Denver Broncos 21 – 26 Pittsburgh Steelers
Week two has hit and man, did it hit hard. Injuries to key stars on offense and defense littered an otherwise entertaining slate of Sunday games. However, the surging Steelers had a chance to go 2-0 on the season and they took it (eventually). A penalty heavy game from the Steelers defense gave Pittsburgh fans a far more stressful finish than they deserved.
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1. Conner carries the load
You’ve got to love early season football. With no pre season to lean on for our predictions and injuries hitting hard around the league, backfields and targets are all over the place. Week one where “Snell answered the bell” set the fantasy world alight. Snell was one of the most targeted waiver wire pick ups of the week after his week one explosion in the wake of Conner’s injury. In a sudden change, Snell is now one of the most dropped players…swings and roundabouts.
The main reason for this is James Conner’s sterling performance on the ground, running 16 times for 106 yards and one TD. Conner recovering quickly after being shaken up in week one, and carried the load against a stout Broncos front seven.
A word of caution for those that are back to singing Conner’s praises – if you take out Conner’s garbage time 59 yard scamper (which iced the game for the Steelers – thankfully!), his stat line reads 15 carries for 47 yards (plus the TD)- 3.1 yards per carry. A solid game from Conner, but when half of the production comes from a single run, it’s fair to be concerned.
However, with Snell’s spinning fumble firmly putting him in second place on the depth chart, it looks like Pittsburgh will be running with their home town hero for a few more weeks.
2. Chase THIS
Two games, five targets, five catches, one HUGE touchdown grab for the former Fighting Irish standout. Chase Claypool looks like he belongs and exploded onto the scene with an 84 yard grab from a Big Ben bomb. Let’s just watch the highlight one more time:
Interesting fact as per @NFL345: this TD was the longest scrimmage TD by a Canadian born football player in NFL history. Mapletron indeed. Add this to some solid special teams play by the rookie (three combined tackles) and the Steelers are getting instant value from their draft pick.
3. Penalties means prizes – nearly
Once again the Steelers defense was dominant for most of the game. They pressured the combination of Drew Lock and Jeff Driskell on nearly 60% of their dropbacks, sacked them seven times, and turned the ball over twice.
However, they committed 10 penalties for 89 yards. More importantly, six of those penalties led to first downs for a faltering Broncos offense. Whether you agreed with the DPI calls (I did not) or not, that is a crucial statistic for a defense trying to close out a game. Too many times, the Broncos were gifted first downs in third down scenarios, and this allowed Denver and Driskell to hang around until the bitter end.
But in true Steelers style, the defense put the clamps on in the final stages. Keith Butler called a good game, scheming disguise blitzes speed blitzes from the athletic defensive backs and all round terror Mike Hilton.
Edmunds wrapped up the game with the above sack, and let all Steelers fans take a collective exhale. However, gift wrapping first downs for the opposing offense isn’t conducive to continual success and the penalties need to be cleaned up before the next encounter.
Quick fantasy takeaways
- As mentioned previosuly, Conner did most of his damage in the final moments on a 59 yard run – boosting his fantasy score. Should you be wary of his mediocre performance before this? Absolutely. Approach the decision of starting Conner against the Texans with extreme caution.
- Diontae Johnson had 13 targets, grabbing eight of them for 92 yards and a TD – netting over 20 points in most leagues. He is now approaching “set and forget” status.
- JuJu was underwhelming, but still had eight targets on the day. Consistency of targets is key and JuJu should still be in your starting line up against Houston.
- Noah Fant is looking more and more like one of the top five fantasy tight ends in the league. Even with Driskell in, Fant rolled for 57 yards and a TD, likely grabbing you around 15 points in the process.
- Jeudy and Sutton are the obvious top choices in this passing offense, but if K.J. Hamler is still hanging around on your waiver wire, go grab him. In his debut, the former Penn State speedster grabbed three of seven targets, and looked like he could break a big play at any moment.
- Melvin Gordon is still OK.
Next up: the Houston Texans. Watt on Watt. Wait, what?
Jack is an NFL nerd with a passion for player stories and watching too much draft coverage. He's a DB coach with the Exeter Demons University team in the UK and a Steelers fan.