NFL Fantasy: Expect Smith-Schuster to shine for Steelers on Monday

The AFC North is a tough place at the best of times, but at 0-3 the Steelers are in real trouble Can JuJu Smith-Schuster turn things around on Monday night?


We have a classic AFC North divisional matchup but find both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers searching for their first win of the season.

For those unfamiliar, single-game slates feature five flex spots with identical scoring to the main slate. However, kickers are included in these contests and there is an “MVP” roster slot. The MVP receives 1.5-times his total fantasy points, making this spot crucial. has the Steelers as -3.5-point home favourites, presenting us with what should be a close and interesting game, as the over/under is set at 44.5.

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MVP Considerations

Andy Dalton (£15,000) – Despite the Bengals being 0-3, Dalton has been very consistent to start the season, scoring a low of 18.1 points and a high of 20.72 points. A very reliable option to use in the MVP spot, who will be looking to exploit a weak Steelers defence, who are allowing 20.4 points per game to quarterbacks, which is the ninth-worst in the league. Through the first three weeks of the season, the Steelers have allowed two or more touchdowns and over 300 yards in two of their three games.

Cincinnati also appears to be committed to the passing this game ahead of the running game, as Joe Mixon has 11 or fewer rushing attempts in two of his three games this season. The Bengals lead the league in passing play percentage at 72.92% this season. Dalton is averaging 43 passing attempts per game, which is the fifth-highest in the league so far this season. Dalton comes in as our third-highest projected player tonight, giving him strong upside if he is utilized in the MVP spot.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (£13,500) – Smith-Schuster has been the best offensive player for the Steelers this season, so it’s a no-brainer to target him as an MVP option tonight. He leads the team in targets, receptions, yards, air yards, target market share, market share of air yards, and is tied for touchdowns. The Steelers are making it a point to get JuJu the ball early and often, which should only continue tonight.

The Bengals are allowing 27.5 points per game to wide receivers this season, which is one of the better ones in the league, but have faced the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills in two of their games. The Bengals secondary have yet to face a receiver who is borderline elite, which is why their numbers are rather strong.

PITTSBURGH, PA – SEPTEMBER 15: A Pittsburgh Steelers fan waves a terrible towel during a stoppage in play in the second half during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field on September 15, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

John Ross (£11,500) – The Steelers are allowing the third-most points per game to wide receivers this season, putting Ross in the ideal matchup. Ross started the season on fire with two touchdowns and 158 yards in a win over the Seattle Seahawks. He followed that up with another 100+ yard performance and touchdown versus the San Francisco 49ers, but fell flat last week in a tough matchup versus the Buffalo Bills.

Value Plays

Nick Vannett (£5,000) – With Steelers’ starting tight end Vance McDonald set to miss this game, newly acquired Vannett is likely to have a role within the offence. He comes in at the minimum salary, which offers an immense amount of salary flexibility in a single-game format. Our projections have Vannett as the third-best value play tonight, along with a 4.21 target projection, which is the seventh-highest on the slate.

He will likely be very popular due to all this, but that shouldn’t scare you off of Vannett since his point per dollar value can be exceeded with a single touchdown. The Steelers have an implied team total sitting at 24.00 tonight, which suggests multiple touchdowns, one of which could go Vannett’s way if they reach the red zone. McDonald is going to be out due to an injury, but was is interesting is the fact that both of his receiving touchdowns have come while in the red zone this season. If the Steelers are making it a point to target their tight ends in the red zone, you want some shares of Vannett tonight.

DENVER, CO – NOVEMBER 19: The Denver Broncos defense stops running back Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals near the goal line in the first quarter of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 19, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

James Washington (£6,500) – Washington is another value option to consider tonight, coming in slightly above the minimum salary. In Week 3, Washington played on 49-of-54 (92%) offensive snaps, which was the second-highest on the team behind Smith-Schuster. He only turned that into five targets for two receptions and 14 yards in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The usage within the offensive isn’t immense right now, but the opportunity is worth going after, since the Bengals are allowing 27.5 points per game to wide receivers this season.

Once Mason Rudolph took over the starting job at quarterback, there was plenty of discussion surrounding the idea that Washington and him share an “on-field” connection. They played together in the preseason over the past two seasons, along with being teammates at Oklahoma State, where they played three seasons together. From 2015 to 2017, Washington recorded over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each season, giving this a bit of merit. Regardless if you buy into that narrative, the lower price and offensive opportunity are strong for Washington.

CINCINNATI, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 15: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals is tackled by Kwon Alexander #56 of the San Francisco 49ers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 15, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tyler Eifert (£7,500) – Eifert can often be a boom or bust player, but the matchup versus the Steelers is worth attacking tonight. Pittsburgh is allowing 10.3 points per game to tight ends this season, which is the 12th worst in the league, presenting a clear path to value tonight. Eifert is tied for the team lead with two red zone targets, one of which has resulted in a touchdown.

If a player lacks overall usage and consistency within the offence — like Eifert — he can make up for that with high equity targets in the red zone. Consider adding him to your player pool as you build out multiple lineups.

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What do you think?