Antonio Brown may not have the best matchup with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland lining up across from him this week, but that’s hardly a reason to bench 2015’s No. 1 wide receiver. He will be a target monster as usual, and he can arguably do more with those than any other receiver in the NFL. Fans have known for a while that Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell are out, but Markus Wheaton is also unlikely to play, meaning Brown’s share could be even higher.
But with a depleted receiving corps and a capable secondary lining up across from it, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Steelers to deploy a run-heavy game plan with DeAngelo Williams. Washington struggled to stop the run in 2015, ranking 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. They haven’t done much to address that concern in the offseason, and Williams could have a big day if the game remains close throughout, or the Steelers jump to a big lead. There’s RB1 upside here.
Ben Roethlisberger is more than capable of putting points up on the board, but having a road game against a tough cornerback tandem puts him more at fringe QB1/QB2 territory for Week 1. Tight end Jesse James could also see himself more involved than usual with Wheaton potentially sitting. Owners who are forced to sit Rob Gronkowski this week could look to James as a cheap option to put in the lineup, but he would still be a gamble.
It’s not yet time to start talking about Sammie Coates or Eli Rogers as viable fantasy options given the depth at the receiver position across the fantasy spectrum.
Jordan Reed is a man among boys when on the field, and owners shouldn’t have any question about starting him. There isn’t another tight end worth considering starting over him this week now that Rob Gronkowski is sidelined. Reed and others comprise a deep group of pass catchers that will make Kirk Cousins a mid-range QB1 option against a vulnerable Steelers secondary. A healthy DeSean Jackson deserves WR3/flex consideration in standard leagues because of this matchup, but fantasy owners have to be well aware of his volatility.
Matt Jones is healthy after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason, but murmurs from beat reporters suggest that Robert Kelley could also be involved in the run game as well. Defending the run is something the Steelers did quite well in 2015, and it’s difficult to invest much stock in the Washington backfield this week. Jones deserves low-end RB2/flex consideration, and Kelley shouldn’t be considered yet until it is seen how he fits in the game plan.
There are lots of mouths to feed among Washington’s pass catchers, but it’s hard to see Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder being anything more than a desperate gamble at this point in the season. If Josh Doctson takes the field, it’s not likely to be in a great capacity since he continues to work back from an achilles injury that hampered him most of the summer. It’s not his time yet.