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Defenses and Dragons: Fantasy players to watch in Lions-Steelers

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A young receiver could help steel some fantasy wins this weekend.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, Defenses and Dragons will highlight two Detroit Lions and two opponents who stand out in the matchup, for better or for worse. It may be a stud who could struggle, or it could be a lower-level guy primed for a big game; either way, these are players who should over or underperform their typical output. D&D hopes to help out with crunch-time decisions by taking a closer look at the matchup through historical stats. All stated scoring assumes six points for all touchdowns and a half point per reception.

Matthew Stafford

Outside of Week 1, Matthew Stafford has been a passable—but not flashy—fantasy quarterback. He and the Lions are always a threat to put points on the board, but for a variety of reasons he is tough to rely on for consistency. Owners may be skeptical to play him against a good Steelers defense, but fire him up on Sunday night.

Statistically, only one team has been tougher on quarterbacks than Pittsburgh this year. At 11.6 points per game, fantasy owners may be slightly worried about slotting Stafford into their lineup this week. However, taking a look at the seven quarterbacks who have faced the Steelers so far (DeShone Kizer, Case Keenum, Mike Glennon, Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles, Alex Smith and Andy Dalton) should bring some comfort.

Ameer Abdullah

There is no denying that the Ameer Adbullah hype is all but gone after averaging just 8.7 PPG to start the year. The Lions have faced some tough run defenses, but Abdullah has still struggled to stay startable. The opportunity has been there with at least 14 carries per game since Week 2, but only finding the end zone once has been a killer.

The Steelers may look like a good matchup for Abdullah, but do not be deceived. Pittsburgh has been an above-average opportunity for fantasy running backs this year, but much of this is due to monster games from Jordan Howard and Leonard Fournette. The other five RB1s have averaged under 9.0 points against this defense; Adbullah is looking at another mediocre performance.

Ben Roethlisberger

The mantra has always been to sit Ben Roethlisberger on the road, but he has not been great anywhere this season. The road woes have led the way, with a mild 15.0 PPG figure aided by an early trip to Cleveland. The end is rapidly approaching for Big Ben, and his days of fantasy productivity are quickly fading. Sit Roethlisberger on Sunday night.

Outside of Cam Newton, the Lions have kept most quarterbacks in check. Most of this has to do with interceptions, which have been an issue for Roethlisberger at times. The Lions are not in the elite territory, but their 16.4 PPG average puts them 11th in the league against the position. The Steelers will put the ball in the air, but the results may not be that pretty.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

Strange developments with Martavis Bryant have opened the door for young JuJu Smith-Schuster to line up opposite Antonio Brown. While Brown leads all fantasy receivers in points this season, there are enough targets to go around to make additional Pittsburgh receivers valuable. Smith-Schuster could be a solid back-end receiver during Week 8.

Smith-Schuster has not received a ton of looks so far, but he is firmly the No. 2 receiver with Bryant out. He has already found the end zone three times this season and should have an opportunity to score again given an increased role. While the Lions are above-average against WR1s, they rank in the bottom third against WR2s and WR3s.