This week in the Fantasy Spotlight the focus is on the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers season ended one win shy of a Super Bowl appearance in 2016. The perennial title contender will need to finally get past the New England Patriots to get a seventh championship ring. The spotlight shines on the team from the “steel city” and their host of fantasy stars.
Fantasy Spotlight 2017 Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers
Raise your hand if you thought Ben Roethlisberger was going to retire this offseason? Yeah, we didn’t think so either. Despite “seriously” considering retirement, Roethlisberger is back for his 14th season behind center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The two-time Super Bowl champion is looking to head to a fourth big game in hopes of capturing an NFL best seventh title for the Steelers.
Despite having a wide array of weapons, the fantasy knock on Roethlisberger has always been injuries and his production on the road. While Roethlisberger takes the brunt of the criticism for road failures, the Steelers as a team tend to play a less aggressive offensive style on the road. Big Ben finished the 2016 season with 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He started 14 games, missing two games, one for injury and one for a meaningless week 17 game.
Home/Road Splits: per profootballreference.com
Five of the Steelers final eight games in 2017 take place at Heinz Field. The Steelers also have five primetime games and last year Roethlisberger was 3-0 with a 139.9 QB, 11 touchdowns and one interception when the lights were on. Per fantasypros.com Roethlisberger has an expert consensus rating (ECR) of 89th with an average draft position (ADP) of 88th. The Steelers possess one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL and Roethlisberger leads the way.
Spotlight Says: QB2
Landry Jones/Joshua Dobbs
The Steelers resigned Landry Jones this offseason to a two-year contract. Joshua Dobbs was drafted in the fourth round in this year’s NFL draft. While some believe Dobbs could be the heir apparent to Roethlisberger, neither he or Jones are expected to make any fantasy impact in 2017.
Spotlight Says: Undrafted
There are some certainties in life that you can’t get past, Le’Veon Bell producing all-world fantasy numbers is one of them. When on the field, there are very few players that are more dynamic than Bell. Despite only playing in 12 games last season, Bell totaled 1,884 yards (1,268 rushing, 616 receiving) and scored nine touchdowns. Not many running backs can play all three downs for the duration of the game, Bell is one of them. Per playerprofiler.com his 95.2% opportunity share (% of teams carries and targets) ranked number one amongst all backs. His fantasypros.com ECR is second and as ADP is second. Only David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals offers the complete package like Bell, which is why they are both the consensus top two picks in any format. Bell finished as the ninth overall player in 2016 according to NFL Network.
Spotlight Says: RB1, top three draft pick
Pittsburgh drafted James Conner in the third round the 2016 NFL draft. Conner was a star at the University of Pittsburgh and with DeAngelo Williams gone, he will be the primary backup to Bell. With Bell dominating snap share, there will be very little chance for Conner to make any fantasy impact. However, should Bell get hurt or have any off the field issues, Conner will be the guy to target. His ECR is 216 and his ADP is 220.
Spotlight Says: RB5, draft as perfect handcuff to Bell
Knile Davis was signed in the offseason for running back depth. Fitzgerald Toussaint was re-signed for the same reason. While both have shown flashes of ability, neither will make any fantasy impact in 2017.
Spotlight Says: Undrafted
Consistency is something all NFL players strive for and something all fantasy players look for. Fantasy players should look no further than Antonio Brown. Brown has finished as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver four years in a row. Two of those four years he was number one. Brown was the consensus top overall pick in 2016 and although his numbers were down from 2015, he did not disappoint. NFL Network’s number four player of 2016 caught 106 passes for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. While the focus has shifted back to the running backs in 2017, Brown will be a top five pick in all formats. Brown’s ECR and current ADP are fourth overall.
Oh yeah, one other thing, don’t let the return of Martavis Bryant make you believe Brown will lose targets, because those two years as the number one overall receiver…. were WITH Bryant on the field.
Spotlight Says: WR1, top five pick
Perhaps one of the biggest questions marks entering 2017 surrounds the unbelievably talented Bryant. The Steelers troubled wide receiver missed the entire 2016 season due to suspension. 2015 was his last full season, a season in which he caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns. He also had a sensational touchdown catch against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs. Pittsburgh has been extremely patient with Bryant during his off the field troubles. They realize they have a star in the making on their hands. Ben Roethlisberger has been impressed by Bryant’s work ethic this offseason, stating that Bryant “looks like a stud, as usual.” His ECR is 67th and his ADP 63rd.
Bryant is a high risk/high reward draft pick. There is always concern that his off the field issues will surface again. However, there is no denying his ability to make an impact as part of the Steelers offense. The question for you however is: are you willing to take that risk? The fantasy spotlight says you should!
Spotlight Says: WR2, mid-round steal
When Bryant was suspended before the 2016 season, the Steelers were looking for someone to step up and support Antonio Brown. While most of the support came from Le’Veon Bell, Eli Rogers emerged to finish third on the team in receiving. The shifty Rogers caught 48 passes for 594 yards and three touchdowns. He should get the first crack to play with Brown and Bryant in three receiver sets, however he should not be relied on for significant fantasy production. ECR is 230th and he is going un-drafted in most standard and PPR leagues.
Spotlight Says: WR4, worthy of bench spot
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a very talented young wide receiver drafted out of the University of Southern California. Despite the raw talent, there are a plethora of talented players ahead of him on the depth chart. He is not worth drafting in standard and PPR leagues, however he is a must draft in dynasty leagues.
Spotlight Says: Undrafted in standard/PPR leagues, second round in dynasty drafts
The Steelers waived Ladarius Green in the offseason, opening the door for Jesse James to be the number one tight end. James caught 39 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. James has proven to be a reliable target for Roethlisberger and is not afraid to get hit down the middle of the field. He is a favorite of both his quarterback and coaching staff. He has the potential to grab five or six touchdowns in this explosive offense.
Spotlight Says: TE3, bye week replacement
Do Not Draft: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Best Value: Le’Veon Bell
Worst Value: Jesse James
Surprise Candidate: Eli Rogers