|5 things you have to know about Steelers||09.07.15 at 6:00 am ET|
Five things you have to know about the Steelers, who will face the Patriots in the regular-season opener Thursday in Foxboro:
1. Even without Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant for the opener, they have one of the better young offenses in the league.
As has been the case for the last decade, the Pittsburgh offense will rise and fall on the right arm of Ben Roethlisberger (67 percent completion rate, an NFL-best 4,952 passing yards, 32 TDs, 9 INTs, 103.3 passer rating last year), but Roethlisberger has a young and talented nucleus around him. Seven of the 11 projected offensive starters are no older than 26 years of age. The good news for the Patriots is that they won’t have to worry about game-planning for Bell or Bryant, both of whom are out with suspensions, which should make their job on defense a little easier. At the same time, Roethlisberger still has plenty of talented offensive options he can lean on: The Steelers have left themselves a little short at running back without Bell in the opener, but expect DeAngelo Williams (62 carries, 219 yards with Carolina last year) to get the bulk of the carries against the Patriots, as well as some Dri Archer. (Roethlisberger has joked about going empty backfield until Bell comes back. Well, it was probably a joke.) Wide receiver Antonio Brown (129 catches, 1,698 yards, 13 touchdowns last year) and veteran tight end Heath Miller (66 catches, 761 yards, three touchdowns last year) will serve as the primary targets in the passing game, while rookie Sammie Coates (who tied with Archer for the team-lead in preseason catches with 10) could also be called upon while Bryant is on the sidelines. It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots try and defend Brown; will they shadow him all game with Malcolm Butler and give him help over the top? Or will they keep Butler on the left side, as has been the case throughout the summer?
2. This is a whole new era on defense.
Every year over the last decade-plus when talking about the Steelers, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has opened with the same sort of thought on the Pittsburgh defense: they do what they do. That’s not a knock on the Steelers, as they have managed to trademark the black-and-blue approach that helped create one of the best defensive runs in recent NFL history. But they’ve been consistent in their style, approach and scheme, utilizing zone blitzes and their trademark physicality, daring you to beat them. Now, veteran defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is gone, replaced by former linebackers coach Keith Butler. In addition, old warhorses like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel are all gone, having departed a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major statistical category in 2014. While there won’t be wholesale philosophical changes, look for them to do a few things a little differently this time around. For one, the D is younger — the Steelers did infuse their defense with some youth in the offseason with a group that included first-round pick linebacker Bud Dupree and new cornerback Brandon Boykin, who arrived in trade from Philly. (They also took cornerback Senquez Golson in the second, but Golson is out for the year with a shoulder injury.) If you’re looking for positives, the Steelers’ defensive strength is probably inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier (the former of whom has been limited with a toe issue as of late). There are still some familiar faces there, including James Harrison. But there’s no question that the days of the old-school defense of Pittsburgh are done.
|Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits||12.27.13 at 10:38 am ET|
Welcome to the final installment of the 2013 starts and sits. Week 17 is always tricky, which is why the vast majority of fantasy leagues opt to use Week 16 as their bowl week. It’s tricky because you never know which teams are going to pull their starters early and which teams will play to win for 60 minutes. I’ll do my best to warn you off of a few options and to highlight some safer plays. We’ll be doing full Week 17 lineup rankings at Rotobahn, so feel free to head over if you require any additional clarity. I’ll also be back at WEEI at 11 a.m. Sunday for our final chat, so stop by if you have any lineup questions.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Browns
They play at 1 p.m., so the Steelers will go out there guns blazing to see if they can put some pressure on the teams ahead of them. They post big numbers when they get the offense going, so Roethlisberger is a solid option in any league this week against a Browns defense that’s been shaky lately.
Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Jaguars
He’s got a decent home matchup and it’s indoors, so we don’t need to worry about weather. The Colts have something to play for at this point, though they would need some help from the Patriots and Bengals. It’s an early game, so they won’t know their fate when they play. Luck is a viable starter in any home matchup. Start him if you need him.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Ravens
The Bengals play early and they can put pressure on the Patriots in the race for the bye if they can win. You can count on the Bengals pushing as hard as they can for four quarters. Dalton is a solid play if you need a Week 17 quarterback. His offensive weaponry makes him dangerous on a weekly basis.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins at Giants
If you really need an option, Cousins should give you solid production, though this is not as good a matchup as he had last week. Washington’s temporary starter is a viable option in 12-team leagues with a hot No. 1 receiver and a stout running game to work off of. There is a chance of rain in the forecast, but nothing as epic as what we saw last week.
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 waiver wire||12.11.12 at 8:47 am ET|
As I mentioned last week, we are looking for upside and startable commodities vs. the depth players we were pushing throughout the bye weeks. The other thing to pay attention to are the key handcuffs to your lynchpin players. I will be updating last week’s handcuff article at Rotobahn for those looking to lock up their key insurance policies. I will be back next week for those who make the big game and we will be doing our 11a.m. Sunday morning chat this week for those who are looking for some lineup advice. Good luck to all this week!
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
He’s not state of the art just yet, but Kaepernick is the future in San Francisco. He can be your present in Week 15 as the 49ers head to New England. Kaepernick can start for you in 12-team leagues if you need a player. His matchup at Seattle in Week 16 is a bit more problematic.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
He has a nice matchup in Week 15 at Buffalo, so he is worth an add if you need a plug-and-play QB. Wilson is viable in 12-team leagues. His struggles last week were due to San Francicso’s running game dominating the contest, not the passing game’s failures.
Nick Foles, Eagles
We like this kid some and he showed significant improvement in Week 14 in a very solid matchup vs. the Bucs. Things get tougher this week against the Bengals, who are solid defensively, but we’d add Foles for his Week 16 matchup at home against the Redskins, who give up plenty of points via the pass. If you need to piece together your last few weeks, then Foles can help you.
|Report: Panthers re-sign DeAngelo Williams||07.27.11 at 2:18 pm ET|
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Panthers have retained running back DeAngelo Williams with a five-year, $43 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed.
The Panthers chose Williams 27th overall in the 2006 draft, making him the third running back selected in that draft behind Reggie Bush (second overall) and Laurence Maroney (21st overall). Injuries have hindered Williams’ production over the last two seasons, though he rushed for 1,515 yards with 18 touchdowns in the 2008 season.
This is Carolina’s second big re-signing in as many days, as they gave defensive end Charles Johnson $76 million over six years on Tuesday.
|Drafting running backs remains an inexact science||03.17.11 at 9:42 pm ET|
Some positions in the NFL draft require more attention early on than others. For example, if your team is in need of a quarterback, history shows that while there can be risk in spending a Top 10 pick on a signal-caller, you’re far more likely to go wrong by choosing one in the second or third round.
While quarterback is a position best addressed in the first round (or, if you’re lucky, the 199th overall pick), not every position necessarily screams “high pick.” Of course, punters go untouched in the early part of the draft, but other positions — even the occasional kicker — have been fair game in the first two rounds over time. Still, for an event that is defined by finding value, trends over the years have shown that certain positions may not represent the utmost value high in the draft.
It could be argued that one such position is running back. Despite being a position that plays such a crucial role in the average NFL offense, running backs that get big attention on draft day don’t necessarily provide a big payoff for their teams. Here’s a look at every running back selected in the top two rounds of the last five drafts:
16th overall — Ryan Mathews
30th overall — Jahvid Best
53rd overall — LeSean McCoy
44th overall — Matt Forte
55th overall — Ray Rice
49th overall — Kenny Irons
50th overall — Chris Henry
52nd overall — Brian Leonard
63rd overall — Brandon Jackson
45th overall — LenDale White
60th overall — Maurice Jones-Drew
Of those 28 players, eight finished Top 20 in the league in rushing yards last season. Of course, simply looking at last season doesn’t tell the whole story.
|Snap Judgments: Pats win, 20-10||12.13.09 at 4:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘ The Patriots just put the wraps on a 20-10 win over the Panthers at Gillette Stadium. (For a complete recap, click here.) The victory gives New England an 8-5 record, its first win since Nov. 22 and a one-game lead in the AFC East, while Carolina drops to 5-8.
‘¢After a listless first half that resulted in a 7-7 tie after 30 minutes, the Patriots were able to take control by putting together a couple of nice second-half drives, including a 13-play, 96-yard drive that took 7:26 and gave New England a 14-7 lead with 1:06 left in the third quarter.
‘¢The key to that drive was the work of wide receiver Wes Welker, who provided the bulk of the offense on the series (five catches) and managed to breathe life into a relatively flat Gillette Stadium with his effort. After one of his second-half catches, he got up and waved his hands over his head, exhorting the fans to make some noise. They did.
‘¢New England won despite committing three turnovers ‘ one Tom Brady interception, as well as lost fumbles by Randy Moss and Sammy Morris. It was all part of a forgettable afternoon for Moss, who had just one catch for 16 yards ‘ he had a dropped ball, and a fumble, and had a ball meant for him picked off by Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble.
‘¢On defense, New England had a solid afternoon. The Patriots limited Carolina to 14 first downs and one rather fluky touchdown, and kept the Panthers‘ vaunted running game in check despite the fact that nose tackle Vince Wilfork went down with a foot injury and defensive lineman Ty Warren went down with an ankle injury. Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler had nice pass breakups. Pierre Woods and Rob Ninkovich filled in for Adalius Thomas at the outside linebacker spot.
‘¢Good day for the Patriots kicking game ‘ Stephen Gostkowski connected on field goal attempts of 48 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter that provided enough of a cushion down the stretch for New England.
‘¢Stat standouts on the afternoon include running back Laurence Maroney, who had 94 rushing yards. Quarterback Tom Brady was 19-for-32 for 192 yards and one touchdown. In addition, wide receiver Wes Welker had 10 catches for 105 yards. On the other side of the football, Carolina quarterback Matt Moore had one good pass, a first half hookup with Steve Smith that went for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Smith ended up with a team-high 83 receiving yards, while the quarterback was 15-for-30 for 197 yards and running back DeAngelo Williams had 82 rushing yards.
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