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Fantasy Focus Week 14: Roethlisberger and Dwyer

Handicapping Steelers players for fantasy purposes has been tricky business lately. For instance, no one imagined that Charlie Batch would connect with four different receivers five times for nearly 300 yards passing last week. He was a stellar option in daily fantasy sports contests where he was available at an incredibly cheap salary relative to other quarterbacks.

In Week 14 as the Steelers host a rather generous Chargers defense, there are two players whose fantasy prospects seem less than clear and are worth analyzing:

Ben Roethlisberger

It’s official. Ben is back. He’ll start against San Diego after missing the last three games with rib and shoulder injuries.

What can be expected from Roethlisberger from a fantasy perspective this week? First, it’s important to note that Roethlisberger’s mobility may be limited slightly due to this special protected shirt he’ll be wearing.

The military-grade protective vest is not part of standard NFL equipment and is also an indicator that all is not yet quite right with Roethlisberger. The pad in front of Roethlisberger’s shoulder will be about one-third of an inch thick. It will be curious to see how much the special protective vest affects Roethlisberger’s throwing motion.

While Roethlisberger’s fantasy stock appears less than ideal coming back from injury, he is facing a pass defense that ranks in the bottom third of the league. The Chargers have also permitted opposing quarterbacks 21 passing TDs this season; the Raiders and Chiefs are tied for the league-high at 25.

Fantasy Prognosis: 250 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Jonathan Dwyer

Jonathan Dwyer remains this week the only viable running back option who will be wearing a Steelers jersey. He’s simply been better than the alternatives for Pittsburgh this season. Dwyer is averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Compare this to Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall who are averaging 3.6 and 3.3 YPC, respectively, and there’s really no controversy in this backfield.

One might assume that with Roethlisberger back in action, Dwyer’s fantasy stock receives a boost. This is wishful thinking. So far this season, Dwyer has somehow performed better without Roethlisberger taking snaps; PPR-league members will note Steelers backup QBs targeted Dwyer more than Ben did prior to succumbing to injury. That’s not to say Ben’s return is patently bad news for Dwyer’s stock, it’s more a dynamic that simply doesn’t matter. The small boost one can expect from Dwyer’s rushing output due to defenses that must worry about Roethlisberger’s passing assault is negated by the fact that Ben will pass Dwyer the ball less than Batch and Byron Leftwich did.

Week 14′s matchup against the Chargers does appear to bode well for Dwyer fantasy owners. Expect a rather low scoring game but one in which the Steelers maintain at least a touchdown lead during most of the second half. Dwyer can expect to see another week of 15+ carries. And hopefully, like last week, he will also find the endzone, but don’t bet on it.

Fantasy Prognosis: 88 yards rushing, 1 reception 12 yards receiving

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