Ben Roethlisberger: Projecting Steelers QB's Fantasy Numbers vs. Cowboys

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 16, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 09:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass during the third quarter against the San Diego Chargers on December 9, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After not finding his grove until it was too little, too late at home last week, Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger must have a big bounce-back game against the Dallas Cowboys on the road.

Not only will he appease Steelers fans still hoping for the playoffs, but Big Ben will also produce a monster game for fantasy owners in a pivotal playoff matchup.

Last Sunday was Roethlisberger's first game back against the San Diego Chargers, and two late touchdown passes made his numbers look slightly better. However, he was generally inaccurate all afternoon in completing just 22-of-42 passes.

The Cowboys have an aggressive, attacking 3-4 defense coordinated by Rob Ryan, and they will try to bring pressure and play man-to-man coverage on the back end. That has worked pretty well, as Dallas has a top-10 pass defense.

But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport took to Twitter to break some distressing news for Cowboy fans on Sunday morning:

#Cowboys expected to play without CB Morris Claiborne. Told he hasn't passed his concussion tests. Barring a late change, Jenkins will start

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 16, 2012


Claiborne is the latest to fall victim to the scary head injury that is at the core of the player safety issue, and first-round pick Mike Jenkins is a significant downgrade. With shaky play from the Dallas safeties in pass coverage and the defense's most talented corner not on the field, this matchup plays much more in the favor of the Steelers than it typically would.

There is going to be a mismatch on some side of the field. Whichever Pittsburgh receiver is not lined up opposite Cowboys CB Brandon Carr will have a huge advantage.

Whether it's Antonio Brown or Mike Wallace, there should be opportunities for Big Ben to find explosive plays either through their abilities after the catch or downfield—assuming he is allotted the time for those plays to develop.

Also, DeMarcus Ware is expected to play, but he is listed as questionable (h/t ESPN). That means he definitely isn't 100 percent and may not be able to apply the typical pressure he can bring to the defense.

The secondary statistics for Dallas are a bit deceiving as well, because the defense still ranks just 22nd in points allowed per game. It is quite the opposite of a bend-but-don't-break bunch.

Despite the health of the Pittsburgh D, this should be a shootout. The Cowboys quietly have the third-ranked passing offense in the NFL, and quarterback Tony Romo has a massive chance to silence critics with a stellar performance.

Roethlisberger, though, is one of the most clutch QBs in the league, and the Steelers always seem to play their best with their backs against the wall. Unless Tim Tebow is involved, of course.

Expect an exceptional fantasy showing from Roethlisberger with something like 30 points. If you're rooting interest is against Big Ben, expect several trademark, frustrating scrambling plays to rip off huge gains at critical junctures in JerryWorld.

Projected Numbers: 28-of-40, 350 yards, 3 TDs; 4 carries, 20 yards