After years as one of the league's most stable franchises, seemingly overnight the Steelers devolved into one of the most volatile. Rather than doom and gloom, though, James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster leave them as equipped as could be imagined in the wake of the depatures of talents the stature of Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Record: 9 - 6 - 1 (12th in NFL)
PPG: 26.8 (6)
YPG: 403.3 (4)
Pass YPG: 313 (2)
Rush YPG: 90.3 (31)
PAPG: 43.1 (1)
RAPG: 21.6 (31)
2018 Fantasy finishes
QB: Ben Roethlisberger - QB3
RB: James Conner - RB7; Jaylen Samuels - RB55
WR: Antonio Brown* - WR5; JuJu Smith-Schuster - WR8
TE: Vance McDonald - TE10; Jesse James* - TE23
*No longer with team
Number to know: 689
The Steelers led the NFL in pass attempts in 2018, which helped Ben Roethlisberger lead the NFL in passing yards with 5,129. Will Roethlisberger have the same success in 2019 now that he no longer has Antonio Brown on his side?
"We as an organization have moved on. I think they as professionals have moved on, so we're excited about the formulation of our team for 2019. Obviously, we appreciate the contributions that they gave us when they were a part of us, but reality is that they're no longer that, so we're focused on the guys that we work with." - Mike Tomlin, on Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (13th year)
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Fichtner (2nd year)
1. (10) Devin Bush, LB
3. (66) Diontae Johnson, WR
3. (83) Justin Layne, CB
4. (122) Benny Snell Jr., RB
5. (141) Zach Gentry, TE
6. (175) Sutton Smith, DE
6. (192) Isaiah Buggs, DT
6. (207) Ulysees Gilbert III, LB
7. (219) Derwin Gray, T
WR Donte Moncrief, LB Mark Barron, DB Steven Nelson
RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown, TE Jesse James, OL Marcus Gilbert, LB Jon Bostic, DB Morgan Burnett
Rankings and Projections
|Heath Cummings' projected offensive stats|
|4,740 YD, 30 TD, 16 INT|
|253 ATT, 1,090 YD, 10 TD; 67 REC, 605, 3 TD|
|36 ATT, 164 YD, 1 TD; 26 REC, 197 YD, 1 TD|
|173 TAR, 111 REC, 1,405 YD, 10 TD|
|90 TAR, 60 REC, 787 YD, 5 TD|
|83 TAR, 46 REC, 600 YD, 4 TD|
|77 TAR, 50 REC, 639, 4 TD|
How do the Steelers replace Antonio Brown?
"Brown averaged 171 targets per year from 2013-18. Don't expect any one receiver to pick up all that slack, meaning the trio of James Washington, Donte Moncrief, and rookie Diontae Johnson will each have a hand. If there's one to target heading into training camp, it's Washington, who replaced Brown in Week 17 last year and has speed and experience catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger to lean on." - Dave Richard
One sleeper, one breakout, and one bust
Sleeper: Vance McDonald
The Steelers have to replace a lot of production from last year with Antonio Brown (168 targets for 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Jesse James (39 targets for 30 catches, 423 yards and two touchdowns) gone. That's a combined 207 targets for 134 catches, 1,720 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Steelers signed Donte Moncrief this offseason, and James Washington should take a bigger leap in his sophomore campaign. And obviously there's JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, as well as the team drafting rookie Diontae Johnson. But McDonald should have a bigger role as well, and he could end up as a top 10 Fantasy tight end this year. He's worth a late-round pick in all leagues.
Breakout: James Washington
It's going to be fun watching Washington, Moncrief and Johnson battle it out for the starting spot opposite Smith-Schuster. More importantly, you'll want to watch the battle for targets, and there are plenty to be had with Brown gone. I have the Steelers receivers ranked as Washington, Moncrief and Johnson behind Smith-Schuster, and I'm drafting Washington with a mid- to late-round pick whenever possible. Should he become a primary target for Ben Roethlisberger this season, he will be a breakout candidate in all leagues.
Bust: Ben Roethlisberger
You don't lose a player of Brown's caliber and get better. And while I'm hopeful for guys like Washington, Moncrief, Johnson and McDonald, they are still unproven as a group. Roethlisberger should have the chance to attempt plenty of passes, and Smith-Schuster and Conner are stars. But the loss of Brown drops Roethlisberger into the No. 2 quarterback range, and he's only worth drafting with a late-round pick.