Fantasy championships will be won and lost on the injury to Antonio Brown.
Not that this is a tragedy any different than other serious injuries suffered by our Fantasy studs this season. It just stinks when it happens when you're this close to a Fantasy championship.
After failing to catch a pass in the end zone Sunday versus the Patriots, Brown was helped off the field without being able to put any weight on his left foot. The Steelers announced that Brown had a left calf bruise but was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. ESPN later reported that Brown had a partially torn calf muscle.
If you're looking for a replacement for Brown, there are some options available in the early look at the waiver wire for Week 16. Brown's short-term departure opens the door for lots of targets and lots of playing time for all of the other Steelers receivers beginning in Week 16.
You won't be able to find Smith-Schuster on many waiver wires (95 percent owned) but you have to figure he'll find a slew of passes slung his way from Roethlisberger. He had a clutch 69-yard catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter to put the Steelers in scoring position. He also caught all six of his targets, upping his catch rate to 69.4 percent for the season. Must-start rookie receiver at Houston next week? You better believe it.
Bryant will be the most popular Steelers pickup off waivers following Brown's injury. He's 53 percent owned. A season-long underachiever, Bryant caught a lovely four-yard lob from Ben Roethlisberger with his right hand and also stretched out for a beauty for 39 yards. He finished with 59 yards and the score on four grabs (six targets) and should be able to match those numbers against an out-to-lunch Texans defense in Week 16. Whether you had Brown or not, Bryant is a must-add off waivers.
We're going to hear a lot of talk about whether or not James legally caught the go-ahead touchdown against the Patriots, but let's not lose sight of him being the guy in the middle of the field that Roethlisberger found, nor the fact that he had five targets, more than all but two wide receivers on the team. If the touchdown counted, Fantasy owners would be excited to grab James as a Week 16 streaming option. Let the box-score purveyors overlook James' potential in an offense without its top playmaking receiver — he's going to come up big in at least one game while Brown's out.
This is pretty much it for the Steelers. Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter and Xavier Grimble will be good role players but none are expected to post numbers even close to what you'd want for Fantasy purposes.
One last factor to keep in mind: The Steelers could be in a position to rest their starters in Week 17. If it happens, you probably won't see any of these guys on the field. So if you pick these guys up, do it with the intention of leaning on them in Week 16. If you get to start them in Week 17, consider it a bonus.