The 3-1 Broncos suffered their first loss of the season to the Ravens last week, while the 1-3 Steelers are on a three-game losing streak thanks to a brutal opening schedule that still is not improving.
The Broncos may be without their quarterback, and the Steelers will have to play with a deteriorating Ben Roethlisberger. This is a coin flip in a game that is bound to be low scoring, so any play may tip the game to one team or the other.
The Steelers won 26-21 when the Broncos visited in Week 2 last year.
The Broncos remain tied with the Raiders for the AFC West lead since both lost in Week 4. If Teddy Bridgewater misses time with his concussion, the offense drops another notch, and it’s already below average in most categories. The schedule opened with three easy wins over teams that combined for 2-10 records. But the Ravens proved to be too much, and the schedule shifts with the next three matchups against the Steelers, Raiders and Browns. A mediocre passing offense can be compensated for by a good defense and rushing game. But these next few weeks will require more than handoffs to win.
Teddy Bridgewater is in the league’s concussion protocol, and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. I’ll assume that he’ll get one week off and update if needed. Shifting back to Drew Lock is not what this offense needs heading into a tougher stretch of the schedule. Lock entered last week’s game after halftime and only completed 12-of-21 for 113 yards and one interception. Jeff Driskel threw for 256 yards and two scores on the Steelers last year.
Drew Lock projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 14
Passing: 200 yds, 1 TD
Melvin Gordon was limited in practices because of his ribs and leg last week, but he was active and ran nine times for 56 yards while Javonte Williams gained 48 yards on seven runs. The backfield runs a near-exact split of carries so that neither back is logging significant production. Gordon totals two touchdowns to only one for Williams. The duo combines for above-average running back points but only offers moderate yardage individually. The Broncos ran for 90 yards on 22 carries at the Steelers last season.
Javonte Williams projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 10
Rushing: 40 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: 3 rec, 30 yds
Melvin Gordon projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 9
Rushing: 50 yds, 0 TD
Receiving: 2 rec, 20 yds
The passing stats were marginal even when the Broncos played the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets. Tim Patrick scored in Weeks 1 and 2 as the only touchdowns for the unit. Courtland Sutton produced one monster game in Jacksonville and never more than 50 yards in any other game. Almost all fantasy value is stripped from the wideouts, even Sutton, who was held in check in all but one game. Patrick managed 98 yards in Week 3 but otherwise never gained more than 39 yards.
Courtland Sutton projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 8
Receiving: 4 rec, 40 yds
Tim Patrick projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 7
Receiving: 3 rec, 40 yds
Noah Fant tends to do better when the Broncos face a top secondary. He posted touchdowns against both the Giants and Ravens and totals 18 catches on the year to tie with Courtland Sutton for the team high.
Noah Fant projection vs. Steelers
Fantasy points: 15
Receiving: 4 rec, 50 yds, 1 TD
Match to the defense
The challenge is that the strength of the Denver offense is rushing. And the strength of the Pittsburgh defense is run-stopping. The Steelers have not allowed any touchdowns by a running back this year. The Broncos will force the run until it works, even more so if they have to start Drew Lock, but their split of carries will ensure that neither back has more than moderate results.
The Steelers always allow at least one touchdown pass, but even if Bridgewater starts, it is not an attractive fantasy situation. And less so if Lock is there. The passing stats have all dropped recently, anyway, and now on the road at the Steelers, it gets worse. Noah Fant is still a moderate start and the most likely to score if there is a touchdown. Gordon and Williams both add a few catches to help their fantasy value but are only flex options at best.