresh for the stretch run, so Thompson could have a sizeable role this weekend if Williams doesn't play. Consider McCoy on the RB2/3 borderline, while Thompson could be a fantasy wild card in both DFS and season-long leagues.

From RotoBaller