Ben Roethlisberger has missed the past four-plus weeks with a badly sprained MCL and bruised knee suffered Week 3 in St. Louis. The Steelers have managed to go 2-2 in his absence, but Big Ben appears set to make his return Week 8 against the undefeated, division-rival Bengals.
Despite Roethlisberger admitting he experience some aching and pain in his knee after returning to practice last week, coach Mike Tomlin said there will be restrictions or reservations on his quarterback this week, and the expectation is for him to start Sunday, pushing Landry Jones back to the bench. We’ll have to wait to pen Big Ben into lineups until he gets in a few practices, but it sounds as if owners will have their starting quarterback back for the stretch run.
Once Big Ben returns, he’ll be a locked-in QB1, and it’ll be the first time all season that he, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant will all play together. Bell debuted Week 3 when Roethlisberger was injured, and Bryant didn’t play until Week 6 after serving a four-game suspension and hurting his knee in a Week 5 practice. This offense was one of the most potent attacks over the course of the second half of last season and should become that unit again when Big Ben returns. Brown, particularly, gets a massive boost after not scoring a touchdown and topping 45 yards receiving just once the past four games. Brown is now priced low on DFS sites and has as high an upside as anyone with Roethlisberger under center. Bell also should see more running room.
In Other News…
Following his 31-touch, 162-yard, one-touchdown Week 7 against the Giants, Darren McFadden has been named the Week 8 starter in the Cowboys’ backfield. The matchup isn’t ideal against the Seahawks, but based on the Cowboys’ top-notch offensive line, Matt Cassel being at quarterback, and Dallas playing at home, McFadden is a solid RB2 play. Joseph Randle is nursing an oblique injury, and the whole Christine Michael thing proved to be empty. He played just seven snaps Week 7. McFadden needs to be added in all formats he’s available. Michael can again be cut loose.
After Dion Lewis missed Week 7 with an abdomen injury, he returned to practice Tuesday on a limited basis. He did the same last week before ultimately sitting, so we’re not going to get 100 percent clarity likely until Thursday afternoon ahead of the night game with the Dolphins. Tentatively, Lewis is expected to play against Miami. With Brandon LaFell back and Danny Amendola picking up his game, there are a lot of mouths to feed in New England. Treat Lewis as a mid-range RB2 if he plays.
Jason Pierre-Paul was the most-popular player on Rotoworld Tuesday, requiring a whopping five blurbs on what is typically the slowest news day of the week. After mangling his hand in a July Fourth fireworks incident, JPP has yet to play this season. Due to his injury, the Giants and Pierre-Paul needed to rework his contract as he was scheduled to play on the franchise tag. The two sides agreed to a deal Tuesday, and Pierre-Paul is expected to debut within the next couple weeks. He should greatly help a pass-rush that has produced the second-fewest sacks.
Ryan Mallett missed the team flight to Miami on Saturday and instead had to pay his own way to the road game. Coach Bill O’Brien was heated and wanted to release Mallett on the spot, but GM Rick Smith talked him out of it, as the Texans would have been without a backup quarterback Week 7. Now that the team is back in Houston, the Texans released Mallett on Tuesday. He’s proven to be a child this season, first missing a training-camp practice the day after Brian Hoyer was named the quarterback. After retaking the job early this season and then losing it again, Mallett was seen pouting on the sideline. He has major character issues and might be on the street awhile. The Texans have signed former backup T.J. Yates to yet again fill that capacity behind Hoyer.
Taken with the No. 7 overall pick this past April, Kevin White has yet to play a game due to a lower-leg injury that required surgery. Eligible to return at any point after starting the season on reserve/PUP, White admits he’s doubtful to play this year. He likely won’t debut until 2016. The Bears will continue to roll out Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson behind No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Quarterback & Running Back Slants
Seahawks signed RB Bryce Brown. Long on talent, Brown hasn’t been able to get out of his own way in Philadelphia and Buffalo. He’s a freak athlete, but has ball-security issues and shown an inability to run inside. … Texans officially placed Arian Foster (Achilles’) on season-ending I.R. The Texans are expected to employ a committee approach in Foster’s absence. … The Titans are hopeful Marcus Mariota (knee) will practice Wednesday after he sat out Week 7. … Coach Gus Bradley said T.J. Yeldon may start to see more goal-line work. Bradley also wants Denard Robinson to get more work. … Coach Jay Gruden said he wants to use the bye week to fix the running game. … Carlos Hyde (foot) is expected to play Week 8 against the Rams. … Coach Jim Caldwell said he promoted QBs coach Jim Bob Cooter to OC because of his relationship with Matthew Stafford. The Lions likely want to push the ball downfield more.
Wide Receiver & Tight End Slants
Victor Cruz (calf) remains without a timetable to return. … Falcons rookie WR Justin Hardy is expected to make his NFL debut Week 8 after being inactive to start the season. Leonard Hankerson (hamstring) will likely sit. … Colts promoted WR Quan Bray from the practice squad with Phillip Dorsett (leg) out 4-6 weeks. … Marqise Lee (hamstring) doesn’t have a timeframe to return. … Julius Thomas has a “mild” groin injury. … Jeremy Maclin (concussion) “just wasn’t right” ahead of being inactive Week 7. … The Raiders “plan” to make Clive Walford a bigger part of the offense, but he’s barely on the TE2/3 radar until further notice.
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