The New England Patriots face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2 as both teams look to try to find their identity. Fantasy football managers have tough roster decisions to make entering the matchup – with one of them being whether you should start Patriots running back Damien Harris or Rhamondre Stevenson against the Steelers.
Should you start Damien Harris vs. Steelers?
The Patriots produced one of the worst offensive performances across the league in Week 1. They managed just seven points, and quarterback Mac Jones suffered a significant back injury. No one was shocked that the Patriots’ offensive coordinator duo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge was a major step down from former coordinator and now Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels.
Harris was the leading rusher for the Patriots but produced only 58 total yards on nine carries and two receptions. He played 39% of snaps, holding steady with his career average. He’s still clearly the RB1.
Entering Week 2 against the Steelers, Harris is ranked at RB35 and No. 120 overall in our expert PPR fantasy football rankings. With that ranking, he’s a fine flex option but not especially strong. You should have a better starting option, but it’s not the end of the world if Harris needs to play.
Our friends at Underdog Fantasy have projected Harris to have 64.5 total yards, 51.5 rushing yards, and 11.15 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues. I like the lower side of these since Harris is so touchdown dependent. But he’s a terrific touchdown threat so consider splitting the higher on the points and lower on the yardage.
The Steelers’ defense ranked as one of the worst units against rushers in fantasy last week and remains a favorable matchup. The loss of T.J. Watt is massive, but the Patriots may be able to take advantage more as they throw the ball. I don’t expect the Steelers’ defense to be able to hold their ground too effectively without Watt.
Should you start Rhamondre Stevenson vs. Steelers?
While Harris is a legitimate RB1 on the Patriots and remains a solid flex option, Stevenson has lost some value after a Week 1 where he played just 25% of snaps. He averaged a 34% snap share last season. That is a huge drop-off that could be helped as Ty Montgomery went on the injured reserve.
With eight carries and two catches for only 27 total yards, the good news is Stevenson was given the chance to be the hot hand. He simply didn’t take advantage. That means more opportunities will come his way, even if he wasn’t effective in Week 1.
With an Underdog Fantasy projection of 41.5 rushing yards and 12.5 receiving yards, it’s clear that his expectations are a bit low this week. He’s suffering from an uncertain role and quarterback situation. It’s not wise to force him to start in your fantasy lineups because of that.
It’s true that Stevenson could go off this week because the Patriots remain unpredictable, but the unit that produced a few fantasy-relevant players in 2021 now has a number of questions we simply don’t have the answers to right now. Only start Stevenson if you have to, or you believe he’ll see relevant goal line touches.