Wed Sep 22 4:46pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Solomon Thomas (92) and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (90) celebrate sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) gets up slowly after being sacked during the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Nearly two decades in, Ben Roethlisberger is well versed in the rhythms of the season. The first win is met with perhaps unbridled and unrealistic optimism. The first loss, the polar opposite.
The Steelers (1-1) managed to get both out of the way during their first two weeks, following up a rousing victory in Buffalowith a second-half clunker at home to Las Vegas that finished with a steady stream of players heading to the injury report, Roethlisberger included.
The 39-year-old is dealing with a left pectoral issue sustained at some point against the Raiders. He sat out practice on Wednesday, hardly unusual at this point in his career, and said he will do what he can to be on the field Sunday when Pittsburgh hosts Cincinnati (1-1).
''We're not panicking,'' Roethlisberger said. ''It's only the second week. We're 1-1. We lost to a team that's 2-0 and it was a one-score game until the end. So it feels like a bad feeling, a bad loss. But we understand it's still early in the season. Everyone in our division has the same record.''
Even if everyone doesn't have the same vibe. While Roethlisberger cautioned before the opener he expected some ''growing pains'' while an offense featuring a new coordinator and four rookies - including two on the line - found its footing, it's one thing to say that and another thing to experience it.
Far too many times against Las Vegas, Roethlisberger was picking himself up off the Heinz Field turf. He was hit 10 times and sacked twice.
Perhaps more jarringly, there were no teammates around to help him up, something that almost never happened when good friend and former Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was the one snapping Roethlisberger the ball.
It's not a good look, particularly for an unproven line still searching for some sense of cohesion. Left guard Kevin Dotson acknowledged Wednesday he and left tackle Dan Moore Jr., center Kendrick Green, right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Chuks Okorafor need to do a better job of helping Roethlisberger back to his feet.
Of course, it'd help if they did a better job of making sure it wasn't required, and Dotson knows it. Yes, a learning curve is part of the process, particularly early on. That doesn't make it any easier to endure.
''No one expects hard times,'' Dotson said.
The key to Pittsburgh's ability to hang around in what looks to be a very competitive AFC North is how quickly the pieces start fitting together. It's one thing for the running game to be last in the NFL, as it was a year ago. It's another to have problems creating running room for first-round pick Najee Harris while also struggling to keep Roethlisberger upright.
At the moment, the line is having issues with both.
Roethlisberger, in typical fashion, is making an attempt to absorb some of the blame. He did it in the immediate aftermath on Sunday on an afternoon he threw for 295 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception. He doubled down on Wednesday.
''We all need to be better,'' he said. ''To eliminate hits. To have a better run game. To have more big plays. To be more efficient. It's on all of us to help those things.''
It's the getting to that point that's tricky. The relationship Roethlisberger has with this line is far different than the one he enjoyed with Pouncey, David DeCastro and Alejandro Villaneuva. The three - who combined for 17 Pro Bowls - spent the better part of a decade protecting Roethlisberger.
When Roethlisberger's friendship with Pouncey began, Dotson was in middle school. Now Pouncey is retired and Dotson is part of the group tasked with trying to make the final chapter(s) of Roethlisberger's career successful.
Roethlisberger doesn't go into the offensive line meetings and tell the kids how to do their jobs, but he does try to send a message on what defines success.
''What I can do is just try to emphasize how important it is to play for your brother, to play for the guy next to you,'' Roethlisberger said. ''Doesn't matter that you can go out there, say, well, `I did my job today.' But if we didn't win the game and it didn't help the team win, it shouldn't matter.''
NOTES: Roethlisberger, WR Diontae Johnson (knee), LB Alex Highsmith (groin), DE Carlos Davis (knee) and TE Eric Ebron (not injury related) did not practice Wednesday. ... LB T.J. Watt (groin), CB Joe Haden (groin) and CB Justin Layne (Achilles) were limited. ... LB Devin Bush (groin) was full go.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling will take on a 49ers defense Sunday night that currently has allowed the fourth fewest fantasy points to receivers through two games. After being lauded in training camp, Valdes-Scantling's regular season has landed with a thud. The 26-year-old has seen 12 targets through the first two weeks but has come up with only three catches for 17 yards. Until he begins to raise fantasy floor, Valdes-Scantling is not a fantasy option.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (knee) did not participate in his team's Wednesday practice. Johnson injured his knee on the final play of his team's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2 and needed assistance leaving the field. Reports indicate that Johnson's knee injury is not as bad as it looked, but his status for Week 3's matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals is still up in the air. The Bengals represent a plus matchup for opposing wide receivers as they are allowing the 12th-most fantasy points per game to the position through two games. If Johnson does not end up playing, fantasy gamers can expect both Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster to see more targets while James Washington will operate as the No. 3 receiver. Johnson's participation in practice, or lack thereof, on Thursday and Friday will give a good idea of his status for Sunday's matchup against Cincy.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell will get his first taste of the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry and of Monday Night Football at the same time in Week 3. Gainwell has been the only running back besides Miles Sanders to get any touches through the first two weeks of this season. He's turned 15 rushing attempts into 51 yards and four catches into 24 yards and a touchdown. While he has clearly remained well behind the starter Sanders, Gainwell is still seeing enough production to be worth rostering on his own in deeper PPR formats. Fantasy managers rostering Sanders need to do everything they can to get Gainwell on their bench. He's one of the highest upside direct backups in the league right now.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan will have a favorable matchup in Week 3 against the 49ers. After a dismal Week 1 performance (among many other Packers offensive players), Tonyan bounced back with 52 yards and one touchdown last week against the Lions. That same Detroit team utilized tight end T.J. Hockenson in Week 1 to great success against the 49ers, posting 97 yards with one touchdown. Tonyan should be a factor in the red zone and has a chance at posting TE1 numbers in Week 3.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott will look to reestablish himself as the team's lead back in a Week 3 Monday Night Football matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. Elliott was pedestrian at best in Week 1 and then played much better in Week 2, but shared the load with (and was pretty clearly outplayed by) Tony Pollard. While it's easy to chalk it up to game script and the "hot hand" theory, Pollard did look better than Elliott at several points in the game, and if the Cowboys continue to use both running backs similarly, it will be as much good news for Pollard as it will be bad news for Elliott. "Zeke" was drafted early in most fantasy drafts and expected to be the every-down back for a strong offense. He should still put up strong enough numbers, but may need to be looked at more as an RB2 with RB1 upside instead of a locked-in every-week RB1.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (undisclosed) is day-to-day after not practicing due to undisclosed reasons on Wednesday, according to head coach Zac Taylor. We'll keep a close eye on Higgins' status throughout the week, but fantasy managers could be looking at a questionable tag for the second-year receiver for Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Higgins has scored in two straight weeks to open the season and has caught 10 of his 15 targets for 118 yards (11.8 yards per reception) in Cincy's pass-heavy offensive attack. If he's unable to play against Pittsburgh, Tyler Boyd and rookie Ja'Marr Chase would have higher fantasy ceilings on Sunday. Auden Tate, Mike Thomas and Trenton Irwin would be battling for snaps as the No. 3 receiver.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams will take on the 49ers Sunday night in Week 3. After a quiet (by his standards) Week 1, Adams bounced back with eight catches for 121 yards last week against the Lions. Adams scored 18 touchdowns last season and will try and find the end zone for the first time against a 49ers secondary that currently is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. Adams is a must-start WR1 play in all fantasy formats for Week 3.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott will look to rebound in Week 3 against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles. Prescott was outstanding in Week 1 before being mostly shut down by the Chargers defense in Week 2. The Eagles defense is allowing the third fewest points to opposing quarterbacks through two weeks of play, but they haven't faced anyone with anything close to Prescott's upside. In what could and should be a high-scoring game, Prescott is an easy QB1, somewhere near the middle of that tier's ranks.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) will be a "full go" in practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. Unlikely early last week, Stefanski is not ruling out Beckham from making his season debut in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears. Cleveland will continue to evaluate and be extra cautious with their star receiver, but it looks like OBJ is trending in the right direction. With that said, however, there's still a good chance that the 28-year-old could have his snaps limited on Sunday if he does in fact play, which will make him an extremely volatile fantasy asset in Week 3 lineups. Donovan Peoples-Jones saw the highest snap percentage (75.4) among Cleveland's wideouts when Jarvis Landry (knee) was injured last week. He, Rashard Higgins and rookie Anthony Schwartz would see added opportunities if Beckham sits for another week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard will try to find a role in the offense Week 3 against the 49ers. Lazard did not receive a target in the team's bounce back win over the Lions in Week 2 and has only two receptions for 16 yards through two games. The 49ers defense currently is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. Lazard, at this time, is not worth a fantasy start until he is more involved in the offense.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral) did not practice on Wednesday after he sustained an injury during his team's Week 2 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. The veteran quarterback is reportedly feeling some pain when he throws as the Steelers gear up to face off against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. If Roethlisberger does not play, look for Mason Rudolph to get the start against a Bengals defense that is allowing the 13th-fewest fantasy points per game to the quarterback position in 2021. If Roethlisberger ends up playing, he will be a low-end QB2 against the Bengals, while Rudolph will be off the fantasy radar outside of deep, two-quarterback formats if Big Ben doesn't suit up. Stay tuned as the team's practice reports on Thursday and Friday should give a good idea as to Roethlisberger's status for Sunday.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb will face a 49ers defense that currently is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. Cobb has been targeted only four times through the first two games and has three receptions for 58 yards. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has found Cobb for some productive plays but the receivers lack of targets should keep him off the fantasy radar for Week 3.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders makes for a decent starting option in Week 3 lineups. The Eagles will take on the division-rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 3's Monday Night Football game, where Sanders will be a solid RB2. He's run the ball 28 times for 129 yards and added five catches for 43 more yards through this season's first two games. He's been operating as the clear lead back, but rookie Kenneth Gainwell is seeing some touches as well. The Eagles offense struggled in general in Week 2, but that shouldn't be as much of an issue against a softer Cowboys defense. Sanders can confidently be started as a higher-end RB2.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Tyrell Williams (concussion) has been ruled out for Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Williams suffered a head injury in the season opener and was held out of the Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers. It's a bad sign that the 29-year-old is being ruled out so early in the week, and fantasy managers should consider him questionable for Week 4. With Williams out on Monday night, Quintez Cephus led the Detroit receiving corps with 89.5 percent of the offensive snaps, with Kalif Raymond and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown following him. The Ravens defense has uncharacteristically allowed 421 receiving yards and three scores to wideouts in the first two weeks, but it'll still be hard to trust Cephus or the others outside of deeper leagues. Tight end T.J. Hockenson and running backs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams should continue seeing most of the targets.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is a solid choice in Week 3 starting lineups. In what should be a high-scoring game against the rival Dallas Cowboys, Hurts should be able to put up plenty of fantasy points. He's averaging just over 25 fantasy points per week through the first two weeks of this season, and while he hasn't been all that impressive in the passing game, he's developed a consistent floor and raised his ceiling significantly with his ground game. He's a mid-range QB1 for a big early-season rivalry matchup.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the 49ers Sunday night in Week 3. After a horrid season opener, Rodgers bounced back with 255 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Packers in Week 2. Now he will face a 49ers defense that held the Eagles Jalen Hurts in check last week but allowed 338 passing yards to the Lions Jared Goff in Week 1. For all the doubters crying out that Rodgers and the Packers are already done this season, this matchup provides a quick litmus test to silence the critics. Rodgers needs to be in fantasy lineups and is a QB1 choice for Week 3.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will face a 49ers defense in Week 3 that has struggled to bottle up opposing running backs through the first two games. After a terrible fantasy performance in the season opener, Jones exploded for four touchdowns against the Lions last week. Now he will face a 49ers defense that is allowing the fourth most fantasy points to opposing running backs through the first two weeks. San Francisco has already allowed two different backs to post 20-plus fantasy points against them, which should put Jones back on the RB1 map for Week 3's action.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will be looking to bust out with a monster game Week 3 against the Seahawks. Jefferson has totaled 11 receptions on 19 targets for 136 yards with one touchdown through the first two games. Those are solid numbers but the second-year receiver is inching closer to a monster performance. He may get his chance Week 3 against a Seahawks defense that was burned for 128 yards by the Titans Julio Jones last week. Jefferson is an easy WR1 call once again for Week 3.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn is off to a strong start to his season heading into the team's Week 3 matchup against the Seahawks. Osborn enjoyed a fantastic training camp and it has translated into the regular season. Through the first two games, the 24-year-old has 12 catches on 15 targets for 167 yards with one touchdown as the third receiver in an offense that has played well through two games. The Seahawks have allowed 598 passing yards thus far this season and Osborn should continue to factor into the offense. Osborn is the third receiver behind teammates Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson but is worth a roster stash and could be a DFS bargain for production this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers rookie running back Elijah Mitchell (shoulder) will not practice on Wednesday. Mitchell's shoulder injury in the Week 2 win over the Philadelphia Eagles turned out to be what head coach Kyle Shanahan said was a little worse than a stinger. Mitchell managed to return to the game last Sunday and saw the bulk of the workload with fellow rookie Trey Sermon suffering a concussion. The 23-year-old saw 17 carries for 42 yards and also caught both of his targets for 11 yards. Sermon was limited on Wednesday and Trenton Cannon is the only other running back on the current active roster. Mitchell figures to be the safest fantasy back in San Fran if he plays in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers, but he could be heading for a questionable tag on Sunday Night Football.