Fantasy Outlook: Steelers @ Browns

It’s tempting to give the Browns a better shot to win this one that they probably deserve. After all, the Steelers are on a four-game slide that includes baffling losses to the Chiefs and Raiders, and they’ll be without two team captains (Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward). When you look at the game from the Browns’ perspective, your season’s effectively over, but at least you can spoil the playoff hopes of your long-time rival. They’ll show up to play (unlike most weeks).

Still, it’s the frigging Browns. My money’s on Pittsburgh.

From a fantasy perspective, Cleveland is generally a statistical bonanza for opposing players. They give up the second-most points to fantasy RBs and the tenth-most to QBs. Tight ends do particularly well against them (6th-most points) while they’re in the top half of the league in terms of defending against wide receivers. Heath Miller is a must-start, especially with Ward on the bench. Ben Roethlisberger is just a step below the elite QBs this week – I’d consider him a top-5 or -6 QB. Santonio Holmes had 104 yards against the Browns in week 6, and with Ward out he’ll likely be targeted more, so he’s an excellent start unless the weather limits the Steelers’ ability to go vertical. Rashard Mendenhall‘s ankle should be fine, and given the weather, he’ll get a ton of touches against that awful rush defense. He’s easily a top-10 back this week.

The Steelers, on the other hand, remain a tough fantasy opponent, though less so in recent weeks. They’re second only to the Vikings at stopping the run, so don’t expect much from Jerome Harrison (just hope he doesn’t get hurt – the Browns have KC and OAK coming up on the schedule). I have zero faith in Brady Quinn on a sunny 70-degree day, so I wouldn’t start him in the snow if you held a gun to my head. Same for any of the Browns receivers – if you’re thinking about starting any of them, how the hell did you make your league’s playoffs? Evan Moore could be a sneaky TE play if you’re desperate, given that Quinn will probably be going to his check-down option quite a bit.