2019 Fantasy Football: Pittsburgh Steelers Team Outlook
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Last year the Steelers attempted only 350 rushes, which accounted for 33.7 percent of their offensive plays. Over the previous three seasons with Le’Veon Bell rushing the ball, Pittsburgh averaged 408 runs per seasons highlighted by 2017 (437).
On the flip side, Pittsburgh threw the ball a league-high 689 times. With no Antonio Brown in 2019, the Steelers will have to become much more balanced on offense.
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For the first time since 2014, Roethlisberger played in all 16 games. He set a career high in completions (452), pass attempts (675), passing yards (5129), TDs (34), and Ints (16) with four of those categories leading the NFL. His completion rate (67.0) remains in an elite area. Even with a great season, Ben only threw over two TDs in five games. He passed for over 300 yards in eight games.
Over his 15 years in the NFL, Roethlisberger has a 144-69-1 record with two Super Bowl titles. When looking at his 2019 receiving options, Ben has one stud WR with a reasonable pass catching back. The Steelers questions at WR2, WR3, and TE point to a sharp decline in his pass attempts and production. Pittsburgh should push to become more balanced on offense this season. Look for 80 to 100 fewer pass attempts, which points to about 4,500 passes yards with about 28 TDs. More of a QB2 for me in 2019 unless his secondary WRs earn high marks in training camp.
Over 13 games, Connor did his best impersonation of Le’Veon Bell. James finished as the 6th highest scoring RB in PPR leagues while averaging 17.63 Fantasy points per game. What he did do better than Bell was score TDs (13). Over a four-game stretch midseason, Connor gained 689 combined yards with seven TDs and 20 catches while averaging 22 touches per game. His only other game of value came in Week 1 (192 combined yards with two TDs and five catches).
Pittsburgh didn’t commit to Conner in his other eight games (8/17, 15/61, 9/19, 13/65, 9/25, 15/60, and 14/64) while having a step back in value in the passing games over his last five starts (1/8, 6/24, 4/42, 3/14, and 3/30). His injury created a window for Jaylen Samuels to flaunt his skill set, which will hurt his overall chances in 2019. I’m going to price Connor at 250 rushes for 1,100+ yards plus about 50 catches with another 400+ yards. I expect double-digit TDs. All of this adds up to about 260 Fantasy points or a back-end RB1. A Fantasy owner in 2019 has to be careful not to price him as a top six back in the league.
The Steelers gave Samuels only 19 touches for 85 combined yards with two TDs and seven catches over the first 12 games of the season. The injury to James Connor led to two productive games (92 combined yards and seven catches and 172 combined yards with two catches) plus one steady game (64 combined yards with one TD and three catches). Samuel has a full back feel who has enough quickness to fill in as a lead runner. His hands grade well, and Jaylen can make plays in the slots if asked to line up against linebackers.
Over his last three seasons at NC State, Jaylen caught 195 passes for 1,755 yards and 18 receiving TDs. He added 167 rushes for 964 yards and 27 TDs over this span. His receiving skills set ranks higher than Connor for me, and he does have a nose for the goal line. At the very least, Samuels receives between eight and ten touches per game with more upside if an injury occurs to the lead RB. Must own insurances.
If James Connor had an injury in 2019, Snell could work as the early-down back. Over three seasons at Kentucky, Benny gained 4,089 combined yards with 48 TDs and 29 catches while receiving 766 touches. He runs with patience and vision while lacking the wheels to make big plays. Snell offers minimal value in the passing game.
Steelers’ fans will now have to root for the younger elite WR on the roster with Antonio Brown shipped to Oakland. Smith-Schuster may even be the better player. Last year he caught 111 of his 166 targets for 1,426 yards and seven TDs, which led to the 8th highest scoring at WR in PPR leagues. Juju had eight games with over 100 yards receiving and eight games with eight catches or more. Pittsburgh gave him ten targets or more in ten games. Last year Pittsburgh completed 283 passes for 3,302 yards and 24 TDs on 436 targets to the WR position. Smith-Schuster had about 40 percent of the WR opportunity in 2018.
Even with a drop off in passing attempts, Juju will hold value by seeing a push toward 50 percent of the WR chances. The new and improved Antonio Brown with the skill set to catch 120+ balls for 1,500+ yards and a dozen TDs. Don’t be shy with his draft value this season. Pittsburgh will make an effort to erase all their WR records with Smith-Schuster.
In each season at Oklahoma State, Washington showed growth in his production (28/456/6, 53/1087/10, 71/1380/10, and 74/1549/13). He scored 33 TDs over his last 39 games with ten or more TDs in each of his previous three years. Over four seasons at college, James caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and 39 TDs while gaining an astounding 19.8 yards per catch.
Washington is a high-cut WR with long legs, which leads to him having deceptive deep speed. He catches the ball with his hands while offering a plus release off the line. He struggled to find his rhythm in his rookie season (16/217/1 on 38 targets). His game is more built on a big-play outside WR than a possession type player. Washington should emerge as the WR, which sets a playable floor if the summer reports are positive. A reasonable chance at 60 catches for 900+ yards and five to seven TDs with a 16-week starting job.
For much of his career, Moncrief underachieved his skill set while being a Fantasy tease in drafts. In his only season with the Jaguars, he caught 48 of 89 targets for 668 yards and three TDs. In his career, Donte has a short catch rate (57.8) while scoring 21 TDs in 69 games. Moncrief offers size and speed while receiving a significant upgrade in QB play. He’s young enough to emerge as the WR2 in this offense, but his history of failure and up and down play tempers my expectations. Worth a flier if now overpriced on draft day. Think of him a dual WR2 in this offense, which works if he’s drafted after round 12 in 12-team drafts.
In a semi-starting role, McDonald set career highs in catches (50), receiving yards (610), and targets (72) while scoring four TDs. Last year both Vance and Jesse James were on the field for 564 snaps each. Pittsburgh completed 86 passes for 1,119 yards and six TDs on 117 targets. McDonald has never played a full season in his six years in the NFL. I don’t believe A + B = C here, but Vance will surely get a bump in chances if he stays healthy. I’d price in some missed playing time while understanding a 60/700/5 season is within reach. Just be sure not to overpay for his risk on draft day.
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