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The Steelers travel to Nashville for a Thursday night matchup with the Titans. We break down the fantasy implications.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have experienced their share of ups and down in 2012, but that's more than you can say about the Tennessee Titans. The Titans look awful on both sides of the ball. Chris Johnson isn't running well (again), Jake Locker is hurt, and the defense would likely struggle stopping several college teams at this point.
The Steelers finally have a reliable runner in the backfield, as Rashard Mendenhall returned to action last week and suffered no setbacks in his season debut. With their passing game already playing well, getting the ground game going will only create more of a mismatch against the Titans on Thursday night.
We'll break down the rest of the games in Week 6 later on, but for now let's take a look at who you should start for the first matchup of the week, and who needs to take a seat on your bench.
Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback - The Titans have allowed at least two passing touchdowns in each of their five games this year. Big Ben enters Thursday night with 1,111 passing yards, eight scores and just one interception. Need we remind you of his five touchdown passes against Tennessee last season? When presented with all of this evidence, why would sit him? He might not put up outrageous numbers with the ground game gaining momentum, but Roethlisberger's matchup is a safe bet.
Rashard Mendenhall, running back - After making his 2012 debut last week, Mendenhall has a good chance of posting quality fantasy numbers again in Week 6. Tennessee gave up 652 yards and five touchdowns on the ground through the first five weeks of the season. That porous run defense should serve as an easy matchup for the Steelers ground game. Mendenhall only played 22 snaps last week, but he still managed to make a strong impact against Philadelphia. Expect more touches and more points here.
Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace, wide receiver - Wallace took a backseat in the vertical game last week while Brown caught seven passes for 86 yards. Both receivers, aside from last week, put up decent fantasy numbers after four games played. Brown is always a great PPR option, while Wallace leads the way with three touchdowns, paying off for standard league owners. You shouldn't have a problem starting either in any league this week, though, against a defense that ranks 25th in the NFL.
Heath Miller, tight end - With Mendenhall back and the ground game presumably improving, Miller's targets are bound to fall off. He caught four touchdowns in the first four weeks of the season, so with Big Ben looking him more in the red zone, he still has a chance to continue making an impact for your lineup. On the plus side, the Titans have allowed the most points to opposing tight ends this season. Miller is worth a look this week, especially with bye weeks in effect.
Steelers defense/special teams - Pittsburgh is allowing the fifth-fewest yards per game, but they rank 16th in points allowed each week. The Titans certainly aren't a big scoring threat, averaging only 17.6 points per game. The Steelers D/ST is a good play with Matt Hasselbeck under center and Chris Johnson failing miserably in the run game.
Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback - The Titans will presumably be passing the ball often, considering they have almost no run game in 2012. Hasselbeck hasn't looked impressive in the past two weeks, but did anyone really expect him to dominate after taking a backseat to Jake Locker? The Steelers are only allowing 185 yards through the air, but they've given up multiple touchdowns in three of four games. You might get a few touchdowns out of Hasslebeck. Just don't expect him to win your matchup this week. You can probably find another quarterback for Week 6.
Chris Johnson, running back - Have we had enough of CJ0K yet? He failed to perform yet again in Week 5, so his lone 100-yard outing against the Texans looks like an anomaly now. Johnson has just 210 yards and no touchdowns after five weeks, averaging an unbelievably bad 2.9 yards per carry. Considering the Steelers kept LeSean McCoy in check last week, it feels like it will take a miracle for Johnson to even hit the half-century mark.
Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and Kenny Britt, wide receiver - The rookie Wright leads the Titans in receptions, targets and first-down receptions. He's clearly a key target, even with Hasselbeck behind center. Last week, Wright caught nine passes for 66 yards on 11 targets. He should continue to have decent value in PPR leagues. Britt is still working his way back from an ankle injury, and Washington is boom or bust. Wright appears to be the best play, but no one among this group is too appealing, with the way the Titans offense is going.
Jared Cook, tight end - Pittsburgh has given up a touchdown to a tight end in three out of four games. With Hasselbeck in at quarterback, Cook typically sees more targets. Last week, he caught five passes for only 37 yards, but a touchdown helped salvaged his fantasy numbers. Expect the veteran quarterback to continue looking for his No. 1 tight end in the red zone. Cook is a decent play in Week 6.
Titans defense/special teams - Here's a helpful hint: don't start the Titans D/ST. After allowing a league-high 36.2 points per game through the first five weeks, this defense doesn't appear capable of slowing down anyone. How can you have faith in a team that's given up 30+ points in five consecutive weeks? Stay away at all costs.