NFL Grind Down Week 2: Seahawks vs. Steelers

Vegas Overview

SEA @ PIT Team Spread Total Implied Moneyline
PIT -4 46.5 25.25 -178
SEA 4 46.5 21.25 154

Betting Quick Take: This game could be played at one of the slower paces of any game this week. While the Steelers ranked 10th in pace in Week 1, they ranked just 29th in the first half of their game before they had to increase the tempo due to being way behind against the Patriots. In addition, we know that the opposing Seahawks want to play slow and run the football. I don’t have a strong take on the spread in this game, but I do like the under a good bit.

UNDER 46 1/2
Confidence Level: 7 out of 10

Injury Situations

Player Team Pos Status Part Impact
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR P Toe 10
Tyler Lockett SEA WR Q Back 9
David Moore SEA WR O Shoulder 7
Will Dissly SEA TE P Knee 7

Injuries to Monitor:

Pittsburgh – JuJu Smith-Schuster is obviously the biggest one to monitor, as the Pittsburgh passing offense would get a massive downgrade if he is out. As of the time I am writing this, it does not appear to be a major concern. On the defensive side of the ball, it’s Joe Haden that we need to monitor. While he is no longer a shutdown corner, a potential absence from him would be a nice boost to the Seattle passing game. He is questionable with a sprained AC joint that he suffered in the opener.

Seattle – A lot of players are listed on their injury report, but most of them are role players and backups. I don’t see anything eye-catching in the list, other than David Moore being sidelined with his shoulder injury. D.K. Metcalf, Jaron Brown, and Tyler Lockett all played on 75%+ of the offensive snaps in the opener.

UPDATETyler Lockett missed practice on Wednesday for Seattle with a back injury. This needs to be monitored.

Other News and Notes: This is a tough setup for the Seahawks, with a 1 PM kickoff on the East Coast a week after playing a late afternoon game on the West Coast. We’ve seen teams struggle in this spot on multiple occasions. That gives the Steelers a potential boost.

Matchup Factors, Team Identity Metrics, and Game Flow Expectations

Expected Game Pace and Tempo: As I discussed in the betting quick take, I like the under in this game. The primary reason for that is because I expect both teams to be content with a slower pace, especially if the game is competitive throughout the first three quarters. Both teams will look to establish the run, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this game in the bottom three or four of the week in terms of total plays run. Of course, things could change depending on game flow, but I wouldn’t project this to be a shootout on the surface.

Pittsburgh Steelers Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 18.14 QB16 35.99 277.12 Rank 20 Rank 18 Rank 27 Rank 2
RB Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
James Conner PIT 16.43 RB10 76% 11% Rank 10 Rank 20 Rank 49 Rank 6
Jaylen Samuels PIT 6.63 RB56 20% 7% Rank 52 Rank 47 Rank 27 Rank 48
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 17.88 WR7 28% 9.90 Rank 13 Rank 36 Rank 63 Rank 15
Donte Moncrief PIT 8.89 WR69 15% 5.40 Rank 65 Rank 53 Rank 10 Rank 34
James Washington PIT 9.47 WR64 16% 5.58 Rank 60 Rank 12 Rank 23 Rank 4
Vance McDonald PIT 8.61 TE16 13% 4.68 Rank 16 Rank 19 Rank 14 Rank 15

SEA 18-19 Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 20/RB Rank 15/WR Rank 12/TE Rank 24

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note: This is a tough spot to peg, as the Steelers had to abandon the run early in Week 1 after falling way behind. In addition, the Seahawks absolutely shut down the Bengals on the ground. The biggest opportunity lies with likely improvement and the fact that the Steelers are home favorites in this game.

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note: Although he was bottled up in Week 1, remember that James Conner averaged a healthy 4.5 yards per carry and converted twelve touchdown runs a year ago. The Seahawks are also just middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to RBs over the last two years.

This is a tough spot to peg. The Seahawks absolutely SHUT DOWN the Bengals on the ground in Week 1, and it’s not because the game was a blowout. The Bengals simply couldn’t get anything going on the ground, rushing for just 34 yards as a team on 14 attempts. The Steelers also struggled mightily to run the football against the Patriots, so we have an offense with awful run stats against a defense with amazing run stats. But… how much stock can we put in a one game sample size? That’s the million dollar question.

James Conner played on 46% of the offensive snaps in the opener, while Jaylen Samuels mixed in for 33% of snaps. I wouldn’t put too much stock into those numbers given the fact that the game was a blowout, and I would expect Conner to get more work in a competitive game. I am certainly not prioritizing Conner given the matchup and the fact that there are so many elite running back plays this week, but the question becomes whether we can include him in our GPP player pools. With Jarran Reed suspended and Poona Ford banged up, the interior line for the Seahawks should be more beatable than the Week 1 data would indicate. If Conner is projected at 5% pOWN or less, I will likely be overweight (10-15% range) in terms of my GPP builds, but this isn’t a core spot by any means. Based on our projections above, his point per dollar potential is the best on FanDuel, which is the top site where I would consider him.

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note: It’s possible that the current version of the Seattle defense could be a pass funnel. They ranked below average in most passing game metrics in Week 1, ranking 24th in pressure rate while allowing Andy Dalton to throw for over 400 yards while John Ross went ham. It’s too early to make definitive conclusions, but for now I’m prioritizing passing games over running games against Seattle. The Steelers also kept a clear pocket for Roethlisberger last week, with an 80% clean pocket rate.

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note: The Seahawks allowed 8.2 yards per pass attempt last week, and Roethlisberger sits at 7.8 yards per attempt for his career. There’s potential.

Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers are certainly a downgrade from the secondary weapons that the Seahawks used to have, and it showed in the opener when the secondary got shredded by Andy Dalton. We also cannot underestimate the impact that the loss of Earl Thomas will have on this defense. Assuming his health is okay, this is a fine bounce-back spot for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Here was the snap breakdown for the other PIT WRs in Week 1:

Moncrief – 62 (90%)
Switzer – 46 (67%)
Washington – 36 (52%)
Johnson – 25 (36%)
Holton – 8 (12%)

The snap count for James Washington was a bit disappointing, as he saw ten fewer snaps than the limited upside guy in Ryan Switzer. Washington fits the upside mold of a guy like John Ross, who torched the Seattle secondary last week. Washington is nothing more than a massive boom/bust GPP play, but I’ll likely keep him in my player pool if I build a ton of lineups. The good news is that he saw six targets in the opener on his 36 snaps. The potential is there in this offense, especially since Moncrief is playing through a finger injury — which may seem like nothing but is kind of a big deal for a wide receiver. If you want to play someone plus Roethlisberger as part of a GPP stack, I can get behind it, but it’s not at the top of my Week 2 wish list.

Vance McDonald was touted as a breakout tight end player in 2019, but he saw just four targets on 47 pass attempts in the opener. This is a relatively neutral matchup for a tight end, and he’s not cheap enough to enter punt territory. I’ll pass.

Team Quick Summary: Well, there’s nowhere to go but up for this Pittsburgh offense after the absolute disaster in Week 1. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster are nice bounce-back candidates in this game, and I like them in GPP formats if their projected ownership is low. James Washington is an ideal boom/bust play against a suddenly leaky Seattle secondary, and this is likely a defense that most people will overrate. That gives us opportunity for low-owned GPP options here.

Seattle Seahawks Projections Breakdown

Team Projections

QB Team Proj Rank ProjAtt ProjYds Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Russell Wilson SEA 18.16 QB15 35.38 268.89 Rank 19 Rank 26 Rank 18 Rank 27
RB Team Proj Rank ProjRu% ProjTar% Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FDFT
Chris Carson SEA 16.31 RB11 63% 11% Rank 8 Rank 8 Rank 7 Rank 3
Rashaad Penny SEA 7.15 RB53 24% 6% Rank 51 Rank 50 Rank 26 Rank 47
WR/TE Team Proj Rank ProjTar% ProjTar Pts/$ FD Pts/$ DK Pts/$ Y Pts/$ FD
Tyler Lockett SEA 14.81 WR17 23% 8.14 Rank 17 Rank 34 Rank 41 Rank 19
D.K. Metcalf SEA 11.54 WR42 19% 6.72 Rank 49 Rank 9 Rank 12 Rank 8
Jaron Brown SEA 7.13 WR88 12% 4.25 Rank 69 Rank 60 Rank 36 Rank 66
Nick Vannett SEA 5.67 TE29 9% 3.18 Rank 24 Rank 20 Rank 17 Rank 22
Will Dissly SEA 5.93 TE27 10% 3.54 Rank 23 Rank 21 Rank 27 Rank 19

PIT 18-19 Fpts Allowed: QB Rank 15/RB Rank 25/WR Rank 11/TE Rank 15

Rushing Opportunity Metrics of Note: The Seahawks had the third most rushing attempts and the fifth most running back targets in Week 1, though the Steelers held Sony Michel to one yard per carry. It was one of the only things they did well in their blowout loss, though it’s also worth noting that they allowed 15 targets to James White and Rex Burkhead.

Rushing Efficiency Metrics of Note: The Seahawks ranked just 26th in rush success rate in the opener, and Chris Carson was held to 3.1 yards per carry.

Volume, volume, volume. Chris Carson should get that in droves this year, and it appears like Pete Carroll is finally ready to settle on a true #1 running back. Carson deserves the opportunity, as he looks light years better than slogging Rashaad Penny out there. Carson maintained a 75%/25% snap edge in Week 1, and that’s a nice baseline to use moving forward. I would expect him to find more room to run in future weeks, too. The volume will be there, as Seattle had the third most rushing attempts and the fifth most running back targets in the opening week. The Steelers have been reasonably good defensively in 2018-2019, allowing the eighth fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs in that stretch. That’s a bit of a drag, but I’m still going to come back to the volume. Carson is too cheap for a running back that might push for 22-25 touches on a weekly basis, and our current projections have him as a top eight point per dollar option on every DFS site. I agree with that.

If you had to play one player from this game, Carson would be my choice. As long as it is a competitive game, he should dominate touches once again, and I expect the efficiency to improve as the season wears on. Fire him up with confidence.

Passing Game Opportunity Metrics of Note: The Pittsburgh defense was shredded by Tom Brady in the opener, and they rank 28th in DVOA against the pass while allowing the third highest amount of explosive pass plays. The problem is that Seattle loves to take the air out of the ball, as evidenced by Russell Wilson throwing only 20 passes in Week 1.

Passing Game Efficiency Metrics of Note: While he will never be a top volume thrower, Russell Wilson is efficient. He averaged a whopping 9.8 yards per attempt in the opener, so don’t let the <200 yard game fool you.

We need to monitor the status of Joe Haden for the Steelers. If he is out, the Steelers could be down to the likes of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton as starting corners. If you think that Seattle will fall behind and need to take to the air more often, there’s potential here. Tyler Lockett saw just two targets in the opener, but remember that Wilson only threw the ball 20 times. I would expect his target share to rise closer to 22-25% in the long run, and he’s a great bounce-back candidate — especially if Haden is out. Keep an eye on Haden’s status. In any case, Lockett is a great GPP option in a week where the masses will likely shy away.

D.K. Metcalf and Jaron Brown both played on 77% of the snaps in the first game, and they appear poised for large roles, at least for as long as David Moore remains sidelined. Metcalf appears to be the better fantasy option, as he led the team in targets (six), catches (four), and yards (89). I will caution against making too much of a one week sample size, but this is certainly encouraging. I’m going to stick with Lockett for this week, but our projections do like Metcalf as a point per dollar option on every site other than FanDuel.

This isn’t a team where I remotely interested in playing a tight end, as Vannett and Dissly had just four total targets in the first game. Their usage does not support fantasy production on a consistent basis. The same logic goes for Russell Wilson. He’s a great quarterback and is super efficient (as evidenced by the 9.8 YPA last week), but he doesn’t get enough chances to produce to give himself fantasy upside on anything other than his absolutely best days.

UPDATETyler Lockett missed practice on Wednesday for Seattle with a back injury. This needs to be monitored. If he is out, my stance changes on Metcalf and Jaron Brown, as both would be viable value plays.

Team Quick Summary: I will stick behind the guaranteed volume of Chris Carson and the likely increased volume for Tyler Lockett (if healthy). They should account for a good chunk of offensive production, and Carson is the one I will prioritize.

DFS Recommendations

Optimal DFS Plays: Chris Carson

Leverage Plays: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Tyler Lockett (if healthy)

Secondary Plays: Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner

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