Preseason Week 1 Fantasy Football Game Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2RGW01J Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Chase Edmonds runs with the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth see less playing time than expected: They were both part of rotations last regular season, and the rotations seem to be more competitive this year.

Allen Robinson II leads the Steelers’ starters in playing time: Robinson might be a bigger part of the offense than we first anticipated.

• The Buccaneers’ backup running spot is wide open: Chase Edmonds was expected to be the clear backup in Tampa Bay, but Ke’Shawn Vaughn currently sits in the second spot.

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Jaylen Warren leads in snaps with Steelers starters: Najee Harris started the game, but Warren also played significantly.

  • Harris played each of the team’s first three snaps. Warren replaced him for second-and-11 and third-and-10, which isn’t surprising considering those were the kinds of situations Warren played in last season.
  • Warren stayed on the field for the following first-and-10 and was replaced by Harris for a first-and-10. Harris was then replaced by Warren for another first-and-10.
  • The Steelers turned to backups for the second drive, which included not just replacing Harris for the night, but also Warren.
  • We already anticipated Warren playing in passing situations this year, but this at least increases the possibility of him taking more snaps on early downs, too.
  • This could be enough of a reason to move Harris down the rankings at least a little bit until we see the Steelers’ starters again this preseason, if at all.
  • It’s also possible the Steelers were just trying different things with the offense. Harris never ran the ball but did catch a pass, whereas Warren was used more as a runner than a receiver — the opposite of what we’d typically expect.

Monitor the Steelers’ tight end rotation: Pat Freiermuth similarly saw fewer snaps than expected with the starters.

  • Freiermuth played five of eight snaps in 11 personnel and neither of the snaps in two-tight end sets.
  • Zach Gentry was the Steelers’ run-blocking tight end last season, which cost Freiermuth some pass routes out of run formations.
  • Pittsburgh drafted Darnell Washington, who is also a run blocker. If Freiermuth stops playing in 12 personnel, that might be enough to keep him from being a top-10 fantasy tight end.
  • The fact that Washington played three snaps in 11 personnel with the starters was also alarming.
  • With both the running backs and the tight ends, this could just be the team wanting to try things with Kenny Pickett on the field. But it could also be a sign of things to come.

Allen Robinson II might fight for the second receiver spot: Robinson played significantly with the starters, including in 12 personnel.

  • Diontae Johnson played both snaps in 12 personnel, one with George Pickens and the other with Robinson.
  • Robinson also played every snap in 11 personnel, while Johnson and Pickens both took a play off.
  • Pickens was rarely playing in 12 personnel in the first half of the season but played more than two-thirds of snaps there in the second half of the season.
  • The addition of Robinson wasn’t expected to impact Pickens’ playing time, but there is at least a chance it will.
  • Pickens caught a highlight-worthy 33-yard touchdown pass to end the first drive, so ideally, he can find a way to keep those snaps.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn has the early lead on the Buccaneers' backup job: Vaughn started the game and played the first several snaps for Tampa Bay.

  • The Buccaneers played Vaughn for a while, then Edmonds for a while and then back to Vaughn and back to Edmonds.
  • Tampa Bay similarly rotated its running backs by drive during the regular season late last year.
  • This could simply be a case of Vaughn having more experience in the offense, and it’s close given the similar snaps.
  • It’s unlikely that Rachaad White is playing more than 75% of offensive snaps once the regular season starts, so one of these running backs — not both — will see some significant playing time in the regular season.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • The Buccaneers announced Rachaad White, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, a few offensive linemen and several defensive players wouldn’t play before the game.
  • Undrafted rookie wide receiver Rakim Jarrett was also among the players ruled out before the game. He’s put together a strong camp, but even then it would be surprising if he’s already earned a day off.
  • Wide receiver Russell Gage is locked into the third receiver spot. While he wasn’t among the clear starters who didn’t play, he took snaps on the first drive only, and his night was done before the rest of the Buccaneers' “starters.”
  • Tight end Cade Otton similarly left before other players who started the game. He played the Buccaneers' first 14 offensive plays and then left mid-drive. While it was a little surprising to see him play considering he was the clear starter to end last season, it doesn’t seem like anyone will surpass him.
  • Steelers Calvin Austin III was a fourth-round pick last season but then missed the entire year with a foot injury. This was his first preseason game, and he caught a 67-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

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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