Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire
Ben Roethlisberger (QB 1)
Big Ben is still at it, and even if I feel that he’s on the precipice of decline, I fully expect an easy top 12 finish. That should surprise just about no one as Roethlisberger has been a top option at QB (when healthy) for several years now. And that is no wonder considering he has a great arm and a great connection with the best WR in the NFL today.
Antonio Brown (WR 1)
Not much to be said for Brown, because when I wrote WR 1 next to his name, I didn’t just mean he’ll finish in the top 12. I meant that he will likely be the overall #1 WR this season. Sure, there’s a chance that Odell Beckham Jr. or DeAndre Hopkins may take it, or at least come close, but Brown’s skill at the position is definitely not matched. If anyone places higher than Brown, especially by any large margin, something will have gone terribly wrong for him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR 2)
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded in his 2017 rookie campaign to the tune of a WR 1Le7 finish. That is incredibly uncommon for a rookie WR. Now, when you dig a bit into the stats, you see that JuJu was way above average in efficiency because his 917 yards came on just 58 catches. By just about every measure, his efficiency as a rookie was through the roof. As teams adjust to the reality that there is more than just Antonio Brown for which their secondaries need to account, he should see some tougher coverage and likely his YPC will drop for the 15+ it was in 2017. Still, the Steelers are a very high offense team and can easily support 2 fantasy worthy WR’s. Draft JuJu with confidence.
Le’Veon Bell (RB 1ish)
This is pretty important about Le’Veon Bell. Bell’s holdout from the Steelers might not end when the regular season starts in a few days, and the O-line and fellow RB James Conner are good enough that the Steelers might not even need him to start. So Bell’s holdout makes it extremely difficult to judge his value as a top 4 pick in this year’s draft. While Bell obviously has the talent to end the season as the #1 overall RB, his contract dispute lingers large for fantasy owners. If you have already drafted, try to pick up James Conner, regardless of if you own Bell.
James Conner (RB 1/2-ish)
As I just mentioned, the Steelers O-line is very good. This is the same line skill that made DeAngelo Williams incredibly valuable during Bell’s previous absences due to injury or suspension, and Conner is a must own until Bell’s contract hold outcomes to a sure end. Bell plays a big enough percentage of the snaps that he may not be worth owning after Bell is back.
The Steelers have two TE’s- Jesse James and Vance McDonald. One or the other will probably score a touchdown during several games this season, but good luck guessing which. Keep an eye on James, as I like him more than McDonald, but I’m just not sure either will be worth owning this year.