Five weeks into the season, things looked pretty bleak for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They were just coming off an overtime loss to division rival Baltimore and fell to 1-4 on the season. Any other year, I wouldn’t have hated a dismal Steelers season. After all, Pittsburgh fans have been quite spoiled when it comes to playoff bound teams over the last 20 or so years. So I realize it’s bound to happen.
But then Pittsburgh traded its 2020 first round pick to Miami for cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. For me, that left zero reasons for Pittsburgh to be bad.
It’s not like they could’ve tanked and received a great first round pick.
At that point, I was hopeful they could salvage the season.
Three weeks later, the Steelers managed to climb to 4-4 on the year on a three game winning streak that saw them soundly defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in LA in what seemed like a Steelers home game with the crowd — using third string QB Devlin Hodges nonetheless — comeback down 14-0 for a 27-14 victory over Miami, and squeak out a 26-24 win against the Colts Sunday after Adam Vinatieri badly missed what would’ve been a game-winning FG.
Sure the Steelers haven’t looked like a Super Bowl contending team, but who really expects them to look like that.
At 4-4, they are at the point where they’re actually contending for a wild card spot. Ahead of them is a 5-3 Colts team they just defeated and a 6-2 Bills team.
Looking ahead at Pittsburgh’s schedule, they host a solid Rams team this weekend.
But after that, they’ve got a slumping Cleveland team twice in a three-week period and a winless Cincinnati team in between the Browns games. Right there, they could realistically be 7-5.
The last four games are against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.
If they go 2-2 in that stretch — I’m counting Cardinals and Jets wins here — 9-7 record could possibly get them in. Although if they steal a win somewhere, 10-6 is doable.
But as you all know, the games aren’t determined on paper and there’s a reason why they’re played on the field each week.
My picks were once again 5-5 last week as I’m 38-42 on the year now. On to week 10 ...
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans. Since taking the reigns of the offense from Marcus Mariota during the Denver game four weeks ago, Tannehill has led the Titans to a 2-1 record over that span. In three starts, he’s gotten no less than 18 fantasy points — good enough to be a “stud” here each week. If you desperately need a bye week QB, Tannehill will be a great one-week addition against the Chiefs this Sunday.
Zach Pascal, WR, Indianapolis Colts. Last week, Pascal filled in admirable for star wideout T.Y. Hilton, who injured his calf last week during practice and is expected to be out for 3-4 weeks, and hauled in five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. The Colts — with or without Jacoby Brissett — have a great matchup against Miami and those that had Hilton were wise to pick up Pascal in his place.
DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins. Remember that he was supposed to be a breakout player 3-4 years ago? After being off the fantasy radar for the better course of two seasons, Parker has been a decent fill-in for those needing a bye weeks receiver. With fellow WR Preston Williams going on IR for the year, who else does Miami have to throw it to? No one? Ok then.
Ronald Jones II, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year’s second round pick out of USC couldn’t have started off his career any worse, racking up 1.9 yards per carry in limited action. This season — and especially over the last couple of weeks — Jones has clearly been the better RB than counterpart Peyton Barber. Head coach Bruce Arians FINALLY confirmed that this week, stating Jones has earned the right to start and get more carries. A matchup against the Cardinals this week could easily see Jones get double-digit fantasy points.
Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Rams. The Steelers have been pretty bad against TEs this season and the Rams square off against them at Heinz Field Sunday. If you need a streamer, Everett is a decent pick.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons. Ryan has been dealing with a back issue but is expected to return this week against the Saints after missing week 8’s game. He had a bye week to heal up but it’s still a tough game against a stingy Saints D and I think he’s going to be towards the bottom of fantasy scorers this week because of it.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. JuJu is going to see a lot of coverage from shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey this week. And with JuJu’s performance being hit or miss this season, expect a big miss at least this week.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings. After starting out the year slow, Diggs had three monstrous weeks before laying an egg last week with one catch for 4 yards. The Vikings will take on a Dallas team that has let up the fifth fewest WR fantasy points on the year and I think they’ll rely more on running back Dalvin Cook to get a W.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns. Chubb has been the workhorse for the preseason Super Bowl Champions of hype as they’ve meandered to a 2-6 record this season as Baker Mayfield continues to struggle. However, Kareem Hunt comes off an eight-game suspension and I’m betting that they will work him into the offense a good bit. They’re also playing a fantastic Buffalo defense this week, so hopefully you’re not relying on Chubb to carry your team to victory.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts. Ebron is, to me, still strangely owned in 74 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. Sure he had a monster year last year, but steady TE Jack Doyle has been the better play as of late. Look for that to continue against the Dolphins this week and for Ebron to take a back seat in his own offense.