Dez Bryant: Breaking Down Matchup for Injured Dallas WR vs. Steelers

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys scores a touchdown against  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Dez Bryant is in the midst of a career season in 2012. Unfortunately, the injury bug has struck the explosive Dallas Cowboys receiver. He sustained a fractured index finger during the fourth quarter of his team's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. 

With fantasy football playoffs going on and the Cowboys still in the playoff hunt, the question on everyone's mind is what we can expect from the controversial wide receiver.

The first and most obvious answer is that we can expect that he will play. 

According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN, team officials feel that Bryant will be able to play with a stint on his left index finger. 

The fact that Bryant can play has to be a relief to Cowboys fans. Just having him on the field will make the Cowboys offense more dynamic, as he is someone that the Steelers must account for on every play. However, fantasy owners get nothing from Bryant serving as a decoy. 

Here's a look at Bryant's matchup against the Steelers and what fantasy owners should expect from him. 


Opponent Outlook

Even without an injury, Bryant draws a tough matchup in the Steelers. 

Pittsburgh's defense has been a good unit all season, and its best attribute from a fantasy perspective is the ability to shut down receivers. According to ESPN's data, the Steelers have given up 16.1 points per game to opposing receivers. Only four teams have been better at slowing down receivers. 

Of course that doesn't mean that Pittsburgh is impervious to good wide receiver play; the Chargers receivers torched the Steelers secondary for three touchdowns last week. However, looking at the entire body of work, this isn't an easy matchup.


Injury Outlook

As mentioned earlier, it appears that Bryant will play. One has to wonder how effective he can really be with a fractured finger. 

Bryant is an incredible athlete. He's sixth among wide receivers in fantasy points this season and he's undoubtedly the No. 1 option for Tony Romo this season as well. However, it's important to note that he isn't the only option in the Cowboys offense. 

If this were Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona it would be different, but the Cowboys can easily look to give DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and Miles Austin more touches. 

If Bryant isn't 100 percent, the Cowboys have no reason to keep forcing him the ball.



Those looking for the huge performances that Bryant has put up lately may be disappointed.

Between a tough matchup and the injury, it's hard to envision Bryant going off and having a huge week. The most likely scenario is that he is used mostly as a decoy and will see a red zone target or two. 

If you have another option on your bench, it may be best to see how Bryant plays with the splint and go from there rather than plugging him into your lineup and hoping for the best this week. 

Predicted stats: 3 receptions, 20 yards, 1 TD