FOX Sports Exclusive
PIT-TEN Lineup Calls
“It is kind of disappointing, running down the same road every Sunday or whatever. We’re not able to put drives together and put up points.”
That quote was uttered by embattled Tennessee running back Chris Johnson following the Titans’ blowout loss to the Vikings. The dominant Minnesota run defense limited Johnson to just 24 rushing yards on 15 carries (1.6 YPC), and he was invisible in the passing game (one reception for five yards). Alas, that one-game, completely unexpected burst of fantasy production that came against the Texans in Week 4 was short-lived.
What do you do with Johnson this Thursday night against the Steelers?
You take some minor consolation in the fact that safety Troy Polamalu will not be available to clean up the run game. I suppose the injury sustained by Javon Ringer (knee) takes away the specter of a decrease in Johnson’s workload. Still, the Steelers’ defensive front, led by Casey Hampton, have allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to running backs while playing without Polamalu, and this Tennessee offensive line has been terrible. Johnson sits firmly at the back of my RB2 rankings for this week.
Conversely, the Steelers welcomed veteran tailback Rashard Mendenhall back into the mix during the Week 5 win over Philadelphia. Mendenhall demonstrated great burst in his 14 carries (81 yards, including a touchdown) and an ability to get to the edge. I fear that the short week forces the Steelers to work a split with Isaac Redman, but Mendenhall is a borderline RB1 this week. The Titans have surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs, and Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh passing game should afford Mendenhall scoring opportunities.
Roethlisberger was shut out in Week 5 by the Philadelphia pass defense, though he had several opportunities left on the turf. Mike Wallace struggled through a terrible game, leaving a couple of potential big plays on the field. Wallace caught only two of his eight targets against the Eagles for 17 yards. That won’t happen again this week.
“The Agitator,” Cortland Finnegan now showcases his talent in St. Louis, thereby leaving the Titans without an identity in the secondary. To date, Tennessee has allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and a total of 12 passing touchdowns. I know that it’s a road game for the Steelers coming out of a hard-fought Week 5 contest. It doesn’t matter. Roethlisberger is my fourth-ranked quarterback this week. Wallace rates as a top-10 option with tag-team partner Antonio Brown at No. 15.
Your “Man-Crush” option of the week is tight end Heath Miller. Miller has been a red zone beast for the Steelers, producing six catches in nine targets with four touchdown receptions. That level of activity in the red zone ties him for third in the NFL. The Tennessee pass defense has allowed eight touchdown receptions to tight ends. Lock and load as a “Ninja” (sleeper) this week if the Bye week hits you.
More Stories From Michael Harmon