Tue Sep 15 3:34pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes against the New York Giants during the second quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws under pressure from Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the third quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, applauds his players during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78) and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) celebrate after Smith-Schuster scored a touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell (24) avoids a tackle by New York Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes (30) during the first quarter of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Time to stop talking about Ben Roethlisberger's surgically repaired right elbow.
At least for now.
Whatever lingering doubts Roethlisberger or the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers might have had over the state of their franchise quarterback's passing arm were put to rest during a relatively drama-free 26-16 win over the New York Giants in the season opener on Monday night.
Playing for the first time in 364 days, the 38-year-old completed 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns. And while he only truly let it loose a couple of times, he was efficient. He was patient. He was even a little spry, running for an 11-yard gain at one point.
While Roethlisberger wasn't dominant, dominance wasn't required. Not on a night where the defense produced three sacks and two turnovers while holding New York running back Saquon Barkley to just 6 yards rushing. For a team that expects to compete with Baltimore for the AFC North title, it was a promising start. Even if it was just a start.
''We said afterward it wasn't perfect, it wasn't even good some of the time offensively,'' Roethlisberger said. ''But at the end of the day we found a way to win.''
A win that came with plenty of what coach Mike Tomlin likes to call ''meat on the bone,'' meaning there is plenty to work on ahead of a visit by Denver on Sunday. That work, however, will not include any uncertainty about Roethlisberger's status. He's back. And so might be an offense that scored three touchdowns in a game just three times during his extended absence in 2019.
''Ben told us we can be great individuals,'' wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said, ''But if we work all together and we're good, we can be great as a team.''
Outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree picked up right where they left off in 2019, as one of the best edge rush tandems in the NFL. Watt grabbed his fourth career interception in addition to a tackle for loss and two hits on New York quarterback Daniel Jones. Dupree, who is in a contract year after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him, turned the game in Pittsburgh's favor for good when he pressured Jones into a floater that ended up in the arms of Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward and ended a 19-play New York drive.
''Bud is a dangerous guy, as is T.J.,'' Tomlin said. ''When you have an outside linebacker tandem like that in the 3-4 defense, you have an opportunity to play great defense and we are cognizant of the contributions of those two men and appreciative of it and that is why were are excited about the group that we have.''
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Perhaps no group was affected more by the lack of preseason games than special teams, due to the difficulty in replicating game-like situations during practice. Still, Tomlin wasn't searching for excuses after Diontae Johnson fumbled a punt and kicker Chris Boswell sent a kickoff out of bounds to give the Giants solid field position.
''We have a myriad of things to clean up, things that make you easy to beat,'' Tomlin said. ''It's good to work on those things with a win.''
Benny Snell. The second-year running back took over when James Conner went down with an ankle injury early and turned in a career-best 113 yards rushing on 19 carries. He earned an endorsement from Tomlin that he could be a ''bell cow'' - a phrase Tomlin used to describe Conner before the season started - should Conner's injury limit him going forward.
Conner. Out to put to rest concerns over his durability after missing nine games over the past two seasons, Conner was on the sideline early in the second quarter with an ankle issue while Snell made a compelling case to take his job.
Right tackle Zach Banner edged Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting job following a spirited battle during training camp. The joy didn't last. Banner is likely out long term with a right knee injury sustained in the second half. Veteran Stefen Wisniewski is dealing with a pectoral issue, though Tomlin sounded optimistic both Conner and Wisniewski could practice this week. The status of Pro Bowl right guard David DeCastro - who sat out against the Giants - remains uncertain.
58 - the number of consecutive games in which the Steelers have had at least one sack, the fifth-longest such streak in NFL history. Denver quarterback Drew Lock, however, can be tough to chase down. Lock has only been sacked five times in his six career starts.
Finding reinforcements along the offensive line with Banner out and the status of DeCastro and Wisniewski unclear. Denver's defense, however, looked pliable in a season-opening loss to Tennessee.
Five Cold Plays: Week 2
The Cleveland Browns Defense picked up three sacks in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cleveland also recovered a Joe Burrow fumble near the Cincinnati goal line in the game, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Myles Garrett led the way as he was the one who forced the Burrow fumble on a sack in the third quarter. The Browns offense cashed in on that turnover two plays later on a Nick Chubb one-yard touchdown run. Cleveland's defense has another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Beckham and Baker Mayfield connected for a pretty 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Cleveland their second TD of the evening. That went in the books as Beckham's first score of the 2020 season. The star receiver has now drawn 16 targets through the first two games of the season, totalling seven catches for 96 yards. He will be a solid WR2 in Week 3 when he faces the Washington Football Team.
Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was a limited practice participant on Thursday after not showing up on the injury report on Wednesday. Pittman should be good to go on Sunday against the Vikings as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The talented big-bodied receiver played fewer snaps than Zach Pascal in the season opener, finishing with two catches for only 10 yards in his NFL debut. Even if tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) doesn't play, Pittman is too far down the pecking order in Indy's passing game to be considered a viable fantasy starter in most leagues.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught three of his four targets for 46 yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was a quiet game for Landry, who can normally be counted upon to see more than four targets in most games. That being said, the Cleveland offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to be run-heavy, which will cut into Landry's looks. Landry has caught eight of 10 targets for 107 scoreless yards through the first two games of the season. He will take on the Washington Football Team in Week 3.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday for the second straight day. Johnson was listed as week-to-week after suffering an ankle injury last Thursday in the season opener, but it looks as though he's made some quick progress. However, even if the 27-year-old winds up playing against a nasty Ravens Defense this week, he'll be a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. Buddy Howell is set to be the primary backup to David Johnson if Duke Johnson has to sit this one out.
Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper caught two of four targets for 21 scoreless yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was another quiet game for Hooper, who only caught two passes for 15 yards in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. There was some hope he would have more chances in Week 2 after David Njoku was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. It didn't help that the Browns only attempted 23 passes in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. With just four catches for 36 yards through two games, Hooper is slipping into low-end TE2 territory in fantasy. He will look to rebound in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb carried the ball 22 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Chubb also tacked on a nine-yard reception on the way to Cleveland's first win of the season. It was an excellent performance for Chubb, who had a quiet game in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. He capped off Cleveland's first drive with an 11-yard TD run and then scored on a one-yard plunge in the third. Chubb now has 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns after the first two weeks of the season. He will be a strong play in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt had a big day in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Hunt carried the ball 10 times for 86 yards and a score while adding two catches for 15 yards and another TD in the winning effort. Hunt got wide open behind the closest defender on his touchdown reception, an easy six-yard grab near the right pylon toward the end of the second quarter. He later tacked on what would be Cleveland's final score on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. The veteran running back has been busy over Cleveland's first two games, racking up 23 rushes and six receptions. The new Cleveland coaching staff seems more inclined to use Hunt than the previous regime did in 2019, which bodes well for his fantasy value going forward. Hunt will be a solid option in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday. The Pro Bowl tight end is now in serious doubt to play in Week 2 against the Vikings. With Trey Burton already on the shelf with an injury, Mo Alie-Cox would be forced into a starting role if Doyle can't suit up this weekend. Doyle played 54 offensive snaps in the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and was targeted four times, finishing with three catches for 49 yards. For now, consider Doyle a very shaky TE2 this weekend. He'll need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at playing. Receivers T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. could see more targets if Doyle is inactive.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) and wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Diontae Johnson (toe) all returned to practice on Thursday. Conner, who was an injury disappointment in 2019, was injured in the season opener and gave way to an efficient Benny Snell Jr. If Conner can avoid setbacks on Friday, he should be ready to go for Week 2 against the Broncos, although it's fair to wonder how much time he'll split with Snell. Snell will be the more attractive RB3/flex for fantasy managers until the Steelers show that they're willing to go back to Conner as the featured back. Smith-Schuster and Johnson should both be fine and could both feast against a young and inexperienced Denver secondary. Smith-Schuster had two touchdowns in Week 1 and is a must-start WR1. Johnson is more of a WR3/flex with upside now that Ben Roethlisberger is back and healthy.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 23 passes for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Mayfield was effective in the win, finding Odell Beckham Jr. for a 43-yard score in the second quarter and a wide-open Kareem Hunt for a six-yard touchdown right before the half. It was a much-needed outing for Mayfield, who had begun to hear whispers that his starting job wasn't safe after a Week 1 loss. Mayfield heads into Week 3's showdown with the Washington Football Team with three touchdowns and two interceptions through two games.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown (foot) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Barring a setback, Brown should be expected to suit up in Week 2 against the Dolphins. The 30-year-old had six catches on a team-high 10 targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the Jets, but he should see a lot of cornerback Byron Jones this Sunday. Brown beat Miami for three touchdowns in his two meetings with them last year, but things might be a bit more difficult this time around. Don't forget that Stefon Diggs is Buffalo's top wideout. Treat Brown as a WR3/flex this week and don't expect a repeat of his Week 1 numbers.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) has been declared out for the Thursday night game after leaving the contest on a cart with an Achilles injury. The only good news here is that Uzomah had four receptions on six targets for 42 yards and a touchdown before departing with what looks to be a serious injury. He finished second on the team in receiving yards (45) in Week 1, too, catching four of his five targets. If Uzomah is forced to miss considerable time, Drew Sample should step in as the primary pass-catching tight end for rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. A long-term injury would also likely mean more targets for the receiving corps of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday, while left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) sat out. With La'el Collins and Cam Erving already on Injured Reserve, Smith's injury is one to watch heading into Week 2 against the Falcons. Cooper should be good to go this weekend as long as he doesn't suffer a setback in practice on Friday. If he were to sit out on Sunday, rookie CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup would see more targets in the passing game, especially with tight end Blake Jarwin out for the season. But if Cooper is active as expected, he'll be a surefire WR1 against a defense that was carved up by Russell Wilson in Week 1.
On the heels of Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp's long-term contract extension, head coach Sean McVay said that the team wants to give wide receiver Robert Woods an extension next. "We want to get him extended, too. He's a huge part of what we're doing. So, that's something that, I think, is definitely important," McVay said. Woods had six catches for 105 yards in the Week 1 win over the Cowboys, and the 28-year-old has back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Kupp might be quarterback Jared Goff's favorite target, but Woods isn't far behind. He has a consistent target share in this offense and is one of the safest WR2 options in football. Against a leaky Philly secondary, Woods has WR1 upside in Week 2.
Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran for 138 yards in his first NFL game and leads the league in that department after just one week, but the young back needs to improve near the goal line. He gained minus-two yards on six carries in goal-to-go situations against the Texans. Running backs coach Deland McCullough suggested that the rookie would remain the team's goal-line back in Week 2 against the Chargers. "Although it was a good performance, he knows he left some things out there on the field that could have helped us to be better," offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. Fantasy managers shouldn't worry, as CEH should continue to see a big workload. He's a must-start each and every week in this explosive Chiefs offense.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) missed practice for the second straight day and is unlikely to play in Week 2 against the Raiders on Monday night at this point while dealing with a high ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 1. It's a really tough blow for those that took the All-Pro wideout in the first round of their fantasy drafts, but you'll have to be patient as he works his way back. Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should be the team's top receivers with Thomas on the shelf, with Tre'Quan Smith serving as the No. 2 receiver behind Sanders. Veteran quarterback Drew Brees will have a lower ceiling without his go-to target in the fold, but he could still put up QB1 numbers on Monday night.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring) practiced in full for the second straight day on Thursday, making it likely that he'll make his season debut in Week 2 against the Rams. Sanders was inactive for the season-opening upset to the Washington Football Team, with backup Boston Scott and company unable to get much going on the ground. With Alshon Jeffery still out with an injury and rookie Jalen Reagor being eased into things with his injury, Sanders should see plenty of work in his season debut, assuming he's close to full strength. Against a Rams Defense that was gashed by Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, Sanders is a borderline RB1 this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson had a strong NFL debut in Week 1, rushing for 62 yards on 16 carries and adding a 28-yard reception. He played 68 percent of Jacksonville's snaps. While this Week 2 game against the Titans isn't prime for Robinson to have a breakout performance, his projected role gives him a relatively high floor and makes him worth a look as a fantasy flex option. No one else on the active roster right now should challenge Robinson for the job as the early-down back.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. caught a touchdown in Week 1, but also was targeted just three times, catching all of them for 25 yards. Against a good Titans Defense this week, Chark's got a lot of downside. His low volume of work last week could be an anomaly, but it could also signal that quarterback Gardner Minshew II is set to spread the ball around this season, limiting the upside of each of his weapons. Chark's still the top fantasy receiver here, but there's a lot more risk than there was in 2019, even if it's really tough to justify sitting the third-year wideout.