Fantasy mini-camp: Do the Steelers have a ground game?
Division: AFC North
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Situation: Running back quandary
Player to watch: Le'Veon Bell
The just completed NFL Draft did not include any first-round running backs for the first time since 1963. That's not the same as believing there are no intriguing rookie runners to monitor (especially from a fantasy perspective - and perhaps most especially, Bell).
Something of a surprise as the second running back selected (ahead of Eddie Lacy), the former Michigan State product could not have landed in a better scenario seeing as Pittsburgh let Rashard Mendenhall walk and its ground game proved irrelevant last season. At 6-feet-1, 244 pounds, Bell has the size to carry a heavy workload and ran a 4.6 40-time at the combine. He also has a strong understanding of the passing game as both receiver and protector. The always battered Ben Roethlisberger surely likes the sound of that.
The Steelers are historically rough and tumble on both sides of the ball and are currently one of the few offenses in the league not automatically built to throw the ball 87 times a game (We love Big Ben, but Mike Wallace is gone, Heath Miller is hurt and the Antonio Brown/Emmanuel Sanders starting combo is just alright).Three-down backs are becoming a rare commodity in the NFL, but Bell could inherit such a role. Besides, where else can the Steelers go?
Last season Pittsburgh averaged 96.1 yards per game, ranking 26th in the NFL. Jonathan Dwyer is a player that has intrigued me since his days at Georgia Tech, but his power style is now somewhat redundant with the new guy around while his passing game exploits do not match up. Isaac Redman had people talking sleeper after a productive 2011, but his but underwhelming campaign last season was a total snoozer. Newly acquired LaRod Stephens-Howling is strictly a backup in passing down situations.
Outlook: Even after just a single pro mini-camp, it would be stunning if Bell was not the Steelers Week 1 starter. Now, want to say Montee Ball in Denver, Eddie Lacy in Green Bay and Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati are better stand-alone prospects, cool. By August, any of three could be the first rookie drafted, probably coming off the board early in the fifth and ideally as an RB3 in 12-team leagues. From a purely 2013 perspective (and with an early May outlook), Bell has them beat when it comes to projecting weekly fantasy production.