Last year’s Steelers team was not very Fantasy friendly. This is definitely a team in transition. They had a rookie QB, a rookie WR, and a second-year TE. The QB ranked 38th in Fantasy points per game, their WR1 was 43rd, and WR2 was 61st.
Najee Harris did have the 12th most Fantasy points overall for running backs and Pat Freiemuth was 12th overall for TEs. The offense scored more than 24 points in a game only three times last year. It’s really hard to get Fantasy points if you aren’t getting any touchdowns. It’s a shame we don’t have a system to offer Fantasy points for coaches because Mike Tomlin still somehow managed a winning season with this group.
Pittsburgh Steelers Fantasy Football Preview
Key Subtractions and Additions
Most of the big changes were on the offensive line and the defense. For fantasy purposes, there were very few changes.
Subtractions: Benny Snell (RB), Chase Claypool (WR)
Additions: Allen Robinson (WR), Darnell Washington (TE)
Quarterback: Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
Pickett was the first QB taken in the 2022 draft. It took him four weeks to get into a game but he was the starter for the rest of the season with mixed results. He had a higher completion percentage than Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, and DeShaun Wilson, but he also had too many interceptions starting out. After the bye, however, he had five TDs and only one interception. His main problem was just that, a lack of TDs. I’m sure Diontae Johnson would agree. He was a much better real-life QB than a Fantasy QB. The Steelers’ record after the bye was 7-2 and four of those victories were of the come-from-behind variety.
Pickett’s fantasy numbers were more a casualty of the system. Mike Tomlin is perfectly happy winning games with a score of 21-17. That said, the goal this offseason was to improve the players around Pickett. They picked up Allen Robinson to be the third wide receiver. They drafted a beast in Darnell Washington to bookend with Pat Freiermuth. A completely revamped and improved offensive line should help keep him more upright. All of this should improve his Fantasy numbers enough to make him a viable QB2 on your team.
Trubisky just signed a new three-year contract and will be a very solid backup. Pickett did suffer two concussions last year so I am sure the Steelers are happy the veteran QB decided to resign with them. Unless Pickett gets hurt there is not much Fantasy value here.
Running Back: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland, Jason Huntley
Harris took a step back in his second year and still ranked RB12 or RB14 depending on the scoring system. He should be a much more productive running back this year. With an improved line, and the kind of game Tomlin likes to play, I think his upside is even higher, especially if he can convert more goal-line carries. It will not surprise me to see him outperform his ADP this year and end the year as a top-five back.
Jaylen Warren was a terrific find last year. The undrafted rookie had a total of 593 combined yards with a 4.9 average per carry. If I draft Harris and have the bench spot, I will be drafting Warren as a handcuff.
Wide Receiver: Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson II, Calvin Austin, Gunner Olszewski, Miles Boykin
Can anyone explain to me how Johnson can be targeted 147 times, catch 86 of those and have zero touchdowns? Just for comparison, A.J. Brown of Philadelphia had 145 targets and 88 catches. That was good for 11 touchdowns. If you can tell me how that happens please go to the bottom of this article right now and fill out the comments section.
It looks like he is being drafted as a WR3. If Pickett can feel more comfortable behind his new and improved line, the yardage may go up a bit but more importantly he has to get a few touchdowns. Well, doesn’t he? This WR3 has the upside of a WR2 if that happens.
George Pickens also got over 800 yards receiving and he was able to score 4 receiving touchdowns. Pickens’ problem was there was a week he ranked 8th and there was a week he ranked 128th for wide receivers. There was no way to plug him into your lineup and feel good about it. He may have some fantasy value in best-ball leagues but in standard leagues, I would make him a hard pass until I start to see some consistency.
If you need another reason not to draft Pickens, it is the signing of Allen Robinson. The former Pro Bowler is listed as the third wide receiver but should be someone Pickett looks for across the middle and in the end zone. He probably won’t produce enough to be Fantasy relevant unless someone gets hurt.
Tight End: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington, Zach Gentry
Freiermuth had more targets and more yardage than he had the year before. Like the rest of the team, his TDs dropped. He went from seven to two. He finished the season as TE12. With Washington now handling some of the TE duties and Robinson getting targets over the middle I would not expect him to rank much higher than that even though his ADP right now is No. 9.
Washington was drafted in the third round and is someone to keep an eye on, especially if Freiermuth gets hurt. He is a blocking machine but with his size and decent hands, even if they are unproven, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him used on the goal line formations giving him a chance to grab a few TDs limiting Freiermuth’s upside even more.
Defense/ Special Teams
This unit was not the Steel Curtain of the 70s. They ranked No. 19 overall. With several upgrades in free agency and after adding a lineman, a linebacker, and two defensive backs in the draft, they are upgrading each level on the defense. If the offense gets back to controlling the pace with a more productive running game, this will keep the defensive unit off the field more which will help. They are currently ranked higher than last year’s finish at 13. Even though they are going to be improved over last year, unless you are in a very deep draft there should still be better options to choose from.
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— Lisa Ann (@thereallisaann) May 6, 2023