The 49ers // Steelers game will turn on defense this week, as the 49ers’ much-improved defense will be playing at home against Mason Rudolph, while Pittsburgh’s typically-much-better-than-this defense (more on this in a moment) will be taking on Jimmy Garoppolo and a 49ers offense that looked good last week against a Bengals team that had multiple assignment breakdowns and tackling issues, but that looked much less polished the previous week in Tampa.
We’ll start on the side of the visitors, where pricing for Week 3 was released before it was announced that Ben Roethlisberger would officially be out of action for this game. Because DFS pricing matters in our decision-making, there are very few defensible statistical reasons this week for playing Pittsburgh offensive pieces in a tough spot on the road with Rudolph under center and pricing set for Roethlisberger. Rather than paying up for JuJu Smith-Schuster in an effort to be sneaky, you could instead keep an eye on ownership projections for DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, who are each projected at the mid-point in the week to be far lower-owned than they ever should be. And instead of trying to get sneaky with Donte Moncrief or James Washington at the low end of the price range, you could realize that someone like Damiere Byrd or JJ Arcega-Whiteside will also go overlooked, with a legitimate role in a good offense. Point being: it’s not that it’s impossible for one of these Steelers to have a really strong game; but there are spots that are far likelier to hit, and that will be equally overlooked. (I won’t be building around the Steelers myself; but if you did want to go here, the way to do it would be to bet on this Pittsburgh offense really clicking, and this turning into something of a shootout. By playing this less-likely scenario, you would need one unlikely thing to go right in order to cover three or four spots on your roster, instead of needing one unlikely thing to go right in order to cover only one.)
This game doesn’t get much more exciting from a DFS perspective on the other side, where the 49ers backfield has turned into a three-man show, with Raheem Mostert taking on the biggest pass-catching role, Matt Breida likeliest to lead in carries, and Jeff Wilson suddenly appearing to have the primary red zone role. (All this against a Steelers team that has been better against the run than against the pass.)
As for the 49ers matchup against the pass ::
It’s no secret that the Steelers pass defense has looked bad this year; but they have the pieces in the secondary to be better than they have been, and they have the pass rushing juice necessary to move Garoppolo off his mark. While not exactly guaranteed, it is “more likely than not” this week that Keith Butler takes out some of the more complicated concepts in his defense and focuses a bit more heavily on fundamentals before adding pieces back down the road, as most of the Steelers’ issues have been centered around communication and coverage breakdowns, rather than around lack of talent. If this happens, this matchup could become more difficult for Jimmy G than the Steelers have shown the first two weeks, making it difficult to find much floor on this spread-the-wealth attack, and making it impossible to do more than “guess and hope” for ceiling outside of the one, always-obvious piece.
JM’s Interpretation ::
For me, this game is simple: it’s George Kittle in Tier 3, because he always has enough upside to be considered — and then leave everyone else alone. A big score or two could emerge from this game, but the salary-based risk you take on to target that game from Pittsburgh is just unnecessary this week, with more +EV plays available; and the guess-on-volume risk on the 49ers is completely unnecessary as well, on a slate with so many great spots available to choose from.