News & Analysis

Jahnke: Fantasy football reactions from the Bengals’ MNF win over the Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25), left, celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter during an NFL Week 15 football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh Steelers At Cincinnati Bengals Dec 21

The Monday night battle between division rivals was expected to be a blowout win in the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ favor but ended up being a decisive victory for the now 3-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals.

Plenty of fantasy football hopes were riding on this game, and the vast majority of people relying on a receiver tonight probably ended up disappointed. Two receivers were injured without making a catch, and none of the pass-catchers came away with more than 60 receiving yards. Anyone relying on one of the starting running backs probably ended up okay, though.

As always, this collection of fantasy reactions will include snap counts for skill players on each team, along with notes on players who saw their fantasy stocks rise or fall during the action. 

Pittsburgh Steelers Cincinnati Bengals
WR WR
JuJu Smith-Schuster – 59 snaps Tee Higgins – 56 snaps
Diontae Johnson – 53 snaps A.J. Green – 51 snaps
Chase Claypool – 43 snaps Alex Erickson – 28 snaps
James Washington – 27 snaps Tyler Boyd – 11 snaps
Ray-Ray McCloud III – 4 snaps Stanley Morgan Jr. – 3 snaps
Mike Thomas – 1 snap
TE TE
Vance McDonald – 60 snaps Drew Sample – 51 snaps
Eric Ebron – 10 snaps Cethan Carter – 21 snaps
Mason Schreck – 1 snap
HB HB
Benny Snell Jr. – 51 snaps Giovani Bernard – 38 snaps
Anthony McFarland Jr. – 7 snaps Samaje Perine – 12 snaps
Jaylen Samuels – 7 snaps Trayveon Williams – 7 snaps
Total – 65 snaps Total – 56 snaps

Winner: RB Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

Bernard has been in a three-back timeshare in recent weeks due to a couple of underwhelming performances, but he stepped up his game for Monday Night Football. The Bengals' offense went almost entirely through Bernard, as he ran 25 times for 83 yards and a touchdown. He added a 14-yard catch that resulted in the Bengals' second touchdown of the night.

Cincinnati gave Bernard the ball 26 times while everyone else on the Bengals accumulated 22 carries and catches combined. Bernard is a safer play next week, given the playing time we saw from him in Week 15.

Injury Replacement: RB Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner was declared out earlier this afternoon, which didn't give fantasy managers much time to find a replacement. Snell took over as the primary back for Pittsburgh, and while it first appeared as though the backs would see a lot of rotation, Snell played more as the game went on.

The second-year running back ended up with 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while no other Steelers running back ran the ball more than once. Snell was also the most involved Steelers running back in the passing game, as he added 23 yards on three catches.

If Conner were to miss another game, Snell would likely once again dominate the touches in the Pittsburgh backfield.

Injury: WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

Boyd suffered a head injury late in the first quarter and didn’t return to the game, and Alex Erickson took over Boyd’s role as the Bengals' slot wide receiver. Like Boyd, Erickson was also targeted once, and that pass fell incomplete.

Erickson can be left on the waiver wire if Boyd is forced to miss the next game. It would mean a higher target share for both A.J. Green and Tee Higgins, as they were the only Bengals who were targeted more than once in this game. Because of how much the Bengals ran the ball, they ended up with a combined five catches.

Injury: TE Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ebron left early in the second quarter with a back injury from his only target of the night— which fell incomplete — and he didn’t return.

Ebron saw a drop in playing time last week, and that trend continued before he exited. Vance McDonald, who was already taking a chunk of Ebron's snaps, played the rest of the game as the Steelers' tight, though he never received a target. If Ebron misses time, McDonald can be left on the waiver wire.

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