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Steelers vs Browns Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, David Njoku, Chase Claypool, George Pickens

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The debuts of both Brownie the Elf and Acrisure Stadium were ones to forget. The Steelers, once again, lost a low-scoring match to the Patriots. While the Browns had one of the worst coaching decisions of the season and found a way to lose to the Jets despite leading 30-17 with 1:55 remaining.

Unfortunately, the negative news was all around the NFL in Week 2, headlined by Trey Lance’s season coming to an end. Despite the negativity, Week 2 had no shortage of surprising scores. We saw disappointing performances from the Colts and Bengals and incredible comebacks from the Jets and Dolphins. For fantasy, things weren’t much better. Unless you had a piece of the Miami passing attack, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Jones, or Amon-Ra St. Brown, you probably weren’t happy.

I couldn’t be happier to leave Week 2 in the rearview and welcome in Week 3 of the NFL season. We have two division rivals desperately needing a bounce-back performance this Thursday night. As always, my name is Ellis Johnson, and this is your Thursday Night Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em.

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Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns - 8:20 pm ET

Notable Injuries:

  • None

 

Must-Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

Nick Chubb (RB, CLE)

Nick Chubb has been on an absolute tear this season. With Jacoby Brissett under center, this offense lives and dies with the run game. Thankfully, Chubb is one of the best pure rushers in the league, rushing 39 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Despite only having four receptions for 28 yards, his rushing has powered him to be the RB1 through two games.

This week, he faces a Steelers defense that just let Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris rush for nearly five yards per carry, as well as allowed Joe Mixon to rack up 145 total yards in Week 1. Chubb is a fantastic play this week, and could very well manage to crack the top-five at the position.

 

Solid Starts for Fantasy Football Lineups

Najee Harris (RB, PIT)

Just like that, we’re already in the Solid Start portion of the article. Najee Harris has had an underwhelming start to the season. However, considering he has dealt with an injury and is on an offense that is battling for the title of worst in the league, it’s hard to expect much more.

Through two weeks, Harris has 112 total yards and one score. That’s not very good. Thankfully, you can always rely on volume for Harris. Volume alone makes him an RB2, even in this tough divisional matchup.

Pat Freiermuth (TE, PIT)

Friermuth has seamlessly continued his success as a rookie in his second season. Despite having only 22 yards last week, he managed double-digit fantasy points in back-to-back weeks. More importantly, he has managed 17 targets in two weeks. It’s nearly impossible to find this kind of usage at the TE position nowadays. So far, the Browns are middle of the pack against the position, but his usage makes him a middle-tier TE1 in Week 3.

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

So far it hasn’t been pretty for the former top-12 fantasy WR. However, he still manages to make the Solid Start section for many of the same reasons as his teammates. The volume for Johnson has been there in both games so far.

Through two weeks, he has managed 22 targets, 13 receptions, and 112 yards, and he has a very solid fantasy floor. In fact, he has led the team in targets in both weeks this season. Considering this Browns team just got torched by Joe Flacco and rookie Garrett Wilson, I’m thinking Johnson will have a very nice day and open the Pie Shop for the first time this season.

*Pie Shop: An Australian term (often used in Rugby League) to describe who will score a Try (or in this case touchdown) this week.

 

Flex Considerations for Fantasy Football Lineups

Kareem Hunt (RB, CLE)

After leading the backfield and scoring twice in Week 1, Hunt kindly let Chubb score all three rushing touchdowns in Week 2. Despite his generosity, Hunt still managed 74 total yards last week. In this juicy matchup (outlined with Nick Chubb), his steady floor and high upside make him a fantastic flex play.

Amari Cooper (WR, CLE)

I think these first two weeks have been a perfect example of what Cooper will be all season. After having three receptions for 17 yards in Week 1, he bounced back with nine receptions on 10 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown.

This week, he goes against a Steelers team that has allowed 100-plus yards to a receiver in back-to-back weeks. Although one of these receivers was superstar Ja’Marr Chase, the other was Nelson Agholor. I can’t tell you which Cooper you’re going to get this week, however, the matchup gives him enough upside to risk a flex-tier play in Week 3.

 

Consider Sitting for Fantasy Football Lineups

Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR, CLE)

I want to start this section off with DPJ as he is the only one in this section that I think could find his way to becoming a steady flex option this week. DPJ has had a relatively productive 2022 campaign, basically doing the inverse of his teammate Amari Cooper.

In Week 1, we saw him bring in six of 11 targets for 60 yards. In Week 2, he failed to record a catch on his lone target; however, he had a spectacular endzone catch on his one target that was ruled out of bounds. Despite failing to have a catch last week, I think DPJ’s true value is somewhere between these two games. If he is heavily involved for the second time in three weeks, he might be worth a glance in deeper leagues.

David Njoku (TE, CLE)

Despite all the offseason talk of Brissett targeting the TE position, this has manifested into six targets, four receptions, and 39 yards for Njoku. In a matchup with a low over-under, there are plenty of other TEs to stream with more upside similar floors.

Mitch Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett (QB, PIT and CLE)

Typically, I group similar players together when writing this article. However, these two are very different in their styles of play, yet both find themselves and “sit” options for Week 3. These two QBs have to lead their respective teams to a 1-1 record this season despite each having a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

Neither player possesses enough upside nor a safe enough floor to consider playing in Week 3. However, if I had to pick between the two, I would lean toward Trubisky as he has more rushing ability and is going against a team that let Joe Flacco pass for over 300 yards last week.

Chase Claypool and George Pickens (WR, PIT)

There’s no doubt that both of these players possess the athletic traits to be high-end options in the NFL. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible on a Steelers team with subpar QB play, a brutal offensive line, and multiple solid receiving options.

Interestingly, both of these receivers have had nearly identical receiving lines in both of their matchups this year. The Abbotsford, British Columbia native Chase Claypool has managed six targets and four receptions in each contest, while Pickens has had three targets and one reception in each game. You can’t rely on either play for the foreseeable future.

 

 

Ellis’ Picks

Pittsburgh +5.0 (2-0), Under 38.5 (1-1)

We are still riding a solid streak after hitting on the spread pick as well as the Pie Shop call in Week 2. However, I went against my gut and missed the over/under call, making us 3-1 on the season so far.

For this week, there are a couple of different narratives you can make. I’m under the impression that this will be a classic “grind it out” sort of game, with both defenses showing up. The Steelers no doubt have a strong defense; however, Cleveland’s D-line should feast against their abysmal offensive line. It is concerning that Flacco passed for over 300 last week and scored 30 points. However, I think my local high school team could stop the Steelers' anemic offense this year.

I think points will come at a premium and that the Steelers' defense won’t let this game get out of hand. Thanks again for reading my work. I’ll be back next Thursday breaking down my Bengals as they take on the red hot Dolphins in Cincinnati.

Career Thursday Night record: Spread (24-14), Over/Under (22-16)



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