The Pittsburgh Steelers offense was flat out taking on water by the time they were headed to Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship Game. Missing nearly all of their play makers in the 2016 season because of injuries and suspensions did not make it easy on the team or the player’s fantasy football owners.
That was last season; out with the old and in with the new. With the incoming draft class having taken shape and returning players, Steelers32 takes a look at just what type of fantasy value to expect in Todd Haley’s pick your poison offense.
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Big Ben enjoyed one of his best seasons as a pro; finishing with 3819 yards, 29 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 5.7 percent of his passes going for touchdowns last year. Roethlisberger did all this while carrying the Steelers deep into the playoffs with only two men on offense making a difference. Pittsburgh has afforded him the luxury of having too many options with the football. With the offseason additions, as well as having Bell for a full 16 games, look for Big Ben to have an even more dominant 2017. Roethlisberger is definitely a QB-1 moving forward.
As of right now, no other quarterback is worth putting on any type of fantasy roster. A case could be made to roster Joshua Dobbs in a dynasty league as no one seems to know how long Roethlisberger intends to play. Other than Roethlisberger, the quarterbacks on the Steelers’ roster can go undrafted but may be worth looking at if and when Big Ben suffers an injury.
Bell was the best back in the league for 12 games, an injury forced him to miss the AFC Championship and without him, the Steelers just could not defeat the New England Patriots in wintry Foxborough, Mass. Bell was the Steelers best running back, rushing for 1268 yards, seven touchdowns, 105.7 yards-per-game and 4.86 yards per carry. And it’s second most productive receiving option, catching 75 passes for 616 yards two touchdowns and Bell’s 79.8 percent catch ratio give him the best hands in the league in 2016. Bell is an obvious choice for RB-1.
Conner could not have asked for a better situation to enter as a rookie. Staying at home playing for his favorite team, backing up Bell behind the Steelers top-five ranked offensive line, could be a lot worse. Conner was quite accomplished at Pitt; finishing as the ACC’s All-time touchdown leader (56) and Rushing touchdown leader (52). Finishing 2016 with 1092 yards on 216 carries, scoring 16 touchdowns while maintaining 5.1 yards per carry average. Conner also caught 21 receptions for 302 yards, four touchdowns and a whopping 14.4 yards per catch average as a running back. Look for Conner to be a solid RB-3, possible RB-2. He’s not going to start but he should be a better version of DeAngelo Williams.
2016 saw Brown being forced to beast-up in order to carry one-third of the Pittsburgh offense. Brown was targeted 154 times in 2016. That is too damn much; that figure shows the lack of balance in the offense. Brown may have a better year in 2017 but should not see the volume of passes that came his way by necessity. Brown will continue to dominate; however, his numbers will suffer because the Steelers offense is loaded. Brown is still a WR-1 for sure and should be one of the first receivers off the board.
Bryant is a bit of a wildcard. Insanely talented, Bryant possesses the homerun speed and deep threat to open up Todd Haley’s offense for everyone. In 2015, Bryant was targeted 92 times; he caught 52 balls for six touchdowns, 765 yards; averaging 15.3 yards-per-catch. The question is will Bryant and Roethlisberger be able to squash the beef that came with his second suspension? Bryant is a WR-3 lock and a solid choice as a WR-2.
One of the two unknown commodities expected to make an impact on the Steelers offense, Smith-Schuster caught 70 balls for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns at USC. Smith-Schuster is the Hines Ward-type receiver that Pittsburgh has been missing since 2011. The big physical wide receiver who puts hands on the defensive back opposing him. Whether he is the third option in Pittsburgh or the second, look for Smith-Schuster to be a major factor in the Steelers’ offense. Smith-Schuster should start as a WR-3, but keep an eye on him to move up during the season.
Phase two of the Steelers’ offseason began last week and Green who only played in six games due to a concussion was on the field. Green was a large missing cog from the red zone offense and in attacking the seams. On the 18 passes he caught on 34 targets in 2016 he averaged a sizzling 16.89 yards per catch as a tight end. Should he be healthy for the start of the season, you should ride Green as long as he is on the field. Green should be a TE-2, or a poor roster’s TE-1.
James was an average tight end for the Steelers in just his second year in the league by catching 39 passes of 60 targets for 338 yards and three touchdowns. James is getting better and should have benefited tremendously from playing time last year. That being said, if Green is healthy, James will be the second tight end option on his team. James is a late round insurance gem; he should be drafted towards the end of your fantasy draft as a stash move or potential trade bait. James should only be drafted to be a potential TE-2 option, unless Green is injured.
The Happy Ending
Bell and Brown are going to find it difficult to replicate last season’s numbers. Look for the Stars to produce a quality season, but nothing crazy. Roethlisberger is being set up to have a phenomenal season. In fact, I would say the pieces are in place for his best season ever.
Look for the newcomers to make a lasting impression in terms of number two and three options on your roster. The tight end position is going to continue to be a mystery; one to keep a close-watch on through training camp and the preseason schedule.
Philip Robinson covers the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers for cover32. He is always on the lookout for WTF news of the week; if anything strange happens in Steelers’ related news, drop him a mention @chocp3thunder.