Preseason Week 3 Fantasy Football Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren (30) runs with the football against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Warren scores another touchdown: Warren might not take over the Pittsburgh Steelers backfield, but he will certainly cut into Najee Harris’ touches this season.

Calvin Austin II gets snaps with the first team: The slot receiver missed his entire rookie season, but he should get at least some playing time early in the season.

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PFF's fantasy football recap focuses on player usage and stats, breaking down all the vital information you need to achieve fantasy success in 2023. You can find more information on why it’s essential to pay attention to the preseason here.

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The Jaylen Warren hype doesn’t stop: Warren continues to mix in significantly with the starters, a sign he will see similar playing time in the regular season.

  • Najee Harris took the field for two plays at a time at most before Warren came in for a third play.
  • The NFL Network pregame show talked at length about how the Steelers said this would be more of a running back duo this season — like a classic thunder-and-lightning running back pair — and that the team would restrict Harris’ playing time.
  • We began to see this transition late last season.
  • Harris took 30 first-down snaps on the first drives of games from Week 1-14 last year, compared to two by Warren and two by other backups.
  • This changed over the last four weeks, with Harris taking 13 compared to Warren's four. Over the preseason, Harris has played eight and Warren has played four.
  • Harris is likely to remain the leader in early-down work when healthy, but Warren has slowly but surely cut into his playing time.
  • If Warren continues to take all of the passing-down work and a third of the early-down work, he could have standalone value this season, while Harris won’t be worth one of the top-20 running back spots.

Calvin Austin III gets more work with the starters: The former fourth-round pick has worked his way back from his Lisfranc injury and has moved up the depth chart.

  • In the Steelers' first preseason game, Gunner Olszewski and Cody White played a snap with the first team. Austin didn’t start playing until Pittsburgh’s second drive, which is when the backups came in.
  • The following week, Austin and Olszewski received a snap each with the starters, with Austin taking a fake end-around.
  • Austin was the only backup wide receiver to play a snap with the starters against the Falcons. He received two snaps, including a handoff on an end-around for 3 yards.
  • Considering all three Steelers starting wide receivers are capable of playing on the outside, it’s possible Austin could see the field in three-receiver sets anytime one of the three starters needs a play off.
  • It’s not out of the question that Austin takes over for Allen Robinson II as the Steelers' primary slot receiver at some point in the season.

Falcons TE Parker Hesse is on the roster bubble: The Falcons rested several other skill players who will make the roster, but Hesse was stuck playing in this game.

  • Hesse led the Falcons tight end room in offensive snaps last season with 646. 
  • He was primarily used as a run-blocker, catching one pass per game at most.
  • At a minimum, he's fallen below Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith and MyCole Pruitt based on preseason usage in all three games, as well as fullback Keith Smith.
  • John Fitzpatrick was the primary receiving tight end in this game, so if Atlanta wants to keep a fifth player who is more of a receiver than a blocker, Fitzpatrick could make the roster.
  • If Atlanta chooses to keep five tight ends/fullbacks, then Hesse’s job is likely safe, but the fact that he’s playing at all in this game isn’t a great sign.

Miscellaneous Notes

Table Notes

Snaps include plays called back due to penalties, including offensive holding or defensive pass interference. The other three stats have these plays removed.

Targets may differ from official NFL sources. The most likely discrepancy would be from a clear thrown-away pass, where the NFL may give the target to the nearest receiver, while this data will not.

Carries are only on designed plays. Quarterback scrambles won’t count for the total number of carries in the game.


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