Crushed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston in Monday night's win, Ben Roethlisberger's sprained AC joint in his shoulder leaves both fantasy owners and the Pittsburgh Steelers despondent coming into Week 11.
For the Steelers, that likely means Byron Leftwich will start on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette:
Bouchette (@EdBouchette) November 13, 2012
As for fantasy owners? It means a trip to the always-risky waiver wire is necessary to find a replacement for Roethlisberger for Week 11. Though it's possible that the Steelers' signal-caller will be in the lineup, being on Sunday Night Football means owners are taking a massive risk keeping Roethlisberger in the starting lineup.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few guys who should do a solid job of replacing Roethlisberger in Week 11.
Carson Palmer (Oakland Raiders)
There are only so many times I can say it: There is a massive difference between being a good real-life quarterback and being a good fantasy quarterback. Carson Palmer is the latest example of this fact and continues to be the most underrated player in fantasy this season.
Over his past three games, Palmer has thrown for 991 yards and eight touchdowns. Sure, that also comes with five interceptions. But with guys like Eli Manning and Cam Newton continuing to struggle fantasy-wise, Palmer has emerged as an unquestioned top-10 fantasy quarterback.
That trend should keep rolling in Week 11, as the Raiders have a home tilt against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Though improved, the Saints still have one of the five worst defenses in the NFL and struggle mightily against the pass.
With Darren McFadden still injured, there seems to be no reason for Oakland to stop its pass-heavy attack. For that reason, Palmer is probably one of the seven best fantasy options at quarterback this week.
He's owned in about two-thirds of ESPN leagues, so he may not be available. However, if Palmer is somehow out there in your league, grab him and don't think twice about making him an every-week start.
Byron Leftwich (Pittsburgh Steelers)
While it would be pretty easy to criticize Byron Leftwich's performance after taking over for Roethlisberger, let's not forget the Steelers weren't flying on all cylinders with Big Ben.
The Steelers' starter was just 9-of-18 passing for 84 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game. Leftwich came in and kept the 50 percent train rolling, completing 7-of-14 passes for 73 yards. Considering Kansas City's familiarity with Todd Haley's system, perhaps that was the root cause of the struggles, rather than incompetence from Leftwich.
Well, we'll likely get to find out on Sunday night against Baltimore. Picking up Leftwich will allow fantasy owners to hope down to the very last minute that Roethlisberger will be in the lineup.
However, if he's not, Leftwich should do just fine against the Ravens' struggling defense. Coming into Week 11, Baltimore ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 258.2 yards per game thus far. Considering the team's lack of schedule strength and continued struggles to replace injured defensive stars, Leftwich should have a fine game.
If you're alright with a steady 15-point performance, pick up Leftwich and keep the faith in the Steelers' quarterback situation.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo Bills)
I advised the start-but-don't-watch strategy for Ryan Fitzpatrick last week against the New England Patriots and something quite amazing happened—the Buffalo Bills' quarterback put together a very watchable game on Sunday.
Playing against a struggling Patriots secondary, Fitzpatrick went 27-of-40 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. Considering he also turned in a very amusing guest performance on last week's episode of The League, it's not a bad time to be Fitzpatrick.
Look for that to continue on Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. Through 10 weeks, the Dolphins rank 28th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 278 yards per game through the air.
It's never ideal to start a guy in these Thursday games—especially when necessitated by injury—but Fitzpatrick should have another solid game if you're in a pinch.