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Steelers vs. Ravens Fantasy: Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown off to big starts

Bell's all-purpose dominance Sunday is attention-worthy, but history shows a significant advantage for Baltimore's defense against Steelers running backs.

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Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers' offense was in high gear early in their Week 1 win over the Cleveland Browns. Antonio Brown picked up 41 yards on his first touch of the game, and Le'Veon Bell amassed 40 total yards on his first four touches. Brown finished with 116 yards on five catches, and Bell had 197 yards from scrimmage. Both scored a touchdown in the win.

Can we expect a similar performance against Baltimore Thursday?

Certainly, Brown has a proven track record of those kinds of games. He racked up just a shade under 100 receiving yards per game last season, and now has 1,615 yards in his last 17 games. Bell cracked the 100-yard rushing barrier for the second time in his career Sunday, but it was also his second in his last three games, dating back to Week 16 of 2013. It's the receiving element of Bell's game that's critical, and it's the reason we pushed him so hard in any Fantasy format for this season.

The problem, as usual, is the Ravens. It has been going on 10 years since the Steelers last had a 100-yard rusher against the Ravens. That's the entire tenure of coaches Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh, plus a lot more. It's no accident, either. The Ravens' defense was built to stop the run, and while both franchises are among the top run-stopping units in the NFL over that time, Baltimore has had more success on the ground in the head-to-head than has Pittsburgh.

With the shortcomings in the second half against Cleveland aside (a tough run-defense team in their own right), the Steelers ran fairly well overall, and certainly on particular drives. Banking on a Steelers running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark against Baltimore simply isn't wise, historically speaking, but the utilization of a much quicker and sleeker Bell in both the passing and rushing games could result in another all-purpose feast for the second-year runner.

As for Brown, he beat Browns cornerback Joe Haden repeatedly, dragging up the field after Haden lost sight of him on a 35-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Brown had five catches in six targets, giving him an extremely productive 19.3 yards per target.

Both are obvious starts, but Bell will likely have to fight in both phases to score well against this Ravens defense. Cincinnati rushed 26 times for 71 yards in Week 1.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $250,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first place wins $25,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.