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
Los Angeles Rams kicker Samuel Sloman needed to put together a strong performance in Week 7, but he still couldn't quite get the job done against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He went just one of two on his field goals, and his miss was even blocked. The Rams brought in veteran Kai Forbath last week to push Sloman for the job, but he still didn't have a flawless week. It's quite possible we see a changing of the guard prior to Week 8 against the Dolphins. The Rams offense has potential to be profitable for whoever is their kicker, but this situation is one to avoid for now for fantasy managers.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Josh Reynolds is often his team's third option in the receiving game, but he was the team's top option in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He caught four of his eight targets for 52 yards and a touchdown. The unfortunate issue for Reynolds is his lack of consistent volume. Despite having a quarterback that averages over 31 passing attempts per game, Reynolds only averages just over four targets per game. In deeper leagues, he can be an interesting flex play based on the matchup, but he's not going to be very consistent in that role unless one of Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods misses time with an injury.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods has long been one of the most consistent receivers in fantasy, but he struggled to a quiet night in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He caught three of his five targets for 22 yards and he added four carries for 23 yards. This offense actively works to get the ball in the hands of Woods, and he's going to have better weeks ahead. However, he's largely a WR2/3 in most weeks unless he's able to get into the end zone. Moving forward, you're still keeping him in your lineups and you're hoping for better matchups.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett was announced as the starter at tight end shortly before the team's Monday night game against the Chicago Bears, and he played well in that spot. He caught four of his five targets for 28 yards and he also secured the ever-important touchdown. Tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) missed the contest due to an injury, but it still came as a surprise to most people. If Higbee winds up missing more time, Everett would immediately become fantasy viable and insert himself into the low-end TE2 picture. Keep tabs on Higbee's practice status leading up to the Week 8 tilt against the Dolphins.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been a strong option all year, and they played lights-out in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. They harassed Bears quarterback Nick Foles all night and they forced him into multiple mistakes. They allowed only 10 points on the night, although seven of them were due to a mistake by the offense, and they were able to record four sacks on Foles. They also had a pair of interceptions and they had multiple opportunities to come down with more of them. Unless something dramatically changes, they're going to be in the conversation as a top-10 defense every week moving forward. Week 8 will present them with an intriguing matchup against first-round quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who will be making his first career start for Miami. Continue to fire up the Rams defense.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp was shut down in Week 6, but he bounced back against a tough Chicago Bears Defense in Week 7 on Monday night. He caught all six of his targets for 43 yards and he added one run for 16 yards. Kupp was second on the team in targets and he remained an integral part of this offense. Quarterback Jared Goff has looked Kupp's way more than any other pass-catcher this season, and that's probably not going to stop. Kupp's WR1 ceiling isn't really there like it was last year, but he does still have a safe WR2 floor on a week-to-week basis.
Los Angeles Rams running back Malcolm Brown hadn't done much over the last month, but he showed some life in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He had 10 carries for 57 yards and he was able to get into the end zone. Brown brings little to nothing in the receiving game, and that's why his touchdowns are so important. With the lack of work that rookie running back Cam Akers is getting, Brown is able to get into the flex conversation on a weekly basis in deeper leagues as a touchdown-dependent option near the goal line.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff didn't put up a hefty yardage total in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, but he still managed to put together a solid fantasy outing. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Goff continues to hover in the lower end of the QB1 conversation, and he performed well despite a bad matchup. Moving forward, he's definitely a weekly streaming option with byes factored in, and he has the upside to have some big performances thanks to the weapons he has around him.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson remained the lead back in Week 7, but he couldn't put together a great fantasy performance against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He had 15 carries for 64 yards to go with two receptions for 13 yards. Henderson was taken off the field when his team got down near the goal line, and that really sapped his ceiling for fantasy managers. It's clear that he's going to be the leading rusher for this team every week, regardless of the draft capital that was invested in rookie running back Cam Akers, who was a second-round selection. At the very least, Henderson is an RB3/flex option on a weekly basis as long as he maintains his hold on the lead-back duties in LA.
The Jacksonville Jaguars placed wide receiver Dede Westbrook (knee) on Injured Reserve on Monday after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Week 7 loss to the Chargers. The team activated defensive end/linebacker Aaron Lynch to the active roster after he came out of retirement in a corresponding move. Westbrook was believed to have suffered a torn ACL during a kickoff return on Sunday. The fourth-year receiver was buried on the depth chart in 2020 behind the likes of D.J. Chark Jr., rookie Laviska Shenault Jr., Keelan Cole and Chris Conley, which is why he caught just one pass for four yards in his two games this season. Even in dynasty/keeper leagues, Westbrook isn't worth holding onto.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry (head) was forced to exit early during the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He hauled in one of his two targets for six yards before leaving because of a head injury. Harry has not shown much upside even when he is on the field. He has become droppable in most standard formats and won't have great value versus the Buffalo Bills next week.
New England Patriots wide receiver Damiere Byrd is a few weeks removed from a game where he saw 10 targets versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Sadly, Byrd hasn't been involved too much since then. He hauled in one of his two targets for 16 yards in the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Pats offense has been awful lately, so it's tough to assume Byrd is going to pick things up anytime soon. He could be worth holding in deep leagues, but that's about it for the moment.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers had one reception on the season heading into the Week 7 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. He surprisingly saw some action during the blowout loss here. N'Keal Harry (head) was forced to exit early, which opened up playing time for Meyers. He hauled in four of his six targets for 60 yards during the Week 7 loss. No one is worth trusting on the Pats offense right now. However, Meyers could be worth looking at in deep leagues for their matchup with the Buffalo Bills next week.
New England Patriots running back James White has been a decent PPR flex option this season, but was a forgotten man during the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It's unclear why White barely saw the field during this one. He finished with one reception for three yards during the blowout loss. Maybe the team scaled back his workload because they were already getting destroyed early on. Fantasy owners can hope for a bounce back performance against the Buffalo Bills next week.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman hasn't been able to do much of anything on the field since Week 2. His performances are becoming laughable at this point in the season. He finished with one reception on three targets for 13 yards in the Week 7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Pats offense is horrendous, so fantasy owners in 12-team standard leagues can pretty much give up on Edelman at this point. He has posted four straight awful performances, so there's not a good chance it gets better against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8.
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.