By Christopher Harris


Week 17

Pittsburgh Steelers


Cleveland Browns


Analysis: In Week 17, the Steelers will: play all-out, because a win clinches the AFC North and a first-round bye, while a loss coupled with a Ravens win could see them slip as low as the No. 6 seed. In Week 17, the Browns will: play their regulars, if only to see if they can spoil Pittsburgh's party in a similar circumstance to last season, when in Week 14 they shocked the reeling Steelers. Either way, Eric Mangini figures to be on his way out the door.

Fantasy Up: The Browns defense continued to be newly strengthened against the pass last week versus the Ravens: Joe Flacco was in checkdown mode when he did throw (only 19 attempts), as they focused on the ground game. That's good news for Rashard Mendenhall, who may only have eclipsed 100 yards rushing in a game three times this year, but is working on 11 rushing scores and figures to approach 20-plus carries Sunday. As for Ben Roethlisberger? I don't like the matchup, and I don't like his offensive line, but I sure like the Steelers throwing it 32 times in a blowout over the Panthers last Thursday. Start him and hope for physical health, plus another long hookup with Mike Wallace. … Peyton Hillis unexpectedly put a bunch of fantasy teams on his back this season, then shook them off just when they needed him most. Ed Reed gave Hillis a huge shot on the Browns' first drive last week and he wound up having only 12 carries for 35 yards; while Hillis is still fantasy's No. 3 running back, he hasn't gotten double-digit fantasy points in any of his past four games, and has seen his per-carry average dip from 4.55 in the first 12 games of 2010 to 3.98 this month. Oh, listen, if he's healthy, Hillis isn't losing many looks to Mike Bell (as he did in Week 16). He had 18 touches for 90 yards in Week 6 against the Steelers, and he's got 13 total touchdowns (though again, none have come in the past month). This is an awful matchup against the Steelers defense, and if I had good alternatives, I'd use them. But I still kept Hillis in my top 20 rushers.

Fantasy Down: Will Colt McCoy be a fantasy factor if the Browns go to a West Coast system next season? I tend to doubt it, but he'll have a better chance than he does under Mangini and Brian Daboll's constipated mess. Brian Robiskie has scored a touchdown in consecutive games and Mohamed Massaquoi has flashed deep skill in his two-year career, but neither player looks ready to be a no-doubt No. 1 receiver just yet, and that, I think, will wind up being McCoy's limitation in 2011. … Is this the end for Hines Ward? He'll make a reasonable $3 million next season and the Steelers would never cut him outright, but he's really fallen off a cliff at age 34. He just can't run anymore, and he'll almost certainly post his worst statistical season since 2000. He's caught only five catches thrown beyond 20 yards in the air all season. He had 20 red-zone targets in '09; he has 10 in '10. With Emmanuel Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Antonio Brown making impacts in their rookie seasons, one wonders if Ward may have seen his final fantasy-relevant moments.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at and follow him at

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