Since his phenomenal rookie campaign in 2004, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been the cornerstone of everything black and gold since first stepping on the field.
Spanning through a Hall of Fame career that features two Super Bowl victories among a plethora of other accolades, there's no doubting Roethlisberger's ability to impact a game, even heading into season No. 18.
However, on the virtual gridiron of fantasy football, that same sentiment isn't reserved for Roethlisberger. Simply put, Roethlisberger isn't some "sexy" fantasy pick, by any stretch at all. He won't get you points on the ground like Lamar Jackson, while also not necessarily putting up gaudy numbers through the air like Patrick Mahomes.
But can he still get the job done for your fantasy team?
Roethlisberger, coming off reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow, finished 14th in fantasy points (277.2 per FantasyPros) among NFL quarterbacks despite not playing in the season finale in Cleveland in 2020. His average fantasy points per game (18.5) puts him at 12th for quarterbacks that played more than 10 games last season.
Now, let's take 2020 into consideration.
Roethlisberger played behind a very average (that might even be a stretch) offensive line. Don't let his low total of 13 sacks last season fool you into thinking Pittsburgh did an adequate job of protecting Roethlisberger, as that total was largely in part to former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner's play-calling to get the ball out of his quarterback's hands quickly.
The "three-step and sling" mentality also played a big part in his 6.3 yards per attempt last season, a career-low, according to The Athletic's Ed Bouchette.
The absence of a formidable running game in 2020 also indirectly impacted Roethlisberger, turning the Steelers into a one-dimensional team and thus slightly easier to gameplan for. Take into account Roethlisberger's receiving corps led the league in drops last season, and you have quite the argument that, just maybe, the Steelers' demise in 2020 wasn't all on the shoulders of Big Ben.
If anything, the Steelers may see an improved version of Roethlisberger, assuming his elbow returns to 100% health.
Not all see it that way, however.
"A more balanced offense would be good for Ben Roethlisberger's fantasy value. The Steelers' ineptitude running the football made the offense far too predictable," said FantasyPros' Joe Pisapia.
"Big Ben went from low-end QB1 during their undefeated start to a low-end QB2 during their collapse. At 39, injury is always a risk, but as a Superflex QB2, he's safe in terms of value on the board. He has three talented wide receivers and a new star RB in Najee Harris from Alabama. The offensive line is still not great, limiting his upside in matchups against teams with an intense pass rush. Roethlisberger and the Steelers' attack will continue to be less aggressive than years passed. For clarity, Big Ben averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt. That was worse than Drew Lock and Mitchell Trubisky towards the very bottom of the league. He's serviceable at this point as a QB2 but lacks the weekly upside of his younger peers."
Heading into 2021, Roethlisberger finds himself ranked as consensus QB22 in expert rankings with a consensus ADP (Average Draft Position) of 156. In short, if you're in a fantasy draft with ten people, Roethlisberger isn't being drafted until round fifteen, effectively sitting as a back-up quarterback on many rosters, if being drafted at all.
With his current draft position, Roethlisberger projects as a perfect buy-low candidate in the later rounds of fantasy drafts. Newly promoted offensive coordinator Matt Canada's offense brings promise of more modern concepts, and with a (hopefully) improved offensive line, a solidified threat out of the backfield in Najee Harris and a low chance Pittsburgh's young but uber-talented receiving corps again leads the league in drops, Big Ben could potentially bounce back in a big way for 2021.
This spells good news for fantasy owners looking for value, especially at the quarterback position where premier guys will look to go early in drafts. However, Roethlisberger's age, health and (at this moment unproven) offensive line are all reasons fantasy football players are avoiding the Hall of Fame quarterback at this point in his career.
Admittedly so, those are valid concerns. However, with all the above stated in the case to draft Roethlisberger, it's also notable to point out Roethlisberger has the 4th-easiest schedule for fantasy quarterbacks heading into 2021.
The perfect game plan? Grab a guy like Ryan Tannehill or Tom Brady (both considered third tier on FantasyPros' rankings) in the middle rounds after building your RB/WR's and snag Roethlisberger in the tail end of your draft, providing a low-risk/high-reward play at the quarterback position.
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