Last updated: November 21st at 8:00pm ET
Team Totals: Steelers 22.5, Bengals 15.5
Almost as bad at playing quarterback as he is at fighting, Mason Rudolph will nevertheless make his eighth straight start, this week against a Cincinnati defense that’s permitted top-13 quarterback results in eight of its last nine games while showing no pass-rush capability with league lows in sacks (13) and QB hits (37). Rudolph turned in his season-best game when these teams met in Week 4, completing 24-of-28 throws for 229 yards and two scores in Pittsburgh’s 27-3 rout. Rudolph’s ceiling is limited by JuJu Smith-Schuster’s (knee, concussion) absence and his own utter lack of rushing value, but this is a good two-quarterback-league spot. He might be worth a desperation stream in 14-team season-long leagues. … Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds formed a near-even timeshare after James Conner’s (shoulder) early Week 11 exit with Edmunds out-snapping Samuels 33 to 25 but Samuels out-touching Edmunds 10 to 8, out-targeting him 6 to 3, and scoring Pittsburgh’s lone touchdown on a third-quarter reception against the Browns. Benny Snell’s return from a midseason knee scope likely poses more of a threat to early-down grinder Edmunds than swiss-army-knife Samuels. While this backfield threatens to devolve into a three-man RBBC until Conner returns, I’m quite willing to take my chances with Samuels as an upside PPR flex play. Samuels has averaged 8.0 targets and 6.4 catches over his last five games and should create all kinds of mismatch problems against Cincinnati’s coverage-deficient linebacker corps.
Rudolph’s 2019 target distribution: JuJu 43; Diontae Johnson 39; Samuels 37; James Washington and Vance McDonald 33; Conner 17; Johnny Holton 9; Nick Vannett 8; Edmunds 6; Tevin Jones 4. … The Steelers’ sans-JuJu three-receiver set will likely be comprised of Johnson and Washington outside with Jones in the slot. … Johnson and Washington have similar Week 12 outlooks against a Bengals defense that lost LCB Dre Kirkpatrick to I.R. and can’t rush the passer, creating big-play opportunities on the backend. Despite having faced a league-low 292 pass attempts, Cincinnati has coughed up the NFL’s third-most 20-plus-yard completions (47). Johnson and Washington are upside WR3 plays with hiked opportunity in a plus spot. … McDonald is also set up nicely; the Bengals have allowed 45 completions on 59 tight end targets (76.3%) for 595 yards (10.1 YPA) and four TDs. Darren Waller and Foster Moreau combined for a 7/86/1 receiving line on nine targets against Cincy just last week. … A Dontrelle Inman-type talent at 6’2/217 with 4.53 speed, Jones offers long-shot WR4 appeal with a plus matchup and lots of opportunity. Jones inherited JuJu’s slot role in last week’s loss to Cleveland, drawing four targets on 26 pass routes. Holton figures to operate as the Steelers’ situational depth threat and No. 4 wideout.
The Steelers’ D/ST is among Week 12’s most-obvious plays facing a Bengals team against which enemy defenses have banked top-12 fantasy scores in 8-of-10 weeks, including five top-six results. Pittsburgh is stout enough up front to turn Cincinnati into a one-dimensional, pass-reliant unit, meaning lots of Ryan Finley dropbacks behind arguably the league’s worst line. … The Steelers have held enemy backs to 3.77 yards per carry and four all-purpose TDs, and they limited Joe Mixon to 63 scoreless yards on 19 touches in these teams’ Week 4 affair. Still not a true every-down back, Mixon lost 50% of last week’s offensive snaps to Giovani Bernard. Mixon is a high-risk RB2 option on a team unlikely to score many Week 12 points. Despite his every-week involvement, Bernard hasn’t topped six touches in a game since Week 2.
Finley’s 2019 target distribution: Auden Tate 12; Tyler Boyd 11; Tyler Eifert 8; Alex Erickson 7; Mixon 6; C.J. Uzomah 5; Gio and Stanley Morgan 4; Damion Willis 1. … As Tate (concussion) appears unlikely to play, A.J. Green (ankle) has no reason to return to an 0-10 team, and Morgan missed early-week practices with an illness, Cincinnati’s likeliest Week 12 three-receiver set will have Erickson and Willis outside with Boyd in the slot. Boyd has been an extremely frustrating producer with one touchdown on 94 targets and zero yards in his last game, while Finley’s brutal play has deenergized the entire offense. Optimism for Boyd stems entirely from his heavy volume and matchup. 76% of the Steelers’ completions allowed have come in the slot, including 13 of Pittsburgh’s 21 touchdown passes allowed, 81% of their receiving yards allowed, and an 8.8 yards per attempt average versus a minuscule 5.0 YPA permitted on perimeter throws. Boyd also popped in Week 12’s Air Yards Buy Low Model. … Erickson has one catch for zero yards on seven targets since Week 8. … Willis opened the season starting in Green’s place, flopped so badly he got cut, and was brought back out of sheer necessity. … Eifert’s snap rates are 32% and 33% over the last two weeks. He was out-targeted by Uzomah in last week’s loss to the Raiders.
Score Prediction: Bengals 17, Steelers 16