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Ranks reax: Losing faith in the Steelers

10/5/2011

Whenever I look at any rankings, either the ESPN Week 5 rankings or other ones, there's always a name or two that just feels out of place. For me, heading into Week 5, those names belong to individuals on the Pittsburgh Steelers. I felt good about Ben Roethlisberger as a top-10 quarterback and Rashard Mendenhall as a top-10 running back and the team's normally stingy defense before the season ... but no longer.

Roethlisberger is likely to play this weekend, but fantasy owners who leave him active simply based on his name, loyalty or previous numbers are missing the obvious: Not only is he limping around on a sprained left foot, but his situation reminds me of a far quicker and just as compelling quarterback calling another Pennsylvania city home. Michael Vick can't stay healthy behind a beaten and battered offensive line, and neither can Roethlisberger. At least Vick is playing decently; Big Ben ranks 28th in standard quarterback scoring so far. Even Donovan McNabb has more! Aaron Rodgers scored more in Week 4 alone than Roethlisberger has scored all season. Don't drop Roethlisberger, but a show-me game against a strong Tennessee Titans defense -- a top-10 fantasy defense so far -- is no time to expect a turnaround.

Same goes with Mendenhall, who is averaging a poor 3.0 yards per rush. He's 30th in the league in rushing yards, but of the fellows ahead of him, only Chris Johnson -- their teams go head-to-head this week! -- has a lower yards per carry. And Johnson's best is clearly to come. With Mendenhall, nursing a sore hamstring and unlikely to practice much this week, I can't say that. Watch the Steelers and you'll see the line is a big problem, more so than in prior seasons. I was the only ranker to think Mendenhall will play Sunday, but his No. 26 rank certainly is out of whack with the first four weeks, or last year for that matter.

Don't expect a ton from Isaac Redman, either. He's a big guy at 230 pounds, but there's only so much you can do when there are no gaps to run through. Redman has averaged 4.7 yards per rush in his career (75 attempts), but again, this is not the week to expect much. I ranked Redman 29th, easily the worst in the group, partly because I think Mendenhall will play -- it was described as a mild injury -- but also because the Titans have controlled the running game since facing Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 1.

As for the Steelers' defense, my able colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft discussed that sad situation, and I concur. I ranked the Steelers' defense 17th this week. I never thought I'd see that. I wouldn't necessarily move on, because their Weeks 6 and 7 games against the Jaguars and Cardinals, respectively, are attractive, but without James Harrison, I see that defense as a future waiver pickup when the six-team byes end, not the No. 1 unit drafted this season. Move on.

Wanna use a Steeler? I like Mike Wallace, as always. And Antonio Brown remains on my list of wide receivers to add now, before he really blossoms. And that's it.

Here are a few other names that appear to look out of place in my rankings, though they're mainly matchup-related:

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers: Yep, he just torched the Indianapolis Colts' awful run defense for 127 yards and 19 fantasy points, and I have him ranked a meager 24th this week against the San Francisco 49ers? What's going on here? Well, I just saw the Niners shut down LeSean McCoy to the tune of 18 rushing yards. Through four weeks, the underrated San Francisco defense -- the linebackers are terrific, unlike embarrassing Philly -- has permitted an average of 6.8 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. The next most formidable run defense is Baltimore's 10 fantasy points per game. The 49ers are legit. As such, Blount is not a strong play this week, in my opinion.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston Texans: I've seen enough of him to cease believing he's a breakout performer; he's 27 now. That said, he did have a good final two weeks of last season when Andre Johnson was out, and he should be productive the next few weeks. Like the other rankers, I chose Jones over Kevin Walter, but what I really think happens is Arian Foster just goes off for 150 rushing yards per week. I also gave what I thought was a strong rank to tight end James Casey; look for myriad opportunities for Owen Daniels and other tight ends to line up on the outside. Casey gets downfield well, and I can see him being productive. I ranked Jones more of a flex than starter this week.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Here's where I am not buying. Yes, Garcon appeared to have a rather good game Monday night against the Buccaneers, with his 26 fantasy points accrued on 146 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Those were his lone catches. New quarterback Curtis Painter really didn't look any better to me than what Kerry Collins was showing; Garcon just caught a few short passes and did all the work, with 129 yards after the catch. You cannot rely on that consistently. I ranked Painter 25th of 26 quarterbacks this week -- only Blaine Gabbert didn't make my (or our staff) ranks -- and I gave the worst ranking for Garcon, and was probably too kind to Reggie Wayne at No. 20. Sorry folks, the Indy offensive situation really didn't get better except for two broken plays.