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Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football Preview

Juju Smith-Schuster Steelers
JuJu was at the mercy of a few young QBs that were trying to learn the ropes on the fly. In what many expected to be a big season in terms of production did not come about.

By Craig Forrestal

The Pittsburgh Steelers had an up and down season in 2019. They started 1-4 and then got hot and found themselves at 8-5 only to drop the final three contests on the season to end 8-8. Another reason that it was up and down is because of the injury bug that bit the Steelers and it started with Ben Roethlisberger. The season-ending elbow injury gave the Steelers a chance to evaluate Mason Rudolph and that did not go as planned. The Steelers eventually called upon Devlin “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted rookie from Samford. Hodges was a great story to go from training camp unknown to starting a handful of games. However, the defense did the impossible and willed this team to victories constantly. The addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick added an element of playmaking that meshed beautifully in this defensive system.

Schedule

  • Week 1: at Giants
  • Week 2: Broncos
  • Week 3: Texans
  • Week 4: at Titans
  • Week 5: Eagles
  • Week 6: Browns
  • Week 7: at Ravens
  • Week 8: Bye
  • Week 9: at Cowboys
  • Week 10: Bengals
  • Week 11: at Jaguars
  • Week 12: Ravens
  • Week 13: Washington
  • Week 14: at Bills
  • Week 15: at Bengals
  • Week 16: Colts
  • Week 17: at Browns

Players To Know

  • Ben Roethlisberger-QB: When looking back at the career of Big Ben I think of two things immediately: 1) He is tough and 2) He is hurt a lot. Roethlisberger has played through some painful injuries in his career and now as the sunset nears on his career it will be interesting to see the lingering impact of those injuries. Those injuries cost him basically the entire 2019 season and now as a 38-year-old, he will try to return to his natural big-armed self after elbow surgery. He automatically makes them playoff contenders. In 2018, Roethlisberger threw for over 5000 yards, so the tank isn’t empty just yet. However, if you’re looking for Big Ben to be your only QB in fantasy for 2020 I’d advise you to reconsider.
  • James Conner-RB: When healthy Conner is a solid play weekly as the clear-cut workhorse RB in Pittsburgh. However, the problem is Conner played 10 games in 2019 due to shoulder injuries. In 2018, he missed a few games with a leg injury dressing for 13 games overall. As a 2017 rookie Conner played in 14 games before an MCL injury ended his season. This offseason Conner has dedicated himself to the weight room adding incredible size to handle the rigors of the NFL season. Conner looks primed for a rebound season; if he can stay healthy.
  • Benny Snell Jr-RB: With James Conner battling injuries on a regular basis it is good to have either another talented RB or to carry the handcuff. Snell handled the groundwork as a rookie in 2019 when Conner was out with injuries and did a good enough job to secure double-digit carries in some of those performances. He does not carry much value as a receiver.
  • Jaylen Samuels-RB: Jaylen Samuels is the pass-catching specialist for Pittsburgh and can come in handy when he is called upon. He has 73 catches in 2 seasons as a pro including 47 in 2019. With Roethlisberger back in control of the Steelers offense, he could carry some value in PPR leagues.
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster-WR: Well it was not a fun ride for fantasy rosters with JuJu in 2019. JuJu was at the mercy of a few young QBs that were trying to learn the ropes on the fly. In what many expected to be a big season in terms of production did not come about. The Steelers did draft Chase Claypool in the 2020 NFL Draft and the speculation is JuJu will get more reps in the slot; which was where he played when AB was on the roster. As long as Roethlisberger is healthy expect high-end WR2 numbers from JuJu this season.
  • Diontae Johnson-WR: When Diontae Johnson was selected by the Steelers Louis Riddick of ESPN proclaimed Johnson as the best route-runner in the 2019 draft. Johnson will likely be a popular breakout candidate pick this season as he routinely found success with below-average QB play and not being an every-down player. Johnson will have the chance to develop into a starting WR for Pittsburgh with Roethlisberger throwing passes. Last season Johnson posted 59 catches, 680 yards and 5 TDs. Those numbers led the Steelers in receptions and receiving TDs.
  • James Washington-WR: While there were high hopes for Washington last season especially when his college QB took over in Mason Rudolph, but he clicked with Duck Hodges instead. While he led the Steelers in receiving yards last season, I expect his opportunities to take a hit due to the addition of Chase Claypool and the expected growth of Diontae Johnson.
  • Chase Claypool-WR: Chase Claypool has all the physical tools to be the next great Pittsburgh Steelers WR. Claypool put on a show at the NFL Combine and made teams go back and watch film on him. There were some questions about whether or not he could transition to TE. I expect Chase Claypool to have a rookie season similar to DK Metcalf.
  • Eric Ebron-TE: Ebron was a beast in 2018 with Andrew Luck, but his numbers dipped with Jacoby Brissett in 2019. Ebron will immediately cancel any fantasy hopes for Vance McDonald. The exact role for Ebron is unclear and many will wonder if they will get 2018 Ebron or 2019 Ebron, so look for other TEs with more guaranteed roles.

Defensive Outlook

This could be the best defense in all of fantasy football when the 2020 season rolls around. Yes, there are other big-time defenses in the league that will be great additions to a fantasy team but there is no denying what the defense did last season. The return of Ben Roethlisberger should allow the defense to get a longer rest in between series and give the defense fresher legs as the game goes on. Once the Steelers added Minkah Fitzpatrick it transformed and elevated the defensive performance for the remainder of the season. Cam Heyward and TJ Watt will be the headliners on a very capable group of pass rushers. This opportunistic, playmaking defense is poised for a huge season.

Potential Breakout Player

  • Diontae Johnson-WR

Rookie Sleeper

  • Chase Claypool-WR
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