Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates after sacking Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
PITTSBURGH (AP) The pieces to compete for a Super Bowl are all there. The Pittsburgh Steelers are sure of it, just as they have been for most of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's career.
It's the main reason the 38-year-old came back from right elbow surgery this season rather than retire. And through two weeks, the Steelers (2-0) have the look of a contender behind a relentless defense and an offense guided by a star who hardly looks rusty despite an extended layoff.
Yet rather than exhale about a return to normal following a chaotic 2019, Roethlisberger and his teammates are sweating the details ahead of a visit on Sunday by winless Houston (0-2).
Coach Mike Tomlin brought in officials to practice this week to help a group flagged 10 times in a win over Denver. The defense is looking to close the brief holes the Broncos opened in the running game. Roethlisberger spent his ''off'' day fine-tuning his footwork with quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, well aware his margin for error isn't as big as it used to be.
''I've gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,'' said Roethlisberger, who will appear in his franchise-record 221st career game.
''If I'm having these issues and we are still winning football games, that's a plus.''
It's a luxury the Texans haven't been afforded during a brutal early season gauntlet that began with losses to Kansas City and Baltimore. Things don't figure to get any easier on the road at a place where the franchise has won just once.
Still, Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson isn't exactly ready to panic with his team potentially facing its second 0-3 start in three years.
''That's all we can do is just put our head down and grind,'' Watson said. ''Just work and try to do what we do and see what the outcome comes like. Of course, we don't want to be 0-3, but that's not the main thing that's on our minds right now.''
The Texans emerged from 0-3 to win the AFC South in 2018. Asking a group still searching for an identity following an offseason overhaul that included sending All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona might be asking for too much.
The Watts will hold a family reunion at Heinz Field when Houston defensive end J.J. Watt shares the field with little brothers Derek and T.J., both of whom play for the Steelers. It's the first time the brothers - who co-hosted the game show ''Ultimate Tag'' during the offseason as well as starring with their mom Connie and dad John in a series of ''Subway'' commercials - will participate in the same game, well at least one not played in the backyard back home in their native Wisconsin.
''To have all of us on the field at the same time in the same game, it really doesn't get any better than that,'' J.J. Watt said.
It's the second time since 1927 three brothers have appeared in the same NFL game, though it's also the second time in 10 months. Pittsburgh safety Terrell Edmunds and running back Trey Edmunds played youngest brother Tremaine Edmunds last December when the Steelers faced Buffalo.
WHAT'S UP WITH WILL
There are questions about what's going on with Houston's top receiver Will Fuller after he didn't have a reception last week against Baltimore after finishing with eight receptions for 112 yards in the opener. Fuller participated in 63 percent of Houston's offense plays against the Ravens but was not targeted once and looked like he was struggling to run routes at times. Coach Bill O'Brien deflected questions about his health this week and he was not listed on the injury report. Fuller has been slowed by injuries throughout his career, but the Texans were counting on him to have a big season this year after DeAndre Hopkins was traded to Arizona in March.
Pittsburgh's offensive line should get a significant boost with the return of perennial Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro. The eight-year veteran missed the first two games with a right knee injury, though rookie Kevin Dotson filled in capably last week in his first NFL start. Still, Dotson isn't DeCastro.
''Having him back is huge for us because Dave is a pro,'' Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. ''He's a vet. This is what he does, and he's been doing it for a very long time.''
Watson is the first player to reach 10,000 yards passing (10,244) and 1,000 yards rushing (1,277) through their first 40 games in NFL history. Watson has thrown for 528 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season and is looking to do more to help the offense improve and help the team get in the win column.
''We want to be balanced,'' Watson said. ''We want to run. We want to pass. We want to do all the things that we need to do to get on the same page and make sure we're on the same rhythm. We're building that week to week and building that chemistry.''
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 7
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead hasn't seen a heavy workload lately and that is unlikely going to change. He rushed four times for 12 yards and hauled in three receptions for 35 yards in the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It appears Burkhead and James White are going to split up the pass catching duties in New England. That being said, it's going to be tough to predict Burkhead's fantasy value on a weekly basis. He's probably worth a stash in 14/16 team leagues right now.
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton looked horrendous during the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He completed nine of 15 passing attempts for 98 yards and zero touchdowns with three interceptions. He also rushed five times for 19 yards before being benched in the second half. To be fair, Jarrett Stidham didn't look much better since the Pats receivers can't get open. Head coach Bill Belichick confirmed that Newton is the starting quarterback going forward. He'll be a QB2 option against the Buffalo Bills next week.
The Denver Broncos Defense had a daunting matchup in Week 7 against the Super Bowl champions, and they proved they weren't up to the task in the 43-16 blowout loss on Sunday. It came a week after the defense stepped up to slow down Cam Newton and the Patriots in an upset win. But the defense was back to their old ways, only creating one turnover while sacking Patrick Mahomes four times. Through seven weeks, the Denver D ranks 22nd in the NFL in fantasy points, 10th in sacks (18) and have created just six total turnovers (three interceptions, three fumble recoveries). They allow 251.8 passing yards per game (20th in the league) and 109 rushing yards per game (24th). They won't be a particularly attractive play in Week 8 against a Chargers team that just dropped 39 points on the Jaguars.
New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham saw some reps during the second half of the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Quarterback Cam Newton was benched after a three interception performance. Sadly, it didn't get much better once Stidham took over under center. He completed six of 10 passing attempts for 64 yards and one interception. Stidham looks awkward, uncomfortable, and confused in the pocket. The Pats confirmed that Newton is the starter going forward. There's almost no reason to own Stidham in any format whatsoever.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris has become the lead back for this offense, but hasn't been able to do much damage lately. He rushed 10 times for 58 yards in the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He also hauled in one reception for 12 yards, but was unable to get any momentum going in this one. It didn't help that the Pats were getting blown out and couldn't move the ball on offense. Harris could be a low-end flex option against the Buffalo Bills next week.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus made his lone field-goal try from 43 yards out in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs on Sunday in the snow. The 29-year-old strong-legged booter disappointed any fantasy managers that picked up him up off the waiver wire and started him after he made all six of his field goals in the Week 6 upset over the Patriots. In a game where the Broncos were down big all day to the defending Super Bowl champions, there just weren't any opportunities to be had for McManus. He also missed one of his two extra-point tries in the loss to Kansas City. The Chargers -- the Broncos Week 8 opponent -- have been a top-10 matchup for fantasy kickers this year, but McManus still ranks 19th in the league in overall fantasy points through seven weeks. Denver's inconsistent offense continues to make McManus a shaky streaming option on a weekly basis.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy had another disappointing day for his fantasy managers in the Week 7 blowout loss to the division-rival Chiefs in a game played in the snow in Denver. The conditions didn't help his cause, but Jeudy caught two of his four targets for just 20 yards on the day. Rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was tied for a team-high seven targets and has 13 targets over the last two games, while Jeudy only has nine targets over that span while going under 33 yards each of the last two contests. The first-rounder out of Alabama has just one touchdown in his rookie season and has yet to top 62 yards in a single game, making him a shaky WR4/flex, especially now that Okwuegbunam appears to be quarterback Drew Lock's go-to guy.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant missed the team's Week 5 game against the Patriots due to an ankle injury, but he returned for the 43-16 loss in Week 7 against the Chiefs. Fant drew seven targets from quarterback Drew Lock in the snowy conditions in Denver, but he was only able to haul in three of them for 38 yards in the blowout. It was his first game action since Oct. 1, but it didn't help that rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam had the same amount of targets and caught all of them for 60 yards. Okwuegbunam's emergence and chemistry with Lock dating back to their days at Missouri could be a thorn in Fant's side moving forward. Against the division-rival Chargers next Sunday, Fant will be more of a TE2.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler returned to action in Week 7 against the Chiefs after missing a month with a hamstring injury that he suffered in the Week 4 win over the Jets. Hamler caught two of his three targets for 24 yards and also had a 10-yard run in the 43-16 blowout loss to Kansas City. In four games so far in his rookie season, the 21-year-old second-rounder has eight receptions on 15 targets for 102 yards. Hamler could eventually be a weapon for Denver out of the slot, but he's too far down the receiving pecking order right now in a much too inconsistent offense. He hasn't had more than three catches in a single game in 2020 and is really only a dynasty/keeper stash for now.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam led the team in receiving in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, catching all seven of his targets for 60 yards. His seven targets were tied for the team lead with fellow tight end Noah Fant, who was returning from an ankle injury he suffered in Week 4. Okwuegbunam just made his NFL debut last week against the Patriots, and he had six targets in that one. The rookie played his college ball with quarterback Drew Lock at Missouri, so it appears that the two have some pretty good chemistry. He's worth picking up in dynasty/keeper leagues and deeper formats, but Okwuegbunam's ceiling will be limited with Fant back in the fold moving forward.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III ran the ball a team-high 17 times for 68 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss to the Chiefs in Week 7, but he also lost two fumbles. Gordon caught two of his four targets for 12 yards. If it weren't for Phillip Lindsay -- who was the more effective back in this game on nine carries -- leaving the game early with a concussion, it's very possible that Gordon wouldn't have had the numbers he ended up with, especially since he lost two fumbles. Gordon's fantasy managers could be looking at some RB2 upside if he has the backfield to himself again in Week 8 against his former team, the Chargers, if Lindsay can't clear the league's concussion protocol by next Sunday.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock attempted a season-high 40 throws in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs in Week 7, completing 24 of them for 254 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. However, he somewhat salvaged his fantasy stat line by running the ball three times for eight yards and a touchdown. Lock wasn't a smart pick in this one in the snow against the defending Super Bowl champions, and it was second straight week with two picks thrown. The 23-year-old just hasn't looked comfortable the last two weeks against the Chiefs and Patriots after returning from a right shoulder sprain. The second-year signal-caller will have an easier go of it in Week 8 against the Chargers, a team that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to QBs, but Lock will still be a low-end QB2 in this below-average offense.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Virgil Green (ankle) sustained a considerable ankle injury during Sunday's win over the Jaguars, with head coach Anthony Lynn noting that Green will miss some time with the ailment. Used sparingly this season as an extra tight end, Green made his first touchdown catch of the season Sunday, giving him seven straight years with a TD secured. The team has not yet made a decision on whether or not to place him on injured reserve, but it appears that for at least next week's game against the Broncos, Hunter Henry should have considerable reign on the passes thrown to tight ends. Due to his role in the offense and recent injury, Green can remain on the waiver wire in all season-long formats.
Buffalo Bills kicker Tyler Bass was a busy man during the Week 7 win over the New York Jets. In fact, Bass resulted in all 18 of the Bills points on offense in this game. He connected on six of his eight field goals attempts in this one. His longest field goal of the day was a 53-yarder that he connected on. This was a fluke performance by Bass, so fantasy owners searching for kickers shouldn't expect this to happen again. The Bills offense should be able to bounce back against the New England Patriots next week.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has been a reliable option in PPR leagues all season long. However, he posted his best game of the year against the New York Jets in Week 7. Beasley hauled in 11 of his 12 targets for 112 yards in the win. Quarterback Josh Allen couldn't get anything going down the field, so often targeted Beasley with check down passes. The Bills receivers are a little banged up right now, so Beasley could be a solid WR3 against the New England Patriots in Week 8.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was surprisingly quiet against the New York Jets in Week 7. Diggs saw 11 targets, but was only able to haul in six of them for 48 yards in the victory. Quarterback Josh Allen loves targeting Diggs, so expect this trend to continue all season long. Diggs has been held under 50 yards during each of the last two games, but fantasy owners can be hopeful for a bounce back performance against the New England Patriots next week.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley missed both a field goal and extra point during Sunday's win over Jacksonville -- marking the second straight week that it occurred -- but head coach Anthony Lynn made it clear that Badgley would be the team's kicker for Sunday versus Denver. Badgley has yet to miss a kick inside of 40 yards, but has gone 4-for-8 from beyond 40 this season. Over his first two years, Badgley missed just a single extra point, but even after having reeled off misses in two straight weeks, Los Angeles seems confident in their third-year kicker. His current rough spell means that fantasy managers can look elsewhere for kicking production at the moment, even as the Chargers' offense begins to percolate.
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft started during the Week 7 contest against the New York Jets with Dawson Knox (calf) sidelined. Normally, Kroft wouldn't see much action in the passing game, but the Bills struggled to throw deep in this one. Which means, they looked for check down passes quite often, which resulted in decent numbers for Kroft. He hauled in all four of his targets for 64 yards in the win. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect this type of performance to happen again anytime soon.
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary has been unable to get anything going on the ground lately. He rushed eight times for 29 yards in the Week 7 victory over the New York Jets. Over the last three games, Singletary has finished with 32 rushing yards or less in each of those contests. The fact he is splitting up the carries with rookie Zack Moss doesn't help his fantasy value. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect a much better performance from Singletary against the New England Patriots next week.
Buffalo Bills running back Zack Moss has started off fairly slow this season, but played well against the New York Jets in Week 7. He rushed seven times for 47 yards and caught all three of his targets in the passing game for 25 yards. Moss continues to split up the carries with Devin Singletary in the backfield. However, Moss could hold flex value in PPR leagues if he continues getting involved in the passing game. Fantasy owners should watch and see what he does versus the New England Patriots next week.