Fri Nov 23 2:30pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
FILE- In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown catches a pass as he warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla. When they take the field Sunday, Nov. 25, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will have waited 1,072 days for his rematch with Brown. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)
FILE- In this Oct. 18, 2018, file Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (25) celebrates his interception for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game in Glendale, Ariz. When they take the field Sunday, Nov. 25, Harris will have waited 1,072 days for his rematch with Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
DENVER (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers can unnerve plenty of defenses with the NFL's best pair of pass catchers and the league's top tight end tandem.
''We've had a tough game every week,'' Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. ''We haven't had any easy games. So, this is just another top offense that we get to see, another great challenge and we're up for it.''
The Steelers (7-2-1), bursting with playmakers in wide receivers Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James and running back James Connor, are the third consecutive opponent to bring a winning streak of at least five games into their matchup against the Broncos (4-6).
The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the last team to face that sort of gantlet, wrapping up an 0-14 season with losses to the Raiders, Steelers and Patriots by an average of 40-10.
The Broncos snapped the Chargers' six-game roll with a stirring comeback last week capped by Brandon McManus' field goal as time expired - one game after his errant kick as time expired allowed the Texans to escape with their sixth straight win.
''We've seen it all already,'' Harris said. ''Now, it's just another challenge, another great offense, another great quarterback and receivers. We've had some success this year playing the top offenses.''
In addition to letting Deshaun Watson and the Texans duck out of Denver with a win, the Broncos had their chances against Jared Goff and the Rams and twice against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. They lost those four games by a combined 12 points.
''Close calls against really good football teams,'' Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. ''This is definitely a team that is much better than their record shows. They're a team that's kind of sitting there.''
Ready to pounce.
''They got a big win last week and need to get this win,'' Roethlisberger said. ''We don't look at records. We look at going on the road to a tough place to play against a really good football team.''
Other subplots in the Steelers' first trip to Denver since the playoffs following the 2015 season:
The Broncos counter Pittsburgh's dynamite duos with the league's most prolific pass-rushing pair in Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb, both of whom are riding five-game sack streaks.
Miller and Chubb have combined for 19 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, 29 QB hits, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.
''It's unbelievable, maybe the best one in the game right now, those two guys,'' Roethlisberger said.
Miller is coming off his 100th sack and a key interception that was a game-changer and maybe a season-turner, and he certainly has the attention of the Steelers.
''I've got nothing but crazy respect for him,'' Roethlisberger said. ''Such a good football player and he really takes pride in his craft. He's almost scientific about it.''
Miller was the MVP of the Pro Bowl last year, where he was coached by Mike Tomlin in the Steelers staff.
''I thought he was an alien,'' Tomlin said. ''He was a special player among a group of special players. He went by me in the fourth quarter and said, `Coach, I got this.' I watched him take over a Pro Bowl and change the climate inside that stadium.''
''An alien?'' replied Miller. ''Like, which one? There's Martians with the big head or is it like `Alien' the movie?''
The Steelers are 15-1-1 in their last 17 road games, though the going has typically been difficult in Denver. Pittsburgh has dropped four of its last five visits to the Mile High City, including a pair of playoff setbacks in 2012 and 2016.
''We know it's a tough place to play,'' defensive end Cam Heyward said. ''I know I've never won a game there and I've been around a while. It's one of those places where, no matter how hot you might think you are, things can change in a minute.''
While Brown has caught at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games, it's the development of Smith-Schuster that's helped keep Pittsburgh's offense humming even with running back Le'Veon Bell sitting out the season.
Smith-Schuster has 64 receptions for 866 yards and has developed a rapport with Roethlisberger that is paying off in the clutch. He caught four passes in Pittsburgh's final frenetic two drives last week against Jacksonville, including a leaping 35-yard grab that helped set up the winning touchdown.
REPLAY OR REDEMPTION
''It's the best of the best,'' Harris said of his matchup with Brown, who got the best of him the last time they lined up against each other three years ago.
Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, snapping Harris' streak of 35 games without allowing a score.
''I didn't play well that night,'' Harris said. ''But I'm ready for Sunday.''
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell didn't improve his chances at securing a roster spot on Saturday, failing to catch his only target in a 20-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Treadwell was "showcased" in the previous preseason game, but he failed to make any type of impact in what was a poor showing for the Vikings offense as a whole (aside from Dalvin Cook's 85-yard touchdown run). It's possible that the fourth-year receiver could be subject to roster cuts with Chad Beebe, Jordan Taylor, Olabisi Johnson, and even Brandon Zylstra seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart. Look for Treadwell to get some run in the final preseason game as the team tries to sort out what to do with their former first-round pick.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense held the Tennessee Titans to just eight points and 233 yards of offense in Sunday's preseason win over the Titans. The front seven got the Steelers on the board first when Stephon Tuitt sacked Marcus Mariota in the end zone for a safety on the Titan's second drive. Overall, the Steelers had no problem exploiting a weak Tennessee offensive line, recording seven sacks and eight tackles for loss. Defensive back Sean Davis and linebacker Bud Dupree had to leave the game with apparent injuries but there was no official word on their diagnosis. While the Steelers typically do a solid job forcing turnovers, a Week 1 matchup with the Patriots makes the Steelers defense a tough sell for fantasy.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald didn't pull in either of his targets in Sunday's preseason win over Tennessee. McDonald spent his entire time on the field with the starters. Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said there was no chance that McDonald would play an entire game as the tight end, but it's hard to expect that Xavier Grimble will steal work from the 29-year-old. His ADP has crept up into the 7th round of fantasy drafts, which might be right at his ceiling, but with over 200 targets missing from last year, McDonald should prove to be a vital piece of the offense.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Taywan Taylor played exclusively with the third string offense in the preseason Week 3 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor, who was once projected to be a starter this season, has fallen down the depth chart with a poor training camp. It is now very possible that Taylor is cut by the Titans before the start of the season should they decide to keep just five receivers. Taylor's ineffective play has opened up a door for rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown to have an early impact in the 2019 season.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers was targeted twice and pulled in one of them for 11 yards in Sunday's preseason game against Tennessee. He has just three receptions this preseason, but he is still fighting for snaps at the slot position in Pittsburgh. His prime competition is Ryan Switzer and rookie Diontae Johnson. However, Rogers started the final three games of the 2018 season, finishing with 12 catches for 79 yards. He holds no fantasy value during the preseason, but if he earns a role through the season's early- going, he could wind up being a solid flex play in PPR formats.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer was targeted once on offense but also returned three kicks and one punt in Sunday's preseason game with Tennessee. While Switzer didn't haul in his passing look, he looked solid in the return game. This wasn't encouraging for Switzer's outlook in the offense, especially since he only has one reception this preseason. Don't even consider him in the deepest of fantasy leagues. Even in PPR formats, it would be hard to justify a spot for Switzer as there are just too many other mouths to feed in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington caught a 41-yard touchdown pass to mark his only reception in Sunday's preseason win over Tennessee. It was his second touchdown of the preseason, which leads the team. He's shown off his big-play ability through three games, including receptions of 40, 41, and 43 yards. However, the majority of his work has come with Mason Rudolph, who is his former college teammate and is vying to be Ben Roethlisberger's backup in 2019. There is no telling if Roethlisberger will have the same connection that Rudolph does. Washington is a late-round sleeper going in the early parts of the 10th round of fantasy drafts. His upside is undeniable, but with Donte Moncrief also fighting for a high amount of targets, it's possible that Washington is Pittsburgh's WR3.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis caught one pass for 25 yards in the team's Week 3 preseason matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Davis was able to create separation on many of his routes, but his production was limited by both bad blocking and ineffective quarterback play. The 2019 fantasy value of Davis rests directly on the ability of quarterback Marcus Mariota to both stay healthy and perform consistently. With his talent, the ceiling is a fantasy WR1 season, but the floor is much lower than many owners are willing to risk.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown recorded his first career reception for 10 yards in the team's Week 3 preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown, who was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft, is set to be the WR3 for the Titans heading into the regular season behind just Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. While he doesn't warrant a roster spot in redraft formats heading into the season, Brown is a solid buy low candidate in dynasty leagues should the owner be looking for more immediate production.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief caught both targets for 11 yards in Sunday's preseason win over the Titans. The first-year Steeler caught both passes for four and seven yards, respectively, on the team's first drive bust wasn't targeted after that. Moncrief hasn't been a feature of the offense during the preseason but word around the team is that he is still the favorite to start opposite of JuJu Smith-Schuster when the regular season begins. His training camp position battle with James Washington has been a topic of note, but there hasn't been much word from the coaching staff on who is the favorite. Moncrief hasn't quite lived up to his expectations he had coming out of college, but has a great opportunity in 2019 with his new team. His mid-10th round ADP has the chance to pay off great dividends if his connection with Ben Roethlisberger is as strong as reports suggest.
Tennessee Titans running back Jeremy McNichols had another strong showing in the team's preseason Week 3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, rushing nine times for 43 yards. McNichols has been the most effective running back for the Titans by far this preseason with Derrick Henry (calf) sitting out. McNichols is firmly on the roster bubble heading into the fourth and final preseason game and needs to continue his impressive play to solidify his role on the team. While unlikely he has any major role in the backfield this year, McNichols does make for an intriguing stash in deep dynasty leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught four of five targets for 37 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's win over the Titans. Ben Roethlisberger hit the 22-year-old in stride in the back of the end zone from 17 yards out on the team's third drive. Smith-Schuster is Pittsburgh WR1 heading into 2019 and is being drafted as such. Typically going in the early picks of the second round of drafts, the USC product has an immense amount of fantasy upside this year. He hasn't topped seven touchdowns in either of his two professional seasons, but he could cement himself as one of the league's elite receivers in 2019.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 0 of 3 passes and was sacked for a safety in just two drives in the team's Week 3 preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The entire Titans offense looked out of sync in this one, only scoring six points on the night. While this was not the showing fantasy owners had hoped for, it is important to remember that it's still just preseason. Despite this, the inability of the offensive line to protect Mariota continues to be a concern for the injury-riddled quarterback, especially with the Cleveland Browns awaiting them in Week 1 of the regular season.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. (groin) didn't appear in Sunday night's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans. Snell suffered a groin injury in last week's preseason game against the Chiefs and he did not practice all week. The rookie out of Kentucky has rushed for 42 yards on 20 carries through his first two career NFL games. As a third-round pick, his spot should be safe on the roster, but he won't have much value on the team unless something were to happen to either James Conner or Jaylen Samuels. He is merely a dynasty stash for the time being.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels carried the ball four times for 16 yards, while also hauling in two passes for 11 yards in Sunday's preseason win over the Titans. The 23-year-old has a solid role locked up as a pass-catcher in the Steelers' offense, but the team has made it known they plan to use both he and incumbent James Conner simultaneously this season. In PPR formats, Samuels has a mid-to-late ninth round ADP which would present fantastic value if anything were to happen to Conner. While there is no proof of his standalone role, Samuels is worthy of a draft pick based on his potential in a high-upside offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joshua Dobbs finished 4 of 9 for 79 yards and an interception in Sunday's preseason win over Tennessee. Dobbs also rushed for 10 yards on five attempts. The third-year signal caller is fighting with Mason Rudolph to backup Ben Roethlisberger. In the preseason, he's thrown for 259 yards and two interceptions with no touchdowns. However, Dobbs' ability to make plays with his feet has kept him in the battle. While the odds are likely stacked against him, the Tennessee product doesn't carry any fantasy value, even if he wins the backup job.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner toted five carries for 41 yards, while also catching a pair of passes for 15 yards in Sunday's preseason win over the Titans. Conner most likely saw his last work of the preseason against Tennessee and performed well with his fellow starters. The University of Pittsburgh product carries some injury risk after missing three games in 2018 with an ankle injury, but his late-first round to early-second round ADP is understandable given his role in a top-tier offense. Have no fears taking Conner at his price tag, but don't be afraid to roster his handcuff Jaylen Samuels just in case Conner goes down early on.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 6 of 9 passes for 75 yards, including a touchdown and an interception in Sunday's preseason win over the Titans. Rudolph connected with James Washington for a 41-yard touchdown, their second time in as many games. The second-year man out of Oklahoma State is vying to become Ben Roethlisberger's backup and has thrown for 243 yards, three scores, and a pick this preseason. His competition with Joshua Dobbs has been a tight race and will come down all the way to final cuts before a decision is made. The two offer different styles, with Rudolph acting as the typical drop back passer. He only holds dynasty value at the moment, and but if he wins the job and anything were to happen to Roethlisberger, Rudolph could hold week-to-week streaming value.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished 6 of 13 for 63 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 18-6 preseason win over the Titans. Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter. The score ended the 37-year-old's day after three drives. This is likely all we will see of Roethlisberger this preseason, as the real issue is naming his backup of either Joshua Dobbs or Mason Rudolph. Roethlisberger has been going in the 11th round of fantasy draft's thus far and offers a high-ceiling for those who like to wait for their team's quarterback.