The Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer in control of their playoff hopes this season. Entering week 17 they are faced with a must-win game against the Cinncinati Bengals. To make matters more complex, they may be playing without a full complement of their offensive weapons. Antonio Brown is officially questionable heading into Sunday’s game with a knee injury that reportedly required further tests. This came after he exploded for 185 yards and two touchdowns in their previous game. James Conner, who has missed the last three games while dealing with an ankle injury, is also listed as questionable.
There is no argument that fantasy football is a fickle game under normal circumstances. Fantasy Football during week 17 can be an unpredictable field of landmines with some players not playing the entire game, or resting entirely. For many owners who may still be playing heading into a week 17 championship game, James Conner is a common player on championship teams.
Fantasy Football: Jaylen Samuels or James Conner For Week 17
Entering the season, savvy owners were able to grab Conner off of waivers due to the Le’Veon Bell holdout that ended up lasting the entirety of the season. Conner has excelled in his role, showing some of the same athletic prowess that made Bell a coveted asset. His success has led to a well-deserved spot in the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter.
In the 12 games he’s played this season Conner has rushed for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also has 52 receptions for 467 yards and another score through the air. His consistency at the position was one of the more reliable among his peers at the position, and fantasy owners have rejoiced.
Conner left the week 13 game with an ankle injury after compiling 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Los Angeles Chargers.
With Conner out the last three games, the Steeler have employed a rotation of backs consisting of rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley. Samuels has performed well with the increased touches. In the three games as the starter, he’s rushed for 223 yards and reeled in all 12 of his targets for 105 yards and one score. Part of the allure to rostering and playing Samuels is that in some formats he has tight end eligibility. With the tight end position being sub-par at best this season, he’s been a sneaky piece to plug into lineups.
Steelers fans, though not happy about how their team ended up in such a tight spot for their playoff hopes, remain hopeful with the matchup. The Bengals travel to Pittsburgh and bring their bottom-end defense with them. The Bengals defense is allowing the ninth-most points to wide receivers and the third-most to running backs. Their offense is without several key pieces as well, meaning ball control is in the Steelers favor. The matchup is tantalizing for all Steelers’ fantasy options.
Last Word on James Conner or Jaylen Samuels
The matchup is mouth-watering for owners of either Conner of Samuels. While Conner remains on the questionable list, he has been a full participant in practice during the week. Expectations are that he will indeed suit up and barring any setbacks, he will lead the backfield in touches. However, Samuels has played well enough to garner more involvement. Samuels has shown that he is a reliable option, especially in the passing aspect of his game.
Both of their values could see increased utilization if Antonio Brown isn’t ready to go. Assuming Conner suits up, he’s a high-end RB1 for this matchup. Samuels has flex appeal with the expected involvement on passing downs. The Steelers are playing for the postseason and while they need the win, they are also looking to protect the players that lead them in the playoffs.
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