The Pittsburgh Steelers had their eyes set on a Super Bowl last year. In particular, beating the New England Patriots in Foxborough. They made sure everybody in the media knew it, too. And they got burned for it. The Jacksonville Jaguars ran all over them, beating them in Pittsburgh's first game of the postseason and ruining their Super Bowl chances.
To be completely honest, the Steelers deserved it. They were completely overlooking Jacksonville, who has one of the best defenses in the league. But, it's a new year for Pittsburgh and, like always, they're in a very good position to win a Super Bowl. They have the most talented offense in the league and an underrated defense, even with the loss of Ryan Shazier. Assuming Le'Veon Bell is on the field, the Steelers are going to make a serious run at the Super Bowl.
2018 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
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— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 27, 2018
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Mason Rudolph
Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed a very successful season last year, passing for the third most yards of his career and leading the Steelers to a 13-3 season. Roethlisberger was surrounded by weapons and used them wisely. Despite having a top-tier running back, the Steelers are a pass-first offense and have the top wide receiver duo in the league.
Roethlisberger also forced out longtime rival Todd Haley this off-season and replaced him with quarterback coach Randy Ficthner. He obviously did not click with Haley, repeatedly showing frustration both on and off the field. Now, Roethlisberger seems much happier. And, he showed up to training camp "in the best shape of his life." He's reportedly 10 pounds lighter than he usually is.
With Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, any quarterback can put up good numbers. Add Le'Veon Bell into the conversation, and it gets even better. Now, add a talented quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger into that slot and you get a top-twelve quarterback for 2018.
Le'Veon Bell will divide opinion next offseason when it comes to paying elite talent versus running back value. @PFF_EricEager and @PFF_George looked at the numbers to dial into his true value.https://t.co/7E4eWkHM1I pic.twitter.com/NUNxj4mAwW
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 21, 2018
- Le'Veon Bell
- James Conner
For the second straight year, the Steelers and Le'Veon Bell failed to agree to a long-term deal. Bell wanted a significant amount of his money to be guaranteed, and the Steelers wanted no part of it. I can't blame either side. The Steelers don't want to give huge money to a running back, who could fall off or get injured at any time. And for Bell, he also recognizes how risky being a running back is and wants to make sure he has money no matter the scenario.
When Le'Veon Bell is on the field, he's the best back in the league. He's such a dual-threat running back. Nobody, not even Todd Gurley, has the skill set Le'Veon does. In the past three seasons he's been healthy, he's finished as a top-four running back each time, despite being suspended in 2016. In only 15 games last season, Bell had 1,946 all-purpose yards. He had 85 receptions.
Looking ahead to 2018, I'm not sure I'm willing to draft Bell as early as other people. Gurley, Bell, Elliott, and Johnson are neck-and-neck in terms of who to draft, and there is a slight chance Bell does not play the entire season. Bell is good, but those other guys are also extremely talented and efficient runners. So, the risk of Bell not playing all 16 games is the deciding factor.
If Bell does hold out, James Conner is still a very talented back. He's been crushing it in training camp, recently breaking out for a 55-yard run during a full-pad scrimmage. He's also been looking much more comfortable catching the ball in camp, too. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry last year on 32 rushes. So, if Bell does not play, the Steelers can be comfortable using Conner.
Over the past five years, Antonio Brown has produced a top-three PFF wide receiver grade every season. pic.twitter.com/bNeY84f8pS
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 22, 2018
- Antonio Brown
- Juju Smith-Schuster
- James Washington
The Steelers, as I mentioned before, have an extremely talented group of receivers. Antonio Brown is the unquestioned best receiver in the league, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a rising star and James Washington put up great numbers at Oklahoma State.
What more can be said about Antonio Brown? He amazes me every time I watch him. Last year, it felt like he caught every single ball that was thrown his way. The playoff game against Jacksonville was something to behold. Every time it looked like the Steelers were finally out of it, Big Ben would launch a deep ball to AB and he'd come down with it. It didn't matter who was covering him.
Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the league by a huge margin, and I will not be convinced otherwise. He's going to make 2018 his sixth straight season with 1,000 yards or more. That's unheard of! Antonio Brown is the safest first-round pick in fantasy football.
JuJu Smith-Schuster has to be one of the most likable receivers in the league. Barely even getting going until the second half of the season, JuJu had 58-917-7. When Antonio Brown went down with his calf injury, JuJu had no issue stepping in as the #1 receiver in Pittsburgh, catching 21 passes for 332 yards and three total touchdowns.
The biggest issue for JuJu is a lack of targets. There's only room for so many cooks in the kitchen, and while he's very talented, he's not stealing touches from Antonio Brown or Le'Veon Bell. JuJu is a huge social media personality, and it's virtually impossible to root against the guy. Looking ahead to 2018, I expect JuJu to be a top-2o receiver.
James Washington, unfortunately, most likely will not see too many touches in 2018. Like I mentioned with Smith-Schuster, there are just not enough targets for everybody. I expect Washington to have a role, though. He won the 2017 Biletnikoff award, given to the nation's most outstanding receiver.
In dynasty leagues, Washington is definitely a guy to consider. Especially considering he and Mason Rudolph. more than likely Pittsburgh's next quarterback, have an incredible connection and went to the same college.
— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 19, 2018
- Vance McDonald
- Jesse James
Many people heavily involved with the Pittsburgh Steelers believe Vance McDonald will officially claim the #1 tight end spot this year, which makes sense considering how heavily the Steelers targeted McDonald in their lone playoff game. McDonald fits perfectly in their scheme. The Steelers often used Jesse James in short pass/screen pass concepts. He was good but was not the long-term answer. McDonald, on the other hand, could be. College scouts repeatedly wrote that short-term speed was McDonald's best attribute, and a skill like that works perfectly in a short pass scheme.
In terms of fantasy football, I'm not confident that McDonald will be startable. I think he's going to be used a decent amount and will be effective, but the Steelers will have to change the system pretty heavily in order to get McDonald touches.
As always, the Steelers are going to have an elite offense. If their defense exceeds expectations, they have an incredible chance to win the Super Bowl. Even if the defense struggles, Pittsburgh is still my pick for the Super Bowl. This core is going to win a Super Bowl, I guarantee it.
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