Full Week 2 Stat Projections for Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Players
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Well, Week 1 was depressing. There is not much left to say about that embarrassment against the Tennessee Titans. So let us move on quickly to Week 2!
If they shrink from the spotlight and look overmatched against a young, talented Bengals squad, 2013 can probably be considered a lost season. If Pittsburgh cannot handle Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and one of the NFL's most dynamic defenses, how could they ever hope to handle the Patriots, Packers and Ravens?
On the other hand, if Pittsburgh can rise to the occasion, we can all consider Week 1 a fluke. Remember, the Steelers looked great on that first drive before Maurkice Pouncey's season ended with a torn ACL. Maybe Kelvin Beachum or the newly-signed Fernando Velasco can protect Ben Roethlisberger and spark a running game that did not exist last week.
Win or lose, the Steelers have to at least stay competitive. Despite the 16-9 score, the game was not really close. Only Jake Locker being Jake Locker and the Steel Curtain kept the score tighter than it should have been.
With all that in mind, it is time to predict Week 2 stat lines for Pittsburgh's offensive starters. Keep in mind that I am a Steelers fan who still has a shred of hope left for this season. If I sound optimistic in certain areas, that would be why.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben needs help going forward from someone, anyone.
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Projected Stat Line: 25-of-35, 250 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT
Big Ben's success will be decided mostly by the cohesiveness of his offensive line and any help the running game can provide.
Last week, Ben managed to go 21-of-33 for 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception playing without a running game and a stable line in front of him. Only he could survive behind this line, so there is no reason for his numbers to dwindle.
In fact, I expect them to go up. Yes, I know the Bengals' defense is more fearsome than the Titans'. And I know our offense looked pathetic and sad and decidedly not like one belonging to the black and gold. But hear me out.
The best case-scenario here (and that is the one I am choosing to believe will happen) is that Isaac Redman has a massive chip on his shoulder after last week's terrible performance and gives Ben some breathing room. Not only that, but either Beachum or Velasco ably fills in for Pouncey, and the offensive line clicks.
Ben has ample time to throw and, even when he does not, can create makeshift plays like he always does. The Bengals' strength is their defensive line, not their secondary. The unit that could not stop Jay Cutler last week cannot handle Big Ben.
His numbers will not help out fantasy owners a great deal, but they will be good enough to remind people that no matter what the Steelers go through, they still have Big Ben under center. Of course, there will be a bad interception in there to remind everyone that Ben is human. Otherwise, expect him to come out angry against the Bengals.
RB: Isaac Redman
Redman has talent and can do much better than he did last week.
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Projected Stat Line: 20 carries, 50 YDS
It looks like Tomlin is willing to give Redman one more chance after he came out completely cold last week. I think this week will see improvement, though nothing remarkable.
Redman will use his ability to evade tackles and run over opponents to average more than 1.1 yards per carry, which is the best he could do against the Titans. In fact, he only tallied nine total yards.
Expect Redman to bounce back with a serviceable performance bolstered by Felix Jones and the return of the recently-cut Jonathan Dwyer. He will not fumble and will get his carries. Redman will not do anything flashy, but he will provide Big Ben with just enough support to be effective.
Redman is officially not only playing for his job, but his entire career. Who would take a running back that bombed twice in a row for a franchise doing everything in its power to give him opportunities to succeed? I think that fuels a game which keeps him at starter for at least another week.
Of course, he will be going up against a formidable front line that includes Geno Atkins and Domata Peko. Running yards will be hard to come by. This is another reason Redman will only be able to scrape together just enough running yards to get by.
WR: Antonio Brown
There are a lot of Steelers to worry about, but Brown is not one of them.
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Projected Stat Line: 7 REC, 85 YDS, 1 TD
There is a reason the Steelers had the faith to let Mike "I Whine Even When We Win" Wallace walk this offseason. Brown is more than capable of carrying the load at wide receiver.
His stats last week actually look pretty decent. He finished the game with five catches for 71 yards. Not too shabby, and one of the few positive things to come out of that debacle.
Now Brown has the chance to test his speed against the likes of Terrence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones. Not exactly the most terrifying secondary ever, right? Brown has the speed and route-running skills to carve them up.
Expect this to be the week Brown gets on the board with his first touchdown on the season. Fantasy owners might want to consider starting Brown.
Yes, I know, that might be a little optimistic and, again, depends on Big Ben's ability to stay alive in the pocket. Frankly, the possibility of a repeat of last week's performance is too painful to entertain, so I am going to stick with my optimism.
WR: Emmanuel Sanders
Sanders should do just fine in the slot.
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Projected Stat Line: 5 REC, 65 YDS
Sanders seems to be Big Ben's safety valve, which will probably change once Heath Miller returns to action. For now, expect Sanders to be the guy Big Ben continues to target in order to make his life easier.
He had the most catches of any Steeler last week, bringing in seven balls for 57 yards. These are not numbers meant to get fantasy owners excited, but they do prove Sanders is capable of being a solid compliment to Brown.
Since I expect Brown to have a relatively big game, look for Sanders to catch a few less balls but for more yardage. Big Ben will probably look for him on 3rd-and-longs, a situation the Steelers have been seeing a lot of lately.
Sanders might have to wait a little while to get his first touchdown. Jerricho Cotchery or Will Johnson will probably steal a touchdown this week. Or, if the Steelers are really fortunate, they will see more production out of...
TE: David Johnson
The Steelers are praying this will be a photo of Heath Miller next week.
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Projected Stat Line: 3 REC, 27 YDS
The Steelers are begging the football gods to let CBS Pittsburgh's Matt Popchock's report about a possible Heath Miller return in Week 2 come true. Miller might be the player Pittsburgh needs to get its offense back on track.
Until that is finalized though, we have to assume David Johnson will be starting again. Not that he is not capable of helping Big Ben out, but he just does not play the tight end position like Miller.
If Johnson does start, he has to do better than last week's numbers. He only caught one ball for 11 yards against the Titans. Redman and LaRod Stephens-Howling each had two catches. The running backs should never catch more balls than the tight end.
To be fair, Johnson was only targeted once by Big Ben. This could be a sign that the two are not on the same page, Johnson was not doing a great job of getting open or Ben was too busy getting sacked or hurried to get Johnson good looks. All or none of the above could be true.
Regardless, Johnson needs to step up his game. He will probably get a few more catches and yards in, but nothing spectacular. Miller cannot get back soon enough.
The Offensive Line
Beachum may be the most important Pittsburgh starter going into next week's contest.
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Projected Stat Line: 3 sacks, fewer QB hurries
In this case, the offensive line needs to be included because they are the ones who protect their quarterback from being destroyed. Considering they gave up five sacks last game, they clearly were not doing a great job.
The loss of Pouncey is obviously brutal. But Beachum has now had a week to prepare at center, and if he cannot cut it, Velasco has the experience to (hopefully) patch the hole. Theoretically, the offensive line should be much improved this week.
Mike Adams, Marcus Gilbert, Ramon Foster and David DeCastro all know what they are doing. As long as they cut down on those silly penalties they kept racking up during the preseason, they should be fine.
In fact, penalties were barely an issue last game. The Steelers only accumulated four penalties for a total of 47 lost yards. The secondary and special teams played a part in that, so it is reasonable to believe the offensive line can continue cutting down on unnecessary penalties.
These are the guys who will decide the game. If they can keep Big Ben on his feet, the Steelers should be able to compete. If not, expect pandemonium to break out and Ben to suffer a major injury at the hands of Atkins or Peko.
The line will probably break down once in a while and allow a few sacks, but that happens. As long as it does not lose too often, the Steelers should give the Bengals a good game on Monday night.