Game Preview

Monday Night Football Preview: Football Team at Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster

In the first portion of our Monday night doubleheader, the Football Team from Washington with travel up to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. Washington will come into this game on a full ten day’s rest while their opponent will have to make the quick four-day turnaround after a long Week 12 delay. Both teams should be ready to go as the Steelers try to keep their perfect season alive on Monday night.

– Monday Night Football Preview –

Washington Football Team at Pittsburgh Steelers

Football Team at Steelers (-7) | Over/Under: 43.5

Vegas Odds

Despite the quick break, they will receive this week, Pittsburgh is favored by seven points on Monday night. The Steelers have yet to lose a game in 2020, and based on that have been favored in a lot of their games. In fact, the Steelers have only been underdogs in two of their games this year (Weeks 7 and 8) and have been favorites themselves by at least 3.5 points in the rest of their game. Despite some close contests, Pittsburgh is 6-3 against the spread in their favored games and has been a fairly safe bet this season. Washington is a feisty, underrated squad that should be taken seriously in most matchups, but they will not be able to keep up with the Steelers on Monday night. Bet Pittsburgh and the Under this week.

Quarterbacks

When news came shortly after Week 2 of the 2019 season that Ben Roethlisberger would miss the rest of the season due to a major elbow injury, many wondered what he would look like when he joined the Steelers again, if he came back at all. So far in 2020, Roethlisberger has made steps towards looking like his old self again. There are obvious deficiencies in his game due to this injury and general aging, but he has been a solid fantasy option this season for those who took a chance on him. Roethlisberger is the QB10 through Week 12 but he has been especially good in recent weeks, ranking as the QB5 since Week 8. He will look to maintain this hot streak on Monday night. Washington has been one of the best defenses against fantasy quarterbacks so far this season, ranking as the tenth best in the league (depending on scoring format), but a vast majority of that success has come from lesser talent than the Steelers possess. For example, Washington allowed fewer passing yards in both of their games against Dallas combined (246 yards) than they did against Arizona in Week 2 (278 yards). Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera have done an amazing job in making instant improvements to Washington’s defense, but they will not be enough to stop Roethlisberger from being a QB1 once again on Monday night.

There are only four teams this season that has had three or more quarterbacks start a game for them in 2020, one of which plays on Monday night. Washington, along with Dallas, Jacksonville, and Denver, has had issues behind center all season and it has had a major impact on all of their seasons, with the Football Team being no exception. It started when Dwayne Haskins was benched and demoted after Week 4 in favor of Kyle Allen. Allen was doing a serviceable job until he suffered a horrific ankle injury, leaving veteran Alex Smith as the next man up. Since taking over in Week 10, Smith ranks as the QB20 and has been largely unstartable for fantasy, outside of 2QB or Superflex formats. He will try to make a statement on Monday night, but he will have the toughest matchup imaginable. The Steelers defense has been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks all season, leading the league in sacks and interceptions while also allowing the third-fewest passing yards through Week 12. This is a matchup I would not start many quarterbacks in, let alone someone who is struggling to put up fantasy numbers as Smith has recently. Keep him on your bench/waiver wire this week.

Running Backs

Antonio Gibson Football TeamOne of the most highly debated rookie running backs in the fantasy football community over the offseason was Antonio Gibson, a third-round selection from Memphis. His skills intrigued many prospective fantasy owners but a large variable that loomed over him as if he would get enough work in his rookie season to be fantasy relevant. In recent weeks, he has shown what he can do when given the full workload. Gibson, after starting the season as the RB23 in PPR scoring formats has erupted up to the RB4 in Weeks 7-12 and looks to be a key member of the Football Team’s offensive scheme going forward. Many who have him on their fantasy roster have ridden him to playoff positioning but will need one more solid performance to put their team over the edge. Unfortunately, he will be facing a Steelers defense on Monday night that has allowed an average opposing running back finish of RB28 in their last four games. Given the issues Smith is likely to face, Washington will need to rely on Gibson to help keep the offense on the field throughout the game so his usage should not be in question, just what he will be able to do with those carries and receptions. Start Gibson on Monday night but keep your expectations low, look for him to put up RB2 level numbers this week.

Another Washington running back that has found a substantial role in their offense as of late is J.D. McKissic. McKissic is a running back who has flashed in various games throughout his NFL career, notably in the 2017 season as a member of the Seahawks but has not found much-prolonged fantasy success until this season. From Week 6-12, McKissic has ranked as the RB16 (in PPR scoring formats) with three top twelve finishes in that timeframe. Much like Gibson, those who acquired McKissic have been relying on him and need him to come through on Monday night. But, also like his backfield mate, this matchup is an arduous one, especially for him as the pass-catching back. Pittsburgh has been even better against those types of backs, only allowing 13 receptions for 76 receiving yards and zero touchdowns to the position group in their last five games. McKissic has been one of the most targeted players since Smith took over in Week 10 so he has a decent floor but this matchup is just not worth the risk on Monday night. Unless you have no other options, keep McKissic on your bench this week.

James Conner was having a remarkable bounce-back season in 2020, ranking as the RB14 in PPR scoring formats after dropping to rb35 in 2019. But, his redemption tour has come to a screaming halt after testing positive for COVID-19 before Week 12. He will be likely for multiple weeks, including Monday night against Washington, leaving the Pittsburgh backfield to the duo of Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. Snell was the top back last week with 16 carries for 60 rushing yards along with three receptions for 33 receiving yards and looks like he will continue that role for Monday night. Their matchup against Washington is an interesting one. On the season as a whole, they have been solid at defending the position, ranking as the sixth-best unit against opposing fantasy running backs through Week 12 (depending on scoring format), and held Ezekial Elliot to less than 40 yards from scrimmage last week. But, Washington has also gotten gashed in some recent games, such as Week 9 where Wayne Gallman finished as the RB10 (in PPR scoring formats), and Week 10 where D’Andre Swift finished as the RB4 in his first career start. All in all, Snell will see enough carries to place him in the low-end RB2 tier on Monday night but his upside is limited to anticipate more than that. Start Snell but keep expectations low.

Wide Receivers

Terry McLaurin burst onto the fantasy football scene last season as a rookie, particularly in Weeks 1-6 of 2019 where he was the WR6 in PPR scoring formats. This season, McLaurin did the same, starting the season hot (WR11 for Weeks 1-4) and trailing off a bit towards the middle of the year (WR50 for Weeks 5-6). But, unlike last season, McLaurin has found a way to re-establish himself in the Washington offense; ranking as the WR12 since Week 7. Part of the reason for this is his significant role in the Washington offense. In fact, McLaurin alone through Week 12 have nearly outproduced the rest of his wide receiver group.

PlayerTargetsReceptionsRec. YardsTouchdownsTotal Touches
Terry McLaurin10269963371
Rest of the WAS Wide Receivers9371753475

When looking at his matchup for Monday night, the Steelers have been a middle-of-the-pack defense against opposing wide receivers on the season but have been susceptible as of late. They have allowed a WR25 type performance (in PPR scoring formats) to an opposing wide receiver in three of their last four games, including two games where the wide receiver (Tee Higgins in Week 10 and Marquise Brown in Week 12) finished inside the top 12 on the week. Given his importance to this offense, McLaurin will be necessary if Washington wants to have any sort of offense to match with Pittsburgh. Start McLaurin on Monday night and expect a WR2 level performance.

In one of the most prevalent NFL Draft trends in recent years, the Steelers once again have found a young wide receiver that has emerged as a star on the field and in the fantasy football world. Chase Claypool, a second-round selection from Notre Dame, joins the successful cohort of mid-round wide receivers like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson who all rank within the top 33 wide receivers so far in 2020. Claypool himself has been spectacular, particularly shining in Week 5 where he scored four touchdowns (one of two players to score four touchdowns in one game this season) and ended the game with42.6 fantasy points (in PPR scoring formats), the seventh most in a single game by a non-quarterback this season. All three Steelers wide receivers have been solid fantasy assets this season and will keep that trend going on Monday night. Washington ranks as the second-best defense against fantasy wide receivers through Week 12 (depending on scoring format) but has allowed double-digit receptions, over 150 yards, and at least one touchdown to the position group in their last three games. Feel confident in Claypool, Smith-Schuster, and Johnson on Monday night.

Tight Ends

Logan Thomas is among a small group of NFL players who was a starting quarterback in college but transitioned to the tight end position in the NFL. Even after the position change, Thomas has struggled throughout his career to find a stable role in an offense between his time in Arizona, Buffalo, and Detroit. But, this season has been a blessing for him as it seems he has found a home and consistent spot in the Washington offense. Thomas is ranked as the TE17 through Week 12 and is third on the team in targets with 60, obtaining 14 of them in the last three weeks with Smith starting at quarterback. He has been a serviceable tight end in recent weeks but he will face the toughest matchup possible on Monday night. Pittsburgh is the best defense against fantasy tight ends through Week 12, allowing an average of just seven fantasy points per game (in PPR scoring formats) to the entire position group per game. While Thomas has been a nice story so far this season, he should remain on your bench this week.

When Eric Ebron was selected tenth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by Detroit (two spots before Odell Beckham Jr. and three before Aaron Donald mind you), Lions fans hoped he would be an integral part of their offense for many years to come. In just seven seasons, Ebron is on his third team and looking to keep his NFL career afloat. But, Ebron seems to have found a solid role in Pittsburgh, ranking as the TE9 through Week 12 and posting double-digit performances (in PPR scoring formats) in five of his eleven games. Ebron will have another chance to match that production on Monday night as Washington should be a good matchup for him. While they have been able to keep a majority of their opposing tight ends under wraps, most of those games have come from games where the top tight end they faced had four or fewer targets. In games where they allowed five or more targets to a tight end, those guys finished, on average, as the TE10 with two top-three finishes. If Pittsburgh’s offensive scheme can help Ebron get to at least his average of six targets per game, he will be in great shape. Start Ebron Monday night and expect a low-end TE1 performance this week

Defense/Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST have returned to the legendary status they were in years past. In 2020, they have been one of the premier units to own and have likely been a huge advantage for your roster week in and week out. They are the leader in a majority of defensive statistics such as points allowed, total turnovers, interceptions, sacks, and quarterback pressure percentage. There has only been one week where they did not finish in the top ten (Week 7 against Tennessee) but outside of that, they have likely been a double-digit scoring juggernaut in your league (depending on scoring format). That will continue on Monday night against Washington, a team that has allowed multiple sacks and committed at least one turnover in the past three weeks. Start the Steelers D/ST and expect big results on Monday night.

For the Football Team’s D/ST, they have been a good streaming-level unit but have really only excelled in certain matchups. Unless you streamed them against a bottom ten offense such as Dallas, Cincinnati, New York, or Philadelphia; you likely did not get enough points from their D/ST to win your matchup. That will apply to this matchup on Monday night. With the might of the Steeler’s offense, Washington’s D/ST is best on your bench/waiver wire this week.

Prediction

This game will be a defensive clash and looks to be a low scoring affair. Both Pittsburgh and Washington are among the top ten defenses so far in 2020 and will need to maintain that level of play to come away victorious on Monday night. While their defenses are fairly evenly matched, there is a large discrepancy in their offensive talents. Washington will need to have its best game of the season to keep up with the Steelers’ high flying passing attack and scoring machine. That will including helping protect Smith and keep him upright so he can make plays as well as creating running lanes for Gibson and/or McKissic to keep drives alive. While they could have what it takes to keep the game close, Pittsburgh is just too good right now and will win Monday night easily. I have the Steelers winning by a score of 24-10.

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