Steelers Fantasy Football: Take Your Chances on WRs and TEs in Week 1

Sleepers, starters and bench fillers - The Steelers Monday night matchup with the Giants leaves plenty of options for your fantasy football lineup
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It's football week. Seriously.

The long, anxious, uneasy wait is over, and the NFL returns for Week 1 in less than 24 hours. Which means it's time to turn that anxiousness away from worrying about if football will happen and focus it on your fantasy football team.

The Steelers and Giants wait until Monday night to open their 2020 season. MetLife Stadium will be empty, but the energy is about to be high as two teams with plenty of potential hit the gridiron for their first step towards the playoffs.

As we move into the weekend, it's time to double-check your fantasy football team. If you're like me, you try to stay away from your favorite team when you're drafting, but with a team this stacked with potential, it's nearly impossible to avoid them.

So, let's look at our options for Week 1. The Steelers and Giants present plenty of starters and sitters, and could even leave you with a sleeper or two for opening week.

Start 'em

Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants

You shouldn't move Saquon Barkley onto your bench until his Bye Week. And even then, it's tough to say he won't somehow get you 10 points.

Barkley was likely a top-three pick in your fantasy league and should be treated as one until proven otherwise. The Giants offensive line lacks experience, but Barkley has worked with rough o-lines throughout college and in New York.

He rushed for 1,003 yards in 13 games last season. He had eight combined touchdowns and was the only player on the roster you felt comfortable enough starting every time he was on the field.

He's in a development situation in New York, but he's easily your star player on your fantasy team. Treat him as such.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers

The Giants released DeAndre Baker on Monday, leaving the defense a little hectic before Week 1 kickoff. They signed James Bradberry over the offseason, who will likely guard Smith-Schuster most of the time.

But JuJu looks good. Smith-Schuster came into camp with extra energy and like everyone else, is thrilled to have Ben Roethlisberger back on the field.

Last time he had a Pro Bowl quarterback, Smith-Schuster caught for over 1,400 yards in a season. Working on a contract year, with more haters than fans barking down his back, the wide receiver has upside as your starter.

Evan Engram, TE, Giants

Mike Tomlin said it himself that Evan Engram is a matchup problem for the Steelers. The shifty tight end is a wide receiver who plays on the offensive line, and the Steelers' only linebacker with that much speed might be Devin Bush.

It's hard to say Marcus Allen sees the field in Week 1, even if he's the only linebacker with Engram's versatility. Leaving the tight end up against players who are going to have to work angles to stay in front of him.

Engram could end up being the Giants' top receiver on Monday. If he finds a lane for a big play or two, you could be looking at an even bigger game than you were hoping for.

Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers

Smith-Schuster requires top cornerback attention. Leaving Diontae Johnson matchup with second-year cornerback Corey Ballentine.

Johnson showed all the flashiness of a starting wide receiver in his rookie year while working with two backup quarterbacks. He's spent the offseason at Ben Roethlisberger's house, getting into a rhythm with his quarterback.

Every time he talks to the media, he expresses his optimism for the return of Big Ben. The two seem in-sync and locked in on the offense.

The Steelers have a lot of wide receivers they'd like to get playing time for, but Johnson and Smith-Schuster will be the top two in the mix. Leaving upside for Johnson to outshine the Giants' former sixth-round pick on the outside.

Eric Ebron, TE, Steelers

Eric Ebron hasn't been named the starting tight end in Pittsburgh yet, but Roethlisberger loves nothing more than a big-bodies pass-catching tight end. 

The last time Ebron has a Pro Bowl quarterback, he caught 14 touchdown passes. Working in an offense with weapons around him, the defense will need to try and find a single-coverage matchup to line up with him. 

That's nearly impossible.

Ebron runs routes like a receiver and catches like one too. He has the strength to bully smaller defensive backs and will be a matchup nightmare for New York. 

Look for the new tight end to catch a touchdown in his first game with the Steelers. If he finds a lane or two, he could end up with a nice chunk of fantasy points by the end of Monday. 

Sit 'em

Daniel Jones, QB, Giants

People are high on the potential of Daniel Jones this season. Maybe the second-year Eli Manning replacement does shine this year. But it's not likely to start happening in Week 1.

The Steelers defense led the NFL in turnovers last season and nearly earned the team's sack record.

Jones will need to find success throwing to Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and maybe Golden Tate while they're lineup across from Joe Haden, Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton.

If we're placing bets, I'd put more faith in the Steelers, creating more turnovers than allowing passing touchdowns.

James Conner, RB, Steelers

James Conner is a player you're nervous about from the jump. The Steelers' backfield is pretty loaded right now, and although Conner will be the feature back, we don't know what the workload is for a player who's had injury problems and no preseason to work with.

It wouldn't surprise me to see the Steelers work Conner as much as they need to and no more. If they take a decent lead early, Benny Snell Jr. could take over to keep Conner fresh for next week.

Really, it's just a waiting game with Conner. You have to see how much and how well he plays in Week 1 before you start pushing him into your starting lineup consistently.

Giants Defense

Ben Roethlisberger is back, and he's ready to start winning. Monday night, coming off reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow, looking to show all the doubters he's not done yet - c'mon, that's too much to bet against.

There's no bias. Roethlisberger looks sharp at practice. The entire team talks about him during Zoom calls and he's brought a smile back to the Steelers.

You can look at last season and say the offense around him struggled. It's true. But what a strong pass game does to a team changes a lot.

If the Giants have to play the pass, Conner has the ability to find holes in the middle. You add Ray-Ray McCloud and Chase Claypool to the mix, and now Big Ben has more options to work with. Lesser known options.

And when the defense needs to focus on everything going on, it's going to be difficult to say put a double-team on Smith-Schuster or Johnson.

It's too much to feel confident putting the Giants Defense in your lineup.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers

How do you leave Big Ben off the list for Week 1 fantasy options? You don't.

Here's the thing, though. Roethlisberger can be an explosive fantasy option in Week 1, if he's as sharp in a game as he has been in practice.

When you miss an entire season with an injury, don't have preseason games to get those jitters out, and are working with limited time to adjust back to football life, you don't have a clear indication to how well you'll handle your first few series.

I don't expect Roethlisberger to struggle the entire game in New York, but wouldn't be surprised if it takes him a bit of time to find his rhythm.

Taking a chance on him in Week 1 could easily be worth it. If you have another option, though, it's safer to shy away from the Steelers quarterback. 


Steelers Defense

On the other end, the Steelers defense has the potential to be the top fantasy unit in the NFL.

They led the league in turnovers last season, had a defensive player of the year finalist, and lost one starter over the offseason - which they replaced with a player who started five games last year.

Fantasy wise, this group has the ability to earn you 20-plus points every week. Maybe Barkley hurts those odds a little, but Jones is going to have a lot on his plate. As long as one dimension of the offense is taken away, it's easier to shut down the other.

Unless we're missing something when it comes to the Steelers defense, this group is a sleeper every week. Until they begin playing higher-powered offenses, keep them around. 

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.