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Bengals at Steelers: Fantasy starts and sits

take advantage of the fireworks going off in the Bengals and Steelers game.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

The Bengals get a rare late slot showing this week against the Steelers. Even though we have to wait a little longer, there should still be plenty of fireworks in this game to help get your fantasy football team over the top. Unfortunately, a lot of that may be coming at Cincinnati’s expense.

Must start

Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Steelers: This is going to be a common train of thought, but the Bengals only have three healthy cornerbacks heading into this game, and even when relatively healthy, this team still ranked as the 16th best matchup for quarterbacks in fantasy, according to Fantasy Pros. Some may be wary to start him with the knee injuries and lack of practice time due to COVID-19 protocols, but this should be a good day for him.

Favorable matchups

Chase Claypool, wide receiver, Steelers: The most recent in a long line of extremely talented Pittsburgh receivers, Claypool has set the NFL on fire so far. His fantasy stats have been very inconsistent, but Cincinnati has left their corners or safeties to defend deep routes one-on-one a little too often to not expect this to be a day where Claypool reaches the endzone even once. Again, only three healthy corners for this Cincinnati defense.

Tyler Boyd, wide receiver, Bengals: The game script could heavily favor the Bengals throwing early and often this week. Boyd should be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a Pittsburgh defense that gives up 27.3 fantasy points per week to wide receivers. The Steelers pass rush could make things really hard on rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, but Boyd has proven to be one of his favorite safety blankets so far this season

JuJu Smith-Schuster, wide receiver, Steelers: It is pretty clear that defenses have been working to get rid of Smith-Schuster on Sundays. Last week he caught his first touchdown pass of the season. Roethlisberger has been willing and ready to throw it to whoever is benefit from the coverage rolling towards Smith-Schuster, but again, this week the young receiver should have a slightly easier time getting open, although it still won’t be what fantasy owners anticipated when they drafted him.

Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Bengals: This young rookie wide receiver has matured fast along with his rookie quarterback. He has also become the far more consistent option between himself and A.J. Green. Higgins has had at least double digit fantasy points in the last six weeks. He has a pretty safe floor with high ceilings in games like this where he is going up against a good matchup.

Eric Ebron, tight end, Steelers: Ebron has caught a touchdown in each of the past two games. He should have a fairly easy time extending that streak against a Bengals defense that has looked particularly bad at defending tight ends throughout the season. A pair of veteran players like Roethlisberger and Ebron may have at least a few plays where they take advantage of this young linebacker unit.

Steelers defense: Burrow has been great, but he is still a rookie. This is his first time going against the Steelers, and this will be the best pass rush they face all season. Odds are good he gets sacked a few times, and he probably has a few turnovers. Those are great things for defenses in fantasy.

Joe Burrow, quarterback, Bengals: I really struggled on whether to throw Burrow under favorable or not. The Steelers have held opposing fantasy quarterbacks to just 16.9 fantasy points per week, and the last time Burrow faced a formidable pass rush it didn’t go so well. Maybe I’m drinking too much of the Kool-Aid here, but I think we see this week that Burrow will be dangerous after having a week to prepare for a team. He will get sacked a few times, but if the pocket is able to holdup at all and not rattle him, then the rookie should be able to make some big plays.

Good but not great

James Conner, running back, Steelers: The Bengals defense has stepped at opportune times to make plays in the running game, but opposing running backs are still scoring just over 20 fantasy points per week against them. Even if Conner saw his snaps drop from about 60 percent to under half last week when the Steelers fell behind, he should still be able to get well into double digit fantasy points this week.

A.J. Green, wide receiver, Bengals: This seems to be what Green’s 2020 season will look like. We saw a flash of production against the colts and Brown, but then he followed it up with only two catches against the Titans. If teams are willing to put their best coverage player on Green, he won’t have a good fantasy outing, but he can still put up points against second or third corners all day. It is just really hard to tell what Pittsburgh will do.

Auden Tate, wide receiver, Bengals: I would try and wait another week before thinking about throwing Tate in a lineup unless you are in a deep PPR league and really need a flex or WR3. He caught all seven of his targets against the Titans and the coaches seemed impressed with him, but there are still a ton of mouths to feed in this offense, so that kind of production, at this point, seems unreliable.

Giovanni Bernard, running back, Bengals: Another week without Joe Mixon means Bernard is fantasy relevant. He has scored four touchdowns the past three games, and maybe he gets another this week, but he will spend most of his time trying to save his quarterback from getting killed. Still, there is room to run on the inside of that Steelers defense, and the offense could have a few creative tricks up their sleeves after a bye week. It still just isn’t an ideal matchup, but Bernard has been playing well enough that you should feel okay playing him as a flex option this week anyway.

Just sit them

Drew Sample, tight end, Bengals: Sample has had a few plays where he looks like he could be a quality NFL tight end, but there just aren’t enough opportunities for him to be reliable in fantasy. He also hasn’t made the plays when targeted in the endzone. This is just a highly talented receiving group, and his services as a pass blocker are more valuable than his talents as a receiver.

Bengals defense: Just three healthy corners.