I knew that I just HAD to write the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football team preview.
I tried to tell y’all last year about James Conner. He ended up with Top-6 overall Average Draft Position in half-point per reception leagues. His season total just edged out Chris Boswell for the K12 spot. Wait, he was supposed to be a bell-cow running back?
Well, he gave you a nice, solid, RB33 return. I bet you James Conner truthers were really happy you passed on Michael Thomas and the other top-tier receivers last season.
But enough patting myself on the back. (Sorry, I have to whenever I can actually get the chance to: queue my David Johnson-C.J. Anderson comparison.) Let’s focus now on the 2020 Fantasy Football preview for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the hardest teams to project/predict. Between Big Ben’s injury history and age, it is tough to gauge how much production they will get from the position.
2020 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
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In reality, there is only one relevant quarterback on this team. Even with the injury history of Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges showed last year that they are not viable options even in SuperFlex leagues.
Ben has played all 16 games just four times in his 16-year career. That’s not a great average for a quarterback. However, last season was the first time he missed more than four games. Even at 38 years old I think he skews more toward the 14-start range rather than last season’s outcome.
Will he be worth drafting, though? He is currently QB19 by early ADP, so he is right on that edge of being picked in 12-team leagues. If you are in a league where almost all of the teams carry just one quarterback, he could be a great streaming option (as much as I don’t like that strategy this season).
The guy is just two years removed from 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns, and a QB3 finish. He averages at least 266 yards passing per game in nine of the last ten healthy seasons. He threw for 91 touchdowns over his last three healthy seasons.
While I do not want him as my QB1, he will be a player in streaming possibilities. You could do worse as your QB2 in a SuperFlex league, as long as you have another viable option for the few weeks he misses.
James Conner has 1,581 rushing yards in his 3-year career. Just six games account for 754 of those yards, or about 48%. I know he has missed time each year. But that is still almost half of his rushing yards in 16% of his games.
In his last fifteen games, he has more than 65 yards rushing once. He has crossed one hundred scrimmage yards just three times. Oddly, Conner has zero games in his career where he rushed for more than 65 yards but less than 105 yards. He is the epitome of “boom or bust.”
Conner really built his mystique on a four-game stretch in 2018 against some absolutely pitiful defenses.
Benny Snell Jr. actually ended up with just eight fewer carries than Conner last season. He showed almost the same efficiency as well. Samuels out-targeted both of them combined. He was actually the fourth-most targeted Steeler despite missing a couple of games.
So it was already crowded in the backfield and the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to spend a pick on Anthony McFarland Jr. I mean it wasn’t a Round One selection, but a fourth-round pick still should be productive quickly.
The bottom line is there are too many mouths to feed with not enough backfield touches. Even if you add 33% to the production of the Steelers’ backs last season with Ben coming back, one guy would need to get more than half of it to even get into the RB2 range. Conner’s price is still way too high. If he goes down, then Samuels or Snell might be a good fill-in, but don’t expect to get a weekly starter.
JuJu was drafted in almost every first round last season in leagues with twelve teams or more. Combine his own injury trouble with his quarterback going down, and you get a BUSTing disappointment of a WR66 finish.
Was it just the injuries though? Could it maybe have been that Smith-Schuster’s loss in production was due to Antonio Brown not drawing the defensive attention?
We see it every year: second fiddle gets the change to be the alpha dog and can’t replicate the production. We also see that the top-level receivers can produce with abysmal quarterback player (DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson, Calvin Johnson, etc.). I mean I don’t care how bad the quarterbacks played, 46 yards per game on a 60% catch rate just won’t get it done. I do want to give him the benefit of the doubt and he is going at a cheaper price tag.
However, I did find a statistical oddity that scares me. In the past 25 years of the NFL, there have been only ten pass plays of 97 yards or more. JuJu had two of them in his first two seasons. Those two singular plays accounted for 14% of his touchdowns and more than 8% of both his yardage and Fantasy Points.
The other name to watch here for redraft leagues is Diontae Johnson. Johnson actually led the Steelers in targets, receptions, and receiving touchdowns last season in his rookie year. In fact, he had more receptions per game than JuJu as well.
Johnson’s measurables and skillset actually fit the “Antonio Brown-role” more than Smith-Schuster. He was going to be one of my sleeper picks this season. The problem is the entire Fantasy Football industry has the same idea.
Diontae Johnson making defenders miss. #Steelers pic.twitter.com/mh035LkG5Y
— Steelers Depot 7⃣ (@Steelersdepot) June 18, 2020
While his current ADP is salivating at 124 overall in PPR formats (WR49), I can boldly proclaim that he will end up going in the Top 75 in most drafts by the end of draft season. That might be a little too rich for my blood.
James Washington gives me hesitation. I had high hopes in his second season that he would explode. Even with Ben’s injury, when his college quarterback came in I thought he would break out. It was still too up-and-down for me though. While he may be worth a late-round stash, I think he only becomes a factor if there is an injury to one of the top two guys.
Chase Claypool is definitely worth a dynasty league stash. All the Steelers seem to do is draft good receivers. Ryan Switzer is supposed to be a deep-league PPR option, but it would take Roethlisberger throwing for 640+ times for there to be enough action for him.
Either one of these guys could have been solid options for the wait-on-tight-end crowd. On the same team though, I just don’t think there are enough mouths to feed.
Let’s say you give JuJu and Diontae a combined 260 targets. (Honestly, that’s on the lower side.) You have 100 targets spread among the other receivers and about 120 for the three running backs. That only leaves you with 120 targets for the tight ends if the Steelers throw it 600 times. (Only nine teams hit that mark last season).
There’s just no way for either of these guys to prosper unless one guy really takes the majority of work. Pittsburgh ran the least 12 personnel of anyone in the league last year, so don’t expect them to be on the field at the same time.
My conclusion on the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers is that they are being overvalued quite a bit. Most of their skill position players are being drafted at their ceiling of production. Diontae Johnson is the exception, but as I said, his ADP will only go up.
Even Eric Ebron is going one spot behind Hayden Hurst, whom I bet will have double the amount of targets. All of this also precludes that Ben Roethlisberger will have a full, healthy season at 38 years old. I think he plays the majority of the year but we already saw the cliff the offense falls off if he does not.
I would say avoid the crowded backfield and tight end rooms. If you can snag JuJu later than his current ADP or Johnson at his current position, then go for it.
Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice to get you prepared for the 2020 season.
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[…] is another guy that I have made my thoughts known about. He has fooled people into thinking he is a workhorse running back based off of a four-game stretch […]