2022 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

by Keith Lott
2022 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

Welcome to the 2022 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview!

Pittsburgh is going to look a little bit different on offense this season. Ben Roethlisberger has retired and J.J. Smith-Schuster signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.

Mitchell Trubisky presumably takes over under center after spending last season as the backup to Josh Allen in Buffalo. Pittsburgh drafted quarterback Kenny Pickett with the 20th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. It will be interesting to see which quarterback plays the majority of the snaps this year.

The Steelers had two more players "drop" into their laps on draft night. With the 53rd overall pick, Georgia WR George Pickens was surprisingly still on the board. Pickens was being mocked as a potential late first-round, early second-round pick.

Then again, in the third round, defensive end Demarvin Leal out of Texas A&M was available at pick 84. Leal has some character issues but what is a better landing spot for a player to be held accountable than playing defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Leal's stock had fallen from a late first-round pick and continued to drop right up until draft day.

2022 Fantasy Football Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

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Quarterbacks

  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Kenny Pickett

Trubisky (2017) and Justin Fields (2021) had very similar rookie years for the Chicago Bears. They weren't great but Trubisky showed much improvement in year two and the Bears were 11-3 with Trubisky under center. Things only got worse over the next two seasons, but a lot of that can be blamed on Head Coach Matt Nagy.

We really do not know what Trubisky is capable of at 28 years old. And while he might not be an NFL starting-caliber quarterback, he could be better than rookie year Kenny Pickett. None of it will matter if the offensive line is terrible again.

Pro Football Focus ranked them 26th last year and had this to say - "Pittsburgh ranked sixth as a line in pressures allowed (142) but placed 17th in pass-blocking grade. The unit was heavily protected by that quick time to throw, which limited how exposed it was to rushers."

The front office went out and signed James Daniels to a three-year, $26.5 million deal and Mason Cole to a three-year, $15.5 million contract to help bolster the line. Kevin Dotson will stay at left guard while Dan Moore Jr. takes over at left tackle with Chukwuma Okorafor moving to the right side.

In 2-QB and Superflex leagues, you should only consider adding a Steelers quarterback as your QB3.

Running Backs

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Najee Harris was one of just two running backs in the NFL with 300+ carries last year. The other was Jonathan Taylor. Now, Harris was not nearly as effective as Taylor but Harris still finished as the 4th running back in half-PPR scoring on volume alone. He was one of four running backs with an opportunity share (total team running back carries plus targets) of 80% or greater.

That should not change in 2022 and Benny Snell & Anthony McFarland are no threat to Harris' dominance in the backfield. This makes Najee Harris one of the safer first-round picks in all formats.

Harris saw 94 targets (tied with Austin Ekeler) as a rookie and caught 74 passes - both led the NFL. Odds are he sees fewer targets but it should not hurt his Fantasy value too much as even if he sees 60-70 targets, he is likely to finish in the top 10 in running back targets.

Weight Watchers

Najee Harris now weighs 244 pounds. He also averaged less than one yard before contact per rush last year which was the worst in the last two years in the NFL. His weight gain might give some Fantasy managers pause when considering drafting him.

Wide Receivers

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Diontae Johnson has seen 313 targets over the last two seasons with 195 catches, over 2,000 receiving yards, and 15 touchdowns. One has to wonder if Big Ben force-feeding Johnson was the game plan or just Roethlisberger being Roethlisberger. Johnson has finished near the bottom of the league in wide receiver yards per target (100 min) in each of the last two seasons. I am a bit worried about the offense operating a bit differently with more mobile quarterbacks under center.

In our own Fantasy Football consensus rankings, we have Diontae Johnson ranked right outside the WR1s at WR13.

Chase Claypool was able to match all of his stats in year two after an 11 touchdown rookie campaign. He averaged 14 yards per reception and eight yards per target again. The problem is, he only scored two touchdowns last year. If he sees 100 targets again in 2022 and scores just a few more touchdowns, he could finish as a top 30 WR who was drafted outside the top overall 100. I will be targeting him as a post-hype sleeper.

George Pickens has landed in a pretty nice spot his rookie year. Assuming Diontae Johnson doesn't see 170 targets again and there are 138 vacated wide receiver targets, Pickens might see north of 70 targets in year one. He could play a role as a FLEX option as a bye week fill-in.

Tight End

Like most tight ends, Freiermuth is going to have to score touchdowns in order to be Fantasy relevant. Last year, as a rookie, he was the most targeted tight end in the red zone with 20 targets, tied with Mark Andrews and Tyler Higbee. That led to seven red-zone touchdowns which were as many as Travis Kelce. Only Andrews and Hunter Henry caught more touchdowns inside the 20-yard line.

Diontae Johnson led the team with 21 targets, just one more than the rookie tight end.

That being said, we do have more mobile quarterbacks in Pittsburgh this season and I wonder if Trubisky or Pickett will find a new favorite red-zone target.

Freiermuth is a low-end TE1 who will come off draft boards during a mini tight end run after the 10th round along with Zach Ertz, Dawson Knox, and Mike Gesicki. I think all of those guys are good players to target at that point in the draft.

Final Verdict

When I started writing this article, I thought I was going to come away unimpressed. However, now that I have finished writing it, I feel like the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to be sneaky good for Fantasy purposes.

Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson are pretty safe but after that most will shy away because of the confusion at the quarterback position. I am going to be more than willing to take a chance on Chase Claypool and Pat Freiermuth on draft night and will keep George Pickens on my early season watchlist.

It all comes down to the offensive line playing much better as a unit, allowing for one of Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett to have success leading this offense.


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