Monday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Steelers vs. Browns

Monday Night Football DFS Breakdown: Steelers vs. Browns

This article is part of our Showdown/Single Game DFS Breakdown series.

The Browns cannot make the playoffs, but they can knock out the still-flickering hopes of the Steelers and their 7-8-1 record by dealing them a loss here. Ben Roethlisberger figures to retire after this year and a loss here could hasten his exit from the league, so that arguably could be another reason for the Browns to maintain their focus despite their own season's ambitions falling permanently out of reach in their loss against Green Bay. The over/under is 42 with Pittsburgh favored by two points. Though chilly, the weather should be cooperative.


 

QUARTERBACKS

Ben Roethlisberger ($9400 DK, $14000 FD) appears to be on the way out after this year, and if he wants to play beyond Week 18 he needs the Steelers to win this game. He was vaguely effective against the Browns back in Week 8, completing 22 of 34 attempts for 266 yards and one touchdown at Cleveland. This time he's at home, where hopefully the sailing will be a bit smoother yet. The Browns have some absences in the secondary (Troy Hill, Ronnie Harrison, John Johnson) that could prove to Roethlisberger's benefit, but otherwise the Browns have at least two good corners in Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome. If the Steelers can keep Myles Garrett away then Roethlisberger should be in a good fighting stance for this one, even if he doesn't have much punch anymore.

Better to be washed up than a never-was, and Baker Mayfield ($9200 DK, $14500

The Browns cannot make the playoffs, but they can knock out the still-flickering hopes of the Steelers and their 7-8-1 record by dealing them a loss here. Ben Roethlisberger figures to retire after this year and a loss here could hasten his exit from the league, so that arguably could be another reason for the Browns to maintain their focus despite their own season's ambitions falling permanently out of reach in their loss against Green Bay. The over/under is 42 with Pittsburgh favored by two points. Though chilly, the weather should be cooperative.


 

QUARTERBACKS

Ben Roethlisberger ($9400 DK, $14000 FD) appears to be on the way out after this year, and if he wants to play beyond Week 18 he needs the Steelers to win this game. He was vaguely effective against the Browns back in Week 8, completing 22 of 34 attempts for 266 yards and one touchdown at Cleveland. This time he's at home, where hopefully the sailing will be a bit smoother yet. The Browns have some absences in the secondary (Troy Hill, Ronnie Harrison, John Johnson) that could prove to Roethlisberger's benefit, but otherwise the Browns have at least two good corners in Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome. If the Steelers can keep Myles Garrett away then Roethlisberger should be in a good fighting stance for this one, even if he doesn't have much punch anymore.

Better to be washed up than a never-was, and Baker Mayfield ($9200 DK, $14500 FD) is drifting perilously close to the latter lately. To be fair to Mayfield in the event that he struggles here, the Browns don't have much in the way of pass catchers and the duo of T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward alone can cause major pass-blocking issues, to the point of derailing many or most plays. A 'good' game for Mayfield is often just one where he was successfully hidden, and the Browns could approach this game with that exact outlook given the weakness of the Pittsburgh run defense. Mayfield couldn't get much going against the Steelers in their first matchup, completing 20 of 31 pass attempts for 225 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.


 

RUNNING BACKS

At least a few receivers could prove crucially important for the cashing line in this showdown slate, but the running backs might be near-mandatory picks in what's expected to be a ground-based, somewhat lower-scoring game due to the poor quarterback play on both sides. Najee Harris ($10800 DK, $15000 FD) should get all the work he can handle in this win-or-go-home game for the Steelers. It's fair to wonder whether he'll be able to capitalize – the Browns will certainly be gunning for him, and the Browns have been competent against running backs overall this year – but Harris will be gassed by the end of this one way or another. Benny Snell ($1000 DK, $5500 FD) appears to be the top backup.

The question of whether Nick Chubb ($11600 DK, $9000 FD) might come down partially to how much Kareem Hunt ($5400 DK, $9000 FD) does in his potential return, though against a run defense as bad as Pittsburgh's it's also possible that there's room for two Cleveland runners to make a productive impact for their showdown investors. If Hunt can't go or can't play as much as usual then we still might see D'Ernest Johnson ($4800 DK, $8500 FD) play some. Johnson is modest on talent, but he has played admirably with almost each opportunity he's seen this year. If for some reason Johnson gets the ball, there's reason by now to think he could hold his own, at least against a weak run defense like this one.


 

WIDE RECEIVERS + TIGHT ENDS

Denzel Ward might be a vaguely intimidating matchup for Diontae Johnson ($10400 DK, $13000 FD), but Johnson's sky-high usage insulates him from most matchup concerns. Plus, Ward's burning speed largely goes to waste anyway against a short-space mechanic like Johnson. Ward's speed affords him catchup ability if he gets beat, which affords him the ability to play press coverage with minimal burn risk, but Johnson is also unlikely to lose against press looks. This is just to say that while a good player, the ways Ward is good might not show up as much against a skill set like Johnson's as much as it would against a more speed-dependent receiver. Chase Claypool ($7200 DK, $10000 FD) is the more intimidating speed threat, if Mike Tomlin decides he has any use for "good players." In recent weeks the Steelers have instead given playing time to Ray-Ray McCloud ($3400 DK, $6500 FD), who shouldn't do more than return kicks if he must be in the league at all. With that said, McCloud's predictably, comically bad production should force the Steelers to realize their error and keep Claypool in a third-down role in this game. James Washington ($2200 DK, $7500 FD) is also better than McCloud, if the Steelers care. Rather than McCloud or Washington, the best bet to emerge as Pittsburgh's third-leading route runner is Pat Freiermuth ($6600 DK, $9500 FD), who returns after missing one game with a concussion. The Browns have been pretty tough against tight ends overall, but they have allowed eight touchdowns and Freiermuth is Roethlisberger's go-to target in traffic when Johnson is covered. Zach Gentry ($800 DK, $6000 FD) should also play a good amount, though mostly as a blocker.

Jarvis Landry ($8400 DK, $11000 FD) is the clear main target in the Browns offense, and he continues to play well for his own part despite the injuries and poor surrounding play that have conspired to wreck his 2021 season. He caught five passes for 65 yards on 10 targets in the first game against Pittsburgh, and he projects for similar usage here. Donovan Peoples-Jones ($5000 DK, $10500 FD) is less likely to draw targets than Landry underneath, but Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz ($1400 DK, $6000 FD) are the main targets when the Browns go downfield. Rashard Higgins ($5600 DK, $6500 FD) is the second-most likely wide receiver to be the target when the ball is less than 15 yards downfield. David Njoku ($4200 DK, $7500 FD) has played more the last two weeks at tight end than Austin Hooper ($5200 DK, $8000 FD), but it's always difficult to predict their usage or that of TE3 Harrison Bryant ($3000 DK, $7000 FD).


 

KICKERS

Chris Boswell ($4000 DK, $9000 FD) is the 'favored' kicker as the kicker for the betting favorite, and he's also the clearly better kicker overall between himself and Chase McClaughlin ($3800 DK, $8500 FD). Boswell has gone over double-digit fantasy points seven times this year, and more than 12 points four times. Boswell has credible long-range abilities and could post a strong score if the Steelers can develop a field position advantage. McLaughlin isn't bad or anything, but he's gone over double-digit fantasy points just three times this year and has notably struggled from 40-to-49 yards, missing six of 10 attempts in that range.


 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

The Steelers ($4600 DK) have struggled to stop the run this year, so that's a major concern with Chubb and maybe Hunt lined up. If the Steelers can successfully sell out against the run, though, then there might not be much threatening them otherwise. Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt alone can create a substantial pass rush, and Mayfield has generally fallen apart when facing real pressure. The Browns ($4400 DK) has the stronger defense overall and especially against the run, though it might be too much to say the Browns are specifically strong in this regard. Neither defense is especially good against the pass, so the question of which defense does the best might come down to which pass rush shows up more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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