An offense built around Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner struggled with all three limited by injuries for long stretches. With Roethlisberger now coming off elbow surgery at 38, there's no guarantee the offense gets back to where it was in 2018 and before. There's also no guarantee Conner gets the role he had before last season.
Record: 8 - 8 (14)
PPG: 18.1 (27)
YPG: 276.8 (30)
Pass YPG: 186.3 (31)
Rush YPG: 90.4 (29)
PAPG: 31.9 (26)
RAPG: 24.7 (21)
2019 Fantasy finishes
QB: Mason Rudolph QB30, Devlin Hodges QB39
RB: James Conner RB34, Jaylen Samuels RB45
WR: Diontae Johnson WR40, James Washington WR52, JuJu Smith-Schuster WR63
TE: Vance McDonald TE30
Number to know: 179
The Steelers' 510 pass attempts in 2019 ranked 26th in the league, and were 179 fewer than their league-leading 689 in 2018. The health of Roethlisberger's elbow will be a key for Pittsburgh in 2020, so don't expect them to ask him to chuck it around as much as he did in 2018. But as long as he's on the field, passing volume should rebound significantly, as should passing efficiency. After more than 5,000 passing yards and 35 passing scores in 2018, the Steelers failed to hit 3,000 passing yards in 2019 and totaled just 18 touchdowns through the air. Expect 2020 to be closer to 2018 than 2019 if Roethlisberger stays healthy, which is great news for the pass-catching group.
2. (49) Chase Claypool, WR
3. (102) Alex Highsmith, LB
4. (124) Anthony McFarland Jr., RB
4. (135) Kevin Dotson, G
6. (198) Antoine Brooks Jr., S
7. (232) Carlos Davis, DT
TE Eric Ebron, OG Stefen Wisniewski, FB Derek Watt
DT Javon Hargrave, G Ramon Foster, LB Mark Barron, WR Donte Moncrief, TE Nick Vannett, FB Roosevelt Nix
8 carries, 3 RB targets, 40 WR targets, 20 TE targets
Rankings and Projections
|Heath Cummings' projections|
|QB||Ben Roethlisberger||4,598 YD, 28 TD, 15 INT|
|RB||James Conner||814 YD, 8 TD; 29 REC, 247 YD, 2 TD|
|RB||Anthony McFarland||511 YD, 2 TD; 17 REC, 129 YD, 1 TD|
|WR||JuJu Smith-Schuster||135 TAR, 88 REC, 1,140 YD, 7 TD|
|WR||Diontae Johnson||92 TAR, 62 REC, 745 YD, 5 TD|
|WR||Chase Claypool||80 TAR, 48 REC, 598 YD, 3 TD|
|WR||James Washington||80 TAR, 45 REC, 681 YD, 2 TD|
|TE||Eric Ebron||67 TAR, 42 REC, 467 YD, 4 TD|
Can Roethlisberger's elbow hold up?
A big story coming into 2019 was whether Smith-Schuster could handle more defensive attention after a 111-catch season as a 22-year-old. His season went off the rails, while both Diontae Johnson and James Washington flashed, then the Steelers added Eric Ebron in free agency and size/speed phenom Chase Claypool in the draft. Now flush with pass-catchers, the Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, and they need his elbow to be healthy.
One sleeper, one breakout and one bust
PIT Pittsburgh • #18
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Johnson has become one of the 2020 offseason's most hyped players, and few are actually sleeping on him. But as the heir apparent to the Antonio Brown role in this offense, there's still plenty of room for Johnson to exceed lofty expectations. Johnson had a solid season amid less-than-ideal circumstances as a rookie in 2019, and he told reporters this offseason he played through a groin injury for most of 2019. The hope is he can build off solid numbers with better quarterback play, especially given he generated an average of 3.6 yards of separation on his routes, most among the league's wide receivers in 2019 per NFL's Next Gen Stats. The additions of Chase Claypool in the draft and Eric Ebron in free agency pair with James Washington to give the Steelers plenty of field-stretching weapons that should allow Johnson the room to continue getting open on intermediate routes.
NE New England • #7
Age: 26 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Smith-Schuster is more of a "bounceback" than the typical definition of a "breakout," which is a player poised to have the best year of his career. That's because Smith-Schuster already has a season with 166 targets, 111 receptions and 1426 receiving yards. As a 22-year-old.
It won't be easy for Smith-Schuster to top his amazing 2018, but he can still beat a 2020 ADP that finds him frequently available in the fourth round. Though his 2019 was as disappointing as his 2018 was special, Smith-Schuster was actually fairly productive through his first seven games, going over 75 yards five times despite Roethlisberger being lost at halftime of Week 2. JuJu did have two bust games in that stretch, but there were odd circumstances — the first was Pittsburgh's Wildcat-heavy demolition of Cincinnati in Week 4, while the latter was an even more conservative team approach in a win at the Chargers in Devlin Hodges' first start. Smith-Schuster closed 2019 with injuries of his own, but he's still just 23 until November with plenty of football in front of him and is in a contract year. Always productive when healthy and in even remotely pass-friendly environments, an improved supporting cast around Smith-Schuster makes it a great time to get back on the bandwagon.
James Conner RB
ARI Arizona • #6
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Conner is a risk/reward proposition for 2020 who is increasingly being treated as a sure thing in drafts thanks to a relative lack of trustworthy running backs. That's because Conner has the track record, and his 2018 season remains one of Fantasy's all-time best late-round performances. It's clear Conner has the potential to be a workhorse back, but after a 2019 season plagued by injuries, it's not clear he'll get that type of role. Sure, the Steelers are talking about him in that capacity, but they also drafted Benny Snell in the fourth round in 2019 and the dynamic Anthony McFarland in the fourth round in 2020, plus Jaylen Samuels returns after 47 catches last year. Their running back room is far deeper than it was when they were caught off guard by Le'Veon Bell's 2018 holdout, and Conner's Fantasy price leaves little room for him to share touches without winding up a Draft Day disappointment.
AFC East: Bills | Jets | Patriots | Dolphins
NFC East: Giants | Cowboys | Eagles | Redskins
AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans
NFC South: Panthers | Bucs | Falcons | Saints
AFC North: Ravens | Steelers | Browns | Bengals
NFC North: Packers | Vikings | Bears | Lions
AFC West: Chiefs | Broncos | Raiders | Chargers
NFC West: Seahawks | 49ers | Rams | Cardinals
So what Fantasy football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which WR1 candidate can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get cheat sheets from the model that was all over Derrick Henry's huge season, and find out.