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32 Teams In 32 Days: Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 will be a year of transition for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They will look to replace two generational talents, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, as they attempt to establish a different locker-room culture. The Steelers ended 2018 finishing 2nd in the AFC North behind the Ravens, with a 9-6-1 record. This snapped a four-year postseason run and could signify a changing of the guard. In the absence of Bell, The Steelers were forced to rely more on Ben Roethlisberger. As a result, the Steelers led the league in pass attempts, 2nd in pass yards, 4th in total yardage, and tied for 6th in points scored. In stark contrast, they finished 31st in is rush yards and rushing attempts. While one would expect a similar offensive scheme, the Steelers will need to fill 226 vacated targets.

Ben Roethlisberger

According to current DynastyLeagueFootball (DLF), Roethlisberger is getting drafted as the 19th quarterback, while just finishing QB3 in 2018. In fact, Roethlisberger has finished as a top 12 option in each of the last two seasons. Why the huge discrepancy? Age. Ben enters 2019 at the age of 37. Despite the departure of Antonio Brown, I expect the Steelers to continue their pass happy tendencies, leading to many attempts and fantasy points for Ben.  I am buying for a third in 1 QB leagues, late first in Superflex leagues. Still producing numbers, and just signing a two-year extension, my belief is Roethlisberger still has usable years on the horizon.

Mason Rudolph

The second-year Oklahoma State player is expected to compete with Joshua Dobbs for backup duties. The former third rounder, was my fifth ranked QB in the 2018 draft class, and my bet to win the reserve job. Despite his talents, Rudolph is only a stash in deep rostered Superflex leagues.

James Conner

With Le’Veon Bell holding out, James Conner quickly captured the lead role and became one of the biggest stories of the 2018 season. Conner ran for 973 yards in a true breakout season, leading many fantasy teams to the playoffs. Unfortunately, Conner missed multiple games late in the year due to an ankle sprain, games that coincided with fantasy playoffs. A concerning number was his attempt rate; over the final five games he appeared in, Conner only received 11.6 carries per. It appeared Pittsburgh wished to lighten Conner’s workload, and may have sensed his body could not withstand a workhorse role. Despite these concerns, Conner will handle lead duties in 2019, and will be running behind my fifth ranked offensive line. My rankings can be found at  O-Line Rankings. I fully expect Conner to be a top 12 option in 2019, but long-term I would look to trade Conner as he is a sell for me.

Jaylen Samuels

When thrust into a starting role late in 2018, the rookie produced. His yards per carry were nearly identical to Conner’s, albeit on a much smaller sample size. The former fifth round selection will once again be paired with his college coach, Eddie Faulkner. This shall bode well for Samuels development and could signify increased touches. I do not expect Samuels to push Conner for lead duties, I do however expect Samuels to take on a larger third down role. Currently valued at a late 2nd, early 3rd round rookie value, Samuels is a player I am actively shopping.

Benny Snell

Snell was drafted in the middle of the fourth round, and likely an insurance policy if Conner were to go down. Has the required size to be a workhorse in the NFL, but offers not much more. Snell is an all-round a good back but does not excel in any area or have any elite traits. His career yards per carry career average (5.3) was exceptional for playing in the SEC. But when watching film, it is clear he lacks NFL athleticism and speed. His lack of lateral moves and a nonexistent elusiveness, coupled with a hardnose running style, Snell will be nothing more than an early down thumper. Snell is not a player I am currently pursuing, but a hold if I did own.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

As the unquestioned leader of this receiving corps, JuJu will look to build on his early career success. He finished 2018 as WR8, a number he will look to surpass in 2019. Juju had the fifth most yards with 1,426, and an astounding eight 100+ yard games. Most of his targets came while in the slot and according to ProFootballFocus, JuJu led the league with 92 slot targets. This number accounts for 55.4% of his total targets. While JuJu may be forced to play on the outside more, the uptick in targets will negate any negative effect. JuJu is likely very difficult to acquire, but for those of you completing new startups, I recommend you grab JuJu at the back of round one and build around the 22-year-old receiver.

James Washington

Prior to the 2017 draft, Washington was my wide receiver 1 for the class. His big play ability, contested catch ability, and his movements skills made him a favorite of mine. His landing spot tempered expectations, landing behind Antonio Brown and JuJu. With Brown out of the picture, Washington is my bet to have a breakout year. While he finished 2018 with modest production, Washington had the fourth highest average depth of target (ADOT), showing he can be an explosive downfield threat. Washington will likely open 2019 as a starter if he can fend off newcomer, Donte Moncrief. In three wide sets, I would expect Moncrief and Washington to man the outside spots, with JuJu locking down the slot role. Washington is a player I am buying and would be willing to move a late first to do it.

Diontae Johnson

Johnson is a player I recently wrote about in my  Late Round Dart Throw article. His smooth route running, and his effortless movement skills make him a buy at a late 2nd round value. Used both as receiver and a return man at Toledo, Johnson is a player I loosely believe could be used in a similar way Tyreek Hill has been. The Steelers are one of the best at developing wide receiving talent and possibly the best landing spot for Johnson. I expect Johnson to open the season as the fourth wideout but could make early noise on special teams.

Donte Moncrief

Moncrief has been a favorite of many dynasty pundits over the years. In 2015, Moncrief “Broke out” finishing as WR37, but since has failed to live up to the hype. Over the last three years he has been weighed down by an ineptitude of QB play including: Blake Bortles, Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien. Moncrief’s health and situation could return the young wideout to fantasy relevancy. With a third-round rookie pick price tag, Moncrief is a player I will take a shot on.

Ryan Switzer

After a slow start to his career, Switzer saw 37 more targets in his sophomore campaign. He posted the 2nd lowest ADOT in the league at 3.39 yards per, showing most of his work is done near the line of scrimmage. This likely explains his 81.85 catch rate, which ranked fourth in the league. Used as a slot on 70% of snaps, Switzer will have to compete with JuJu and Diontae Johnson for slot targets. Despite this, I expect his target total to rise and is a player I would look to stash of waivers.

Eli Rogers

In 2017, a torn ACL ended Rogers season prematurely. His rehab assignment extended through most of ’18 until he came off the PUP list very late in the season. Rogers almost exclusively played from the slot, which likely places him behind: JuJu, Johnson, and Switzer. Based on role and competition, I would cut Rogers if rostered in any leagues.

Vance McDonald

McDonald is coming off his best year of his professional career, finishing as a top ten tight end.  Prior to 2018 season, the former 2nd round pick has failed to live up to his draft capital. Most of McDonald’s success came after the catch; finishing fourth in the league with 369 yards. McDonald is expected to take on a larger workload in 2019 with Jesse James joining the Detroit Lions. Still only 29 years old, I expect McDonald to produce multiple TE1 seasons before he is done. Buy McDonald for a late 2nd if you team needs help at tight end.

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