Thu Dec 3 4:05pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell (24) runs away from Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker L.J. Fort (58) during the first half of an NFL football game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) greets Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) after an NFL football game Wednesday, Dec 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 19-14. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree grimaces as walks on the sideline after being injured playing against the Baltimore Ravens during an NFL football game Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 19-14. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Bud Dupree slammed the turf in anger, well aware of what the pain in his right knee meant.
One bad step in the fourth quarter against Baltimore on Wednesday put an end to the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker's season. Maybe his time with the only franchise he's played for too.
While coach Mike Tomlin was quick to point out his team was ''stinking it up well before (Dupree) went down,'' the sight of the relentlessly upbeat Dupree limping to the locker room cast a pall over a sideline already struggling to find the sufficient emotional energy needed to put away the undermanned Ravens.
Pittsburgh eventually slogged its way to a 19-14 win to improve to 11-0, a victory that felt very much like the opposite. Tomlin initially ripped his team for a ''junior varsity'' level performance. And while he struck a more conciliatory tone on Thursday, the Steelers seem to be riding on dual tracks.
On one, the weeks pass and their record remains perfect. On the other, each game seems to highlight an imperfection that could bring a potentially historic season to a screeching halt.
The Ravens, minus nearly a dozen starters because of COVID-19 protocols, attacked Pittsburgh's offense by pressing up on the wide receivers in an effort to disrupt quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's timing. The approach contributed to a handful of drops and limited the Steelers to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Even though Baltimore backup quarterback Robert Griffin III posed no threat while passing, the Ravens still managed 128 yards rushing and converted two third-and-longs on the ground against a defense that whiffed at crucial times, including a badly missed tackle by safety Terrell Edmunds that sprung Baltimore wide receiver Marquise Brown for a 70-yard touchdown that drew Baltimore within five late in the fourth quarter.
Yet as his anger ebbed, Tomlin tried to take a big-picture view. His team has absorbed whatever 2020 has thrown at it, be it scheduling chaos, season-ending injuries to prominent starters such as inside linebacker Devin Bush or last-second COVID-19 results that force Tomlin to adjust the lineups just hours before kickoff.
Now, it's time to see if rookie Alex Highsmith can fill in for Dupree in the same way that Robert Spillane did when Bush went down in mid-October. The Steelers viewed Highsmith, who played as a defensive end in college at Charlotte, as a longish-term project when they selected him in the third round. With Dupree now down for the year and with free agency looming in March, the future has suddenly become the present for Highsmith.
''We are ringing Alex Highsmith's bell now, so it will be exciting to watch him respond to it,'' Tomlin said. ''It will also be exciting to watch his growth because growth is associated with experience. No doubt in upcoming weeks he will be gaining a lot of that.''
The end result. That's pretty much it. While Tomlin and his players refused to place the blame for their lackluster effort against the Ravens on the COVID-19 delays that pushed kickoff back from Thanksgiving night to nearly a week later, Pittsburgh looked very much like a team that felt off-kilter.
''We really haven't showed our complete offense yet,'' wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. ''I think we played games that we start off super slow, we played games we start off super-fast and we just don't finish at the end, but at the end of the day a win is a win and we keep moving forward.''
The special teams were a bright spot during the first two months of the season. Not so much lately. Ray-Ray McCloud's fumbled punt set up Baltimore's first touchdown and allowed the Ravens to briefly take the lead. Kicker Chris Boswell has missed three extra-point attempts and a field goal over the past four weeks after missing just one kick - an extra point - through Pittsburgh's first seven games.
Wide receiver James Washington can sometimes get lost in the shuffle among a deep group of targets at Roethlisberger's disposal. Still, he showed why the team remains high on him when he fought off three defenders to come up with a third-down heave in the final minutes for a 16-yard gain that helped the Steelers run out the clock.
Given the spectacular start to his career, the standard rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool set for himself has now become remarkably high. There was a minor setback against the Ravens. He failed to haul in a deep pass from Roethlisberger on Pittsburgh's first drive and later dropped a pass in the red zone. Still, he drew a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Baltimore's Marlon Humphrey, something that's happening regularly as opposing defenses try to slow him down.
Cornerback Steven Nelson underwent an MRI on his knee. Tomlin offered no timeline on the return of center Maurkice Pouncey and running back James Conner, both of whom are on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
68. The number of consecutive games in which the Steelers have had at least one sack. They can tie the NFL record of 69 straight games with a sack set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers between 1999-2003 against Washington (4-7).
Pittsburgh can clinch its first playoff berth since 2017 with a win on Monday. The Steelers could also lock up the AFC North with a win combined with a loss by Cleveland and other results elsewhere that would give Pittsburgh the strength of schedule tiebreaker over the Browns.
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 13
Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb's value continues to slip as the Cowboys offense keeps struggling without Dak Prescott (ankle) at the helm. Lamb hasn't gained more than 34 yards in four of his past five games, after looking like he could be a WR1 with Prescott around. He's had quite a few scoring opportunities despite the struggles of the Cowboys offense though, making him hard to leave on the bench. He's seen just over 28 percent of the passing game targets inside the 10-yard line, the issue has been how rare trips inside the 10-yard line have been for Dallas. That upside places him somewhere on the WR3 map, but with one of the lower floors in that group.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has failed to top 60 yards in each of his past two games. This week, he faces a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and he is likely to draw coverage from star Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Hopkins will have his work cut out for him this week, but expect the Cardinals star to give Ramsey everything he can handle. Hopkins may not have one of his bigger games of the season in Week 13, but he has a good chance to make some big plays and potentially find the end zone for the first time since his Hail Mary catch against the Buffalo Bills. Start him as a WR1 this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup should remain out of fantasy starting lineups in most leagues for Week 13. Gallup has finished as a fantasy WR3 only once this season, way back in Week 3. That week (23) and Week 8 (10) are the only weeks so far that Gallup has even scored double digits in half PPR formats. He's a solid receiver on the NFL field, but with his target share and the overall disaster that is the current Cowboys offense, he simply cannot be trusted in fantasy lineups. He has a zero-floor, and almost no achievable upside.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk has been extremely quiet over his past three games. His struggles have come alongside a cold streak from Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. This week, Kirk and the Cardinals face the Los Angeles Rams, who have one of the league's top pass defenses. The Cardinals No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins will likely be shadowed by star cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the game, so Kirk could be counted on more than usual, but that doesn't mean things will be easy for him. Kirk has seen exactly six targets in each of his past three games. He should see at least six targets this week, which gives him the potential to deliver a solid WR3 week, but he certainly has downside risk attached to him as shown from his past three games.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz has developed a role as a floor play tight end in most formats, but especially in 2TE leagues. Schultz has averaged six targets per game this year, and has finished with 22-53 yards in each of the past six games. It's not a great floor, but it's essentially guaranteed to not be a zero, which many other tight ends have dropped in fantasy lineups this season. Schultz presents almost no ceiling, but he may have the best matchup among Cowboys pass catchers for a Tuesday night matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. He's solidly in the middle of the TE2 ranks.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds has caught at least three passes in each of his past five games, but his rushing work has been limited when Kenyan Drake has been on the field. Edmonds and the Cardinals have a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 13. The Rams have held opponents to just 296.7 yards from scrimmage per game, which is second-best in the league. In deep PPR leagues, Edmonds is worth consideration as he should see around five carries and five targets, but his upside is limited and he might need a touchdown to come away with a big game. He shouldn't be started in non-PPR leagues or in leagues of fewer than 12 teams.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon has been reinstated by the league. Gordon played in five games for Seattle in 2019, catching seven passes for 139 yards. The former second-round pick of the Browns in 2012 has had his fair share of off-field incidents and suspensions, but he'll surely provide a boost to a Seattle offense that already includes wide receivers D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore. Gordon is still on the right side of 30 and will join an offense led by MVP candidate Russell Wilson, but it's hard to imagine him putting fantasy teams over the top towards a championship in the next four weeks of the season. If anything, it'll negatively impact Moore the most as the team's No. 3 wideout. Because of Gordon's athleticism, though, he's worth a flier in deeper leagues if you have extra roster space.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake has come on strong for fantasy owners as of late. He's scored three touchdowns over his past two games and has become more involved in the passing game as well with seven receptions over his last two games. This week, Drake and the Cardinals have a tough matchup against a Los Angeles Rams Defense that ranks in the top-5 in the league in both pass defense and run defense. Drake might struggle with his efficiency this week, but he should get plenty of opportunities and he has a great chance to find the end zone again. Start him as an RB2 in Week 13.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is coming off his two worst fantasy games of the year and two-straight Cardinals losses as well. In Week 13, he faces a tough matchup against a Los Angeles Rams team that has been fantastic against the pass this year, allowing just 203.5 passing yards per game, the third-fewest in the league. Over the past two weeks combined, Murray has only 45 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. Despite the recent struggles, fantasy owners should stay confident in Murray, who is still having a fantastic fantasy year all around. He may not have a monster game in Week 13, but he should be able to bounce back from his previous two letdowns.
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase admitted that he's failing in his attempt to groom quarterback Sam Darnold. "I came here to help him, help him develop his career, and we haven't been able to do that," said Gase. Darnold is 0-7 this year -- he missed four games with a shoulder injury -- and has just six touchdown drives. He's the lowest-rated passer in the league with a career-low 64.0 rating and has gone four straight games without throwing a touchdown. The third overall pick in 2018 threw two interceptions in the Week 12 loss to the Dolphins and his future with the team is in question, especially if New York has the top pick in the draft next year. Darnold has a decent matchup against the Raiders this Sunday, but even then, he's an unattractive low-end QB2 that cannot be trusted in this terrible offense.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper has been able to develop a strong fantasy floor despite the rest of the Cowboys offense collapsing around him. Cooper has at least five catches and 67 yards in nine of his 11 games. With only three touchdowns and three 100-yard games all year though, he hasn't had much of a ceiling to go with that floor. Week 13 presents a tough Tuesday night matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, leaving Cooper as a solid WR2 but without the upside of others ranked similarly.
The Indianapolis Colts activated defensive lineman Denico Autry from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. Autry, who leads the team with six sacks this year, has missed the last two games. Without him against the Titans in Week 12, Indy's defense allowed 449 yards, including 229 rushing yards. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is the only Colts player still on the COVID-19 list, but he could be activated on Saturday if he has no symptoms and continues to test negative. Along with his six sacks, Autry has 24 tackles (15 solo), seven tackles for loss and seven QB hits in nine games (eight starts). His return will be a boost for a Colts Defense looking to bounce back against the Texans, who just lost top wideout Will Fuller to a six-game PED suspension. Consider Indy's defense a fringe starting unit in 12- and 14-team leagues.
Detroit Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell said that rookie running back D'Andre Swift (concussion), who missed the Week 12 loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving, is still working through the league's concussion protocol. The Lions keep saying that Swift is close to returning, but until he's out of the concussion protocol, his fantasy managers should view him as highly questionable to play in Week 13 against the Bears. Chicago's defense isn't the greatest matchup, but if Swift can get cleared and return, he'll be an upside RB2 as fantasy managers look to get into the playoffs. If he misses yet another game, veteran Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson will continue to split the backfield workload, keeping both of their ceilings lower as RB3/flex types.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott finds himself in new territory in Week 13: on the lower end of RB2 rankings. Elliott's nightmare season began when Dak Prescott was lost for the year, but it's only gotten worse from there, and not all the blame can be placed on the quarterback play. Elliott is essentially running behind an offensive line made up of backups at this point, and he has totaled fewer than 55 rushing yards in six of his last nine games. The good news with Elliott is that he does lead the league with 19 carries inside the five-yard line. The bad news is, despite that, he's only scored one touchdown since Week 5. If he's on your fantasy team, you're probably not going to bench Elliott, but don't expect the RB1 version of Elliott to show up any time soon.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) underwent successful surgery on his knee on Wednesday and is expected to make a complete recovery. Burrow was having a really impressive rookie season after being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft until he tore both his ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 11 against Washington. The former LSU star has a chance to be ready for the start of the 2021 season if everything goes according to plan with his rehab. There will be obvious risk around him being a QB1 for those in single-season leagues next year, but you're sitting pretty if you roster him in dynasty/keeper leagues for the long haul. Brandon Allen got the start under center in Week 12, but Ryan Finley could get his shot before the end of the season.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard remains a backup bench stash heading into Week 13. Pollard has seen inconsistent work since Ezekiel Elliott has returned to full health. While Pollard has shown an ability to do some damage on the field, he's just not on the field enough to be a consistent, reliable fantasy asset. He's an immediate starter if Elliott misses time, even in the disastrous Cowboys offense, but he has no real fantasy role unless that happens. Anyone with Elliott on their roster should do their best to have Pollard on their bench. Week 13 against the Ravens is a bad matchup even for a three-down back, so Pollard should be nowhere near a fantasy starting lineup this week.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton is looking at another rough matchup on Week 13's Tuesday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens Defense has allowed just over 6.5 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks this season, the second-fewest in the league. There have been a few bright spots for Dalton but they have been few and far between. He's ranked at the low end of QB2 lists, only relevant in deeper Superflex and 2QB formats.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that he expects standout defensive end Myles Garrett to play in Week 13 against the Titans, barring any setbacks. Garrett was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after missing the previous two games. The 24-year-old was the first overall pick of the 2017 draft and is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL when he's healthy. The Pro Bowler has 31 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 14 QB hits, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 9.5 sacks in nine games this season. He's a must-start defensive lineman in IDP leagues when he makes his return this Sunday. Cleveland's defense can't be trusted in fantasy formats, but Garrett's return gives them a much better chance at slowing down the NFL's leading rusher in Derrick Henry.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring) was seen at practice on Thursday, but he needs to improve a lot before he can play in Week 13 against the Seahawks. Jones was expected to be very limited at practice. It's a good sign that he was on the practice field, but backup Colt McCoy is still likely to be the starter this Sunday against Seattle, although Jones has an outside chance of suiting up. If Jones misses this weekend's game, he's likely to just miss one week of action with the minor hamstring injury. Fantasy managers should be looking in another direction for Week 13, with McCoy being only a desperation low-end QB2 pivot in superflex leagues. All of New York's receivers should be downgraded slightly if McCoy is under center, too.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is not a starting option in Week 13 fantasy lineups. Elliott has played in 10 games and made exactly 10 field goals (on 14 attempts). The Eagles go for it on fourth down very often and leave Elliott on the sidelines kicking into a practice net. Elliott's missed extra point last week was his first miss of the season, but even on those, he's only made 14 extra points total. Elliott continues to be a decent enough "real life" kicker, but he's not seeing anywhere close to the volume required to be a good fantasy option.