Coach: Mike Tomlin
OC: Randy Fichtner
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr, Trey Edmunds, Malik Williams, Trevon McMillian, Ralph Webb
FB: Roosevelt Nix
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, Diontae Johnson, Tevin Jones, Trey Griffey, Johnny Holton, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry, Kevin Rader, Trevor Wood, Christian Scotland-Williamson
2019 Draft (offense only)
Round 3, Pick 66 – WR – Diontae Johnson – Toledo
Round 4, Pick 122 – RB – Benny Snell Jr – Kentucky
Round 5, Pick 141 – TE – Zach Gentry – Michigan
Round 7, Pick 219 – OT – Derwin Gray – Maryland
2019 Undrafted Free Agents (fantasy offense only):
QB – Devlin Hodges – Samford
RB – Travon McMillian – Colorado
TE – Trevor Wood – Texas A&M
Key Offseason Additions (fantasy offense):
WR – Donte Moncrief
Training Camp Preview: Rookies 7/24, Veterans 7/25
Mike Tomlin enters his 13th season as the Steelers head coach, while OC Randy Fichtner enters his second season as the offensive coordinator. Both of these guys started coaching in Pittsburgh back in 2007, so we pretty much can expect more of the same for 2019. The Pittsburgh offense ranked 4th last year in total yards and 2nd in passing yards, but mysteriously finished 31st in rushing yards. Despite the low rushing totals, they were still able to finish 6th in points per game, mainly because of a career year from Ben Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger is entering his 16th year in the league and is coming off of his best statistical season, recording 5,129 passing yards and 34 TDs. This put him at QB2 in most scoring systems. We are expecting a step back this year with the loss of Antonio Brown, it’s just a matter of how much. He is being drafted around QB13 right now and could end up as a value at that price tag. For some perspective, we can take away 600 passing yards, 3 passing TDs and his 3 rushing TDs from last year and he would still finish as QB12. Roethlisberger is a nice target for a late round quarterback strategy.
With Le’Veon Bell finally out of the picture, James Conner is locked and loaded as the RB1. Conner was the RB6 in PPR leagues last year and even missed three games. He just missed out on a 1,000 yard rushing season with 973 yards. He was a touchdown machine, rushing for 12 TDs and adding one through the air. It was his pass catching ability that caught most by surprise, racking up 55 receptions for 497 yards and that one touchdown. There has been talk about the Steelers using more of a committee approach for 2019, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Conner can be taken as early as RB6 and is an ideal late 1st round target. The guy who will be getting more time in this backfield will be Jaylen Samuels. Samuels ended the 2018 season with five straight games of double digit PPR points. He’s a versatile player, having experience at tight end, running back, wide receiver and even full back at NC State. His college position coach has also been added to the Steeler coaching staff as the fullbacks and tight ends coach. I expect Samuels to get more opportunity this season, but not enough to scare me away from Conner being an RB1. Antonio Brown and Jesse James leave behind a ton of targets, so it’s reasonably to expect Pittsburgh to spread these around. After the top two here, we have fourth round draft pick Benny Snell Jr out of Kentucky. It appears that the Steelers really like Snell, so I’d expect him to get sprinkled in here and there in his rookie season, but not enough for us to own in redraft leagues unless injury to one of the top two. If Conner misses time, Snell would get the most benefit. If Samuels misses time, I’d expect Conner to be even more involved in the passing game, with Snell giving him the occasional breather. Either way, there are fantasy points to be had in this backfield.
The receiving group in Pittsburgh will be among one of the most difficult to project. Juju Smith-Schuster clearly sits atop the depth chart and will lead this team in targets, receptions, yards and most likely touchdowns as well. He’s being drafted around WR6 right now and is an ideal target if you hold the 11th or 12th position. It wouldn’t surprise me if Juju led the NFL in receptions this year and finished as a top 5 WR. The camp battle for the #2 WR appears to be in favor of free agent Donte Moncrief. Moncrief spent 2018 lost on the Jaguars roster but was somewhat productive earlier in the season. Moncrief has had success in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck so I’m open to him putting up a career season with Roethlisberger. He will turn 26 this August, so his best football is still ahead of him. He just needs to stay healthy. A lot of attention will be on second year WR James Washington taking a step forward this year. Washington flashed in the preseason last year and had a couple of nice games to end his season. He caught 3 for 65 yards in Week 15 against the Patriots, and then 3 for 64 yards in Week 17 against the Bengals. Washington should be on the field a lot more in his second season, but feels like more of a best ball pick than a redraft target. We have a couple slot receivers to mention here with Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers. Juju will likely play more slot this year so I’m not expecting much to happen from these two, but in case of emergency, just know that they’d be next up. The Steelers drafted Diontae Johnson out of Toledo in the third round this year. He’ll be the most interesting name to watch for in camp and preseason games, but he’s more of a dynasty stash at this point.
Vance McDonald will be the main receiving tight end this year now that Jesse James has left for Detroit. McDonald was the TE10 last year in PPR leagues, but was very inconsistent. He only recorded 5 games over double digit fantasy points out of 15 games, but he did become more consistent down the stretch. With James out of the picture now, McDonald is a candidate to push for a top 5/6 finish this year at the position and remains one of my favorite later round targets. We have Xavier Grimble behind him to fill James’ role. Grimble is a super athletic pass catching tight end, so if McDonald misses any time, this will be the name to know. The Steelers drafted Zach Gentry in the fifth round out of Michigan. He’ll be more of a dynasty stash for us this year, but just keep an eye on him in August to see how he’s developing.
2017-2018 Stats Below: